Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Unions Put Wounded Veterans at Head of Labor Day Parade


New York City’s Labor Day parade has a grand, but in recent years fading, tradition, so for this year’s parade the city’s union leaders are seeking to put more meaning, oomph — and oompah — into the proceedings.

In most years the parade’s grand marshal is a glad-handing politician or garrulous union president, but this year it will be a group of wounded veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To honor those who have fought overseas, union officials have designated the Wounded Warrior Project, a nationwide group of wounded veterans, as the grand marshal.

“The labor movement has always had strong patriotic ties,” said Gary La Barbera, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, the federation of unions that organizes the parade and represents more than one million workers. “We felt it was very appropriate this year to remember and recognize our wounded warriors. No matter how unpopular the war in Iraq is, we have to remember and salute these fine men and women who dedicated themselves to the service of country.”

This year’s parade is scheduled not on Labor Day, but on the Saturday after that holiday. The parade’s organizers switched from Labor Day a decade ago because many potential marchers were reluctant to leave what is often their last day of summer vacation, whether on the Jersey Shore or in the Poconos, to join a parade in Manhattan.

By holding this year’s parade on Sept. 6, the city’s unions will avoid competition with the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade in Brooklyn, which is traditionally held on Labor Day and is a massive procession of immigrant workers — although with better music and a livelier beat than the Labor Day parade.

This September, the organizers of the labor parade are hoping to add some zip — and attract more spectators — by adding far more music and bands to the parade, as its moves up Fifth Avenue after stepping off at 42nd Street. There will be marching bands, bagpipe bands and a jazz band of professionals from Local 802 of the musicians’ union. There will even be a salsa band.

“The Labor Day parade isn’t often a spectator parade, because the spectators are marching in the parade,” Mr. La Barbera said. “We want to change that. We expect to become more of a spectator parade by having more music and more bands.”

Union leaders are predicting 50,000 marchers, which would be less than one-third the number in many Labor Day parades decades ago. In the 1960s, for instance, the parades were huge affairs, usually led by mayors or secretaries of labor, followed by garment cutters with their yardsticks, printers in their aprons and burly sailors wearing their caps.

“These parades were once very big affairs, but they became rather dull and ritualized, and they became less and less effective,” said Joshua B. Freeman, a labor historian at the City University Graduate Center and the author of “Working-Class New York”

“So now we’re seeing an effort not to always do the same thing to add some energy to the parade and make it more effective,” he said.

Last year, labor leaders defied tradition — the nation’s first Labor Day parade was held in Manhattan in 1882 — and decided against holding the parade. Instead, they organized a rally at ground zero to back federal legislation that would provide long-term monitoring and treatment for people exposed to dust in Lower Manhattan during the cleanup after the 9/11 attacks.

Even though it was not the first time the parade was skipped, some people viewed the decision as another nail in organized labor’s coffin. Ed Ott, the labor council’s executive director, called that a misreading of events.

“We decided last year that we would from time to time have an event other than a parade,” he said. “It’s important for organized labor to honor its traditions. It’s important to have the Labor Day parade to call attention to the achievements of organized labor.”

In inviting the Wounded Warrior Project to lead the parade, labor leaders are seeking to underline the importance of unions and employers helping to find jobs for wounded veterans.

“We agree with the group’s motto, ‘The greatest casualty is being forgotten,’ ” Mr. La Barbera said. He praised an effort, called Helmets to Hardhats, in which several building trades unions have sought to place veterans leaving the armed forces in good construction jobs.

Jeremy Chwat, executive vice president for public awareness of the Wounded Warrior Project, said his group expected that 20 wounded veterans would lead the parade. “Unions,” he said, “are part of the fabric of this city, and for them to acknowledge the sacrifices of wounded warriors, it’s tremendously gratifying and a true honor.”

