Union workers slam Wolkoff over jobs pledge at 5Pointz

Trades, allies claim developer went back on his word to employ 100% union labor

From left: David Wolkoff, Jerry Wolkoff, 5Pointz in Long Island City and Gary LaBarbera
From left: David Wolkoff, Jerry Wolkoff, 5Pointz in Long Island City and Gary LaBarbera

Union construction workers and their allies gave developer Jerry Wolkoff an earful Tuesday, claiming he reneged on a promise to use union labor on his construction site at the former home of 5Pointz graffiti mecca in Long Island City.

Wolkoff wrote a letter to Long Island City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer in 2013 as he was looking for approval from the City Council for his project, saying it was his “intention” to union labor at the site, DNAinfo reported.

But union supporters say Wolkoff broke that pledge.

“Jerry Wolkoff came to me and wanted to build a building here, and I said to him, ‘I will not permit you to build the building that you want to build unless you build 100 percent union, and unless you staff the building 100 percent union,'” Van Bramer said at a protest outside the site.

“Only because he did that did we approve this project,” Van Bramer said, adding that he would never approve another one of Wolkoff’s projects again. “If he lied to us once, and he’s lied before, he will lie every single time.”

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Wolkoff, however, said it’s still his intention to hire as many union workers as possible, but making the job 100 percent union would be prohibitively expensive.

“One contractor alone was close to $20 million more than a non-union,” he said, adding that he is employing a mix of union and non-union labor on the project.

Construction workers at the site brought giant inflatable rats and, in a group chant, called Wolkoff a “piece of sh*t.”

Gary LaBarbera, head of the Building and Construction Trades Council, said Wolkoff went back on his word.

“This man was in my office, shook my hand and said, ‘I give you my word, this will be a union project,’” he recounted. “Where are you now, Jerry?”

The 41- and 47-story towers planned for the site are set to include around 1,000 apartments, 210 of which will be affordable. [DNAinfo]Rich Bockmann