Friday, November 23, 2007

Union smells a rat as art school work continues

The School of Visual Arts continues building its newest dormitory on the Lower East Side to house hundreds of students by next fall, regardless of a menacing-looking, 15-foot inflatable rat overseeing construction.

A group of workers from the New York City District Council of Carpenters has been protesting construction, with the red-eyed rodent as their mascot, alleging that the laborers being used at the site are underpaid and haven’t received proper safety training.

The planned 20-story, 80,000-square-foot residence hall, located at 101 Ludlow St. at Delancey St., will hold 350 beds in a mix of private and semi-private rooms, said Michael Grant, the art school’s spokesperson.

Grant deferred judgment of the allegations to the city’s Buildings and Labor Departments, while Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3 district manager, said the union has asked the board to take a position at next month’s meeting regarding worker wages and safety conditions.

“This has only come up once in the past,” Stezter said, noting that C.B. 3 “is not an investigatory board.”

The locally based Charles Blaichman Real Estate Development Corp. approached S.V.A. to develop the project, which has only been built to about three stories so far and also endured D.O.B. stop-work orders.

Charles Blaichman, who has developed extensively in the Village, did not return calls for comment.

Andres Puerta, an organizer for the carpenters’ union, said his workers — and their fanged friend — plan to protest each weekday, “hopefully until they open the front doors,” he said. “We’re not going to give up.”

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