The decision to make the Wounded Warriors Project the grand marshal comes as the nation’s union movement has sought to strengthen ties with veterans and hunters by forming labor-veteran and labor-sportsmen groups. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. has encouraged such efforts, in part to persuade union members who are hunters and veterans and might be leaning Republican to focus more on pocketbook issues when they vote, in the hope that they will back union-endorsed candidates.

The organizers planned to emphasize several themes at this year’s parade, including labor’s support for universal health coverage and a federal law that would make it easier for workers to unionize.

Although this is a presidential election year, the parade will focus less on politics than in years past, partly because New York is a blue state where the labor-backed candidate, Barack Obama, is expected to win.

“We’re not emphasizing politics, although if Barack Obama were in New York, that would change things,” Mr. Ott said. “We recognize that he will probably be campaigning in some swing states.”

The labor council has extended invitations to Gov. David A. Paterson, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and scores of other politicians, many of whom will no doubt attend a pre-parade breakfast at the Roosevelt Hotel to show their support and solidify their ties with labor.

Stuart Appelbaum, the chairman of the parade and president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, is intent on keeping a healthy dose of politics in the parade.

“Unions are going to be very engaged in this election campaign, and I think the Labor Day parade is an initial step for us,” he said. “We want to see big margins coming out of New York State. It’s not just about being elected. It’s about the ability to govern, and that means giving the next president a strong mandate.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New York Developer Breaks Ground on 65-Story Lower Manhattan Green Condo and Boutique Hotel

New York August 26, 2008 -- New York-based developer Time Equities, Inc. hosted a groundbreaking event June 23, 2008 to celebrate Lower Manhattan’s newest green residence and boutique hotel, 50 West Street. Designed by world-renowned architect Helmut Jahn, the $600 million, 580,000-square-foot mixed-use skyscraper anticipates LEED-Gold certification upon its completion in 2011.

Nearly 150 guests watched as Francis Greenburger, chairman and CEO of Time Equities, welcomed community leaders, government officials and project partners. The event included the unique addition of a blessing of the site by religious community leaders.

Phillip Gesue, director of acquisitions and development for Time Equities said the building is the first to be built in Manhattan in more than 20 years by renowned architect Helmut Jahn and will provide a critical pedestrian passageway linking the southern part of Battery Park City to the Financial District. “50 West Street is marked by sustainable design, advanced technology, landmark architecture, and commitment to the community,” said Gesue.

Sustainable technologies utilized by this eco-friendly building will include sustainable technologies, such as a green roof, water-efficient plumbing fixtures, automated blinds and energy control systems. Demolition waste will be recycled, and the new construction materials will be sustainable and rapidly renewable. The 65-story tower will feature an energy efficient glass facade to promote use of daylighting and filter UV rays.

Time Equities will donate $4.6 million to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s affordable housing preservation fund, $350,000 to the NYC Board of Education for a Lower East Side Space Sciences Center and $430,000 to local P.S./I.S. 89 for a computer science program.

The development will contain 240 residential units and 150 hotel and retail units and is expected to create 740 construction jobs and 175 permanent jobs. The architect of record is New York City-based Gruzen Samton.

View the groundbreaking ceremony:

Monday, August 25, 2008

A New Goldman Sachs Headquarters Sneaks Into the Lower Manhattan Skyline


With all the talk about what has not been built around ground zero, little attention is paid to what has: a 43-story investment bank headquarters where 11,000 people will be working next year.

That suits Goldman Sachs fine.

Famously averse to publicity, Goldman has said almost nothing about the $2.4 billion headquarters it is building in Battery Park City, cater-corner from the new 1 World Trade Center tower, since the project was announced three years ago. Though the firm will fill the tower from top to bottom, including six vast trading floors, its name will appear nowhere on the building, which will simply be called 200 West Street.

Only by accident has the building been in the news at all. In December, seven tons of metal studs fell as they were being hoisted by a crane. Robert Woo, an architect with Adamson Associates International, one of the firms involved with the project, was seriously injured. He remains paralyzed from the waist down. In May, a piece of steel fell 18 stories onto a nearby ball field. No one was hurt.

