Ambitious Bronx project gains powerful union ally

The $3.5 billion Fordham Landing requires City Council approval

TRD New York /
Nov.November 04, 2019 10:30 AM
Gary LaBarbera and the Fordham Landing site (Credit: Google Maps)

Gary LaBarbera and the Fordham Landing site (Credit: Google Maps)

A breathtakingly ambitious Bronx project now has Gary LaBarbera in its corner.

The president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York came out strongly in favor of the project during a tour of the expansive site, citing the employment the development would create.

“It is going to open opportunity for thousands of jobs, 10,000 permanent jobs for residents of the Bronx,” the powerful labor leader said. “And it’s going to create 8,000 construction jobs.”

LaBarbera’s support is not a surprise, given that the developer has pledged to build it with union labor exclusively. But it is important because his endorsement will make it easier for the $3.5 billion project to win the City Council approval it needs without having to make extensive concessions beyond the amenities it is already promising.

LaBarbera said that the AFL-CIO’s Housing Investment Trust, Building Investment Trust and Union Labor Life Insurance Company were all “very interested in investing in this project.”

“So we see this project as a unique relationship,” he said. “This is a partnership between union pension funds, union building trades, and the development team.”

Construction unions have been fighting to keep their market share in recent years. While figures on the number of laborers in New York City are difficult to come by, a 2015 report by the carpenters’ union placed the total share of union projects by square feet at 65 percent in Manhattan and 39 percent in the outer boroughs. It also found that union labor accounted for about 55 percent of construction work throughout the city.

Until March, construction unions in LaBarbera’s umbrella group were at odds with Related Companies over its push to use nonunion labor to finish its Hudson Yards megadevelopment. The developer cut a deal with the New York District Council of Carpenters, costing LaBarbera some leverage, and ultimately he and Related reached an agreement regarding the use of union and nonunion labor for the second phase of the development.

Connecticut-based development firm Dynamic Star — led by president and CEO Gary Segal, director of development Brad Zackson and director of planning Penny Lee — is behind the massive project on the Bronx waterfront. The development, called Fordham Landing, will run along 40 acres between the Harlem River and the Major Deegan Expressway. The project is to include a 2,380 residential units, office space, a life sciences research center, a hotel, retail space, an e-sports arena, student housing and a public school. Renovation of a nearby Metro-North station is also expected.

The team is seeking $150 million to finance the first phase of the project and has tapped a Meridian Capital team to obtain it.

Dynamic Star purchased the site, centered at 320 West Fordham Road, in April for $32 million from the Lasala family. Segal has previously said he would build the entire project using union labor. This will be the case whether or not the financing from the AFL-CIO comes through, according to representatives for the development.


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