Groups demand ‘responsible’ contractors at Brooklyn Bridge Park and Watchtower development sites

April 23, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Build Up NYC event Brooklyn
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City officials and workers’ advocates kicked off three weeks of action at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Tuesday, demanding safer working conditions and better training at real estate development sites.

Two construction workers have died in the past month and several were injured at construction sites in New York City lacking state-approved training and apprenticeship programs, according to a coalition made up of Build Up NYC, the Center for Popular Democracy, the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, and Public Citizen.

Build Up NYC President Gary LaBarbera and NYC Public Advocate Letitia James singled out Starwood Capital Group, developing condos and a hotel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, for allegedly using irresponsible sub-contractors.

They also targeted the Kushner Companies, developing the Watchtower properties in DUMBO, for refusing to come to terms with advocates’ demands.

“Responsible development begins with jobs,” said LaBarbera. “Starwood has not used responsible contractors or subcontractors on its Pier 1 development in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Kushner Companies, the developer of the Watchtower properties have not made a commitment to use responsible contractors for all of the construction, operations, maintenance or security work for their big project.”

At a Starwood construction project in Manhattan, Stella Tower going up at 435 W. 50 St., two workers were injured in the past two months, La Barbera said.

Kushner plans to redevelop the Watchtower properties into a mixed-use high-tech campus, with at least 50 percent office space. Build Up NYC says, however, that Kushner “has refused to commit to hiring only responsible construction, operations and maintenance contractors who provide industry standard wages, benefits and training for all phases of this project including the $100 million renovation.”

“The developers have not made any committment to create good jobs for Brooklyn residents with these projects,” Public Advocate James said. “Brooklyn needs good jobs, real affordable housing, and a strong midddle class. Starwood and Kushner have benefited — it’s now time that Brooklyn residents benefit as well.”

At the rally, the Center for Popular Democracy handed out copies of a report, “Developing Progress: Ensuring that public resources contribute to New York equity, resilience and dynamic democracy.”

The report focuses on the development projects at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where organizers want investors to review Starwood Capital Group’s performance in light of accusations that Starwood has partnered on the project with a general contractor that has “a history of dangerous practices, illegal behavior and faulty construction.”

While the city and state pension funds, which have invested in the project, have Responsible Contractor Policies that require fair wages and benefits, Starwood has hired subcontractor Hudson Meridian, with a long history of noncompliance and a trail of lawsuits, according to the study.

The Center wants the city to institute safety and pay policies into its upcoming Request for Proposals for Pier 6, and recommends that penalties for violations be raised.

The group plans several events, including a vigil for workers on Thursday, April 24, at 6 p.m, at Walker Tower, 212 West 18 Street in Manhattan.

Requests for comments from Starwood and Kushner were not answered by press time.

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