Now that the steel framework has reached its full 739-foot height and the building has become an undeniable presence on the Lower Manhattan skyline, Goldman has permitted a peek into the headquarters and how it was designed.

Leading the architectural team is Henry N. Cobb, 82, a founding partner of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. After nearly 60 years living and working in New York, Mr. Cobb finally got to design his first Manhattan building. But you would not know it by looking at his firm’s Web site, where the Goldman Sachs headquarters — excuse us, 200 West Street — is not promoted on any list of projects. (Yes, Goldman insists on that level of discretion.)

The commission is unusually collaborative. Pei Cobb Freed and Adamson are working with Preston Scott Cohen, SHoP Architects, Ken Smith Landscape Architect, Piet Oudolf, Office dA, Architecture Research Office, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Gensler, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, each of which has charge of some facet of the building.

“The premise is that each of these diverse talents will cause the other to do their best work,” said Timur Galen, the head of corporate services and real estate for Goldman Sachs, who is an architect himself. The group was selected to mix experienced firms with newly developing ones.

Mr. Cobb said he had never worked on a project with so many collaborators but believed it was a fruitful approach. “No matter how skillful,” he said in an interview last week, “it’s fundamentally wrong to put 11,000 people in a building that has been shaped by one sensibility.”

The 2.1 million-square-foot building was shaped not only by aesthetics, but by zoning and design controls. One key restriction, to preserve riverfront views from the World Financial Center, severely limited how far the tower could extend to the southwest. Rather than render this setback as an angular slice, Mr. Cobb turned it into a gentle curve — after convincing Goldman executives that work stations would fit more efficiently into a curved floor plan.

He also incorporated angular incisions in the building facade that follow the diverging angles of Vesey Street, which bounds the site on the south, and Murray Street, which bounds it on the north.

The cuts and the curve help keep the tower from looking like a cereal box, Mr. Cobb said, and give it a form “shaped entirely by its concern for the external context.”

Another important zoning restriction, limiting the southernmost end of the building to 140 feet in height, all but guaranteed that the elevator core would have to be on the north end.

That means the elevators are almost 400 feet from the main entrance, at Vesey and West Streets. “The problem was how to make this unavoidable walk interesting and eventful, and not seen as a nuisance,” Mr. Cobb said. The West Street passageway will have an 80-foot-long mural on one side and 20-foot-high windows on the other, meaning the artwork will be visible to the public.

The public will also be able to see the outside of the free-standing 350-seat oval auditorium on the ground floor, recalling somewhat a Richard Serra sculpture.

The heart of the building, however, will be what Mr. Cobb called a kind of living room for Goldman on the 10th through 12th floors, where exercise, dining and meeting areas will be linked by a sky lobby and a sweeping three-story stairway — well out of public view.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Union Thugs Beat Member for Disagreeing With Party Line

-By Warner Todd Huston

Members of the carpenters union in New York City have ruined any chance that authorities there will take their union out of government oversight by beating unconscious William Davenport, a union dissident running for office in the union.

After an August 5 candidates forum, the candidate was beaten by members of the carpenters union audience outside a church. Outside a CHURCH!

This thuggery along with continued Mob involvement, indictments and convictions on corruption of union members convinced Judge Charles S. Haight, Jr. not to release the union from government oversight.

The assault last week on the dissident union candidate, William Davenport, undermined the union’s assertions of a change in its internal culture. Mr. Davenport, according to several accounts, was heckled when he spoke at the union meeting, which was attended by about 500 members. Despite the presence of two retired police detectives hired to maintain order, a group of men stood up in the front rows and screamed, according to one longtime union dissident who was there.

One union member said that “It was disgraceful — thugs took over the meeting.” I’d say that thugs are more common in unions than not.

In any case, the carpenters are outta luck to get control of their union back. The judge did mention that the union had done better since it originally went into government oversight, but that it is way too early to claim that the Mob influence and corruption is excised from the union. We may all have a long, long wait for that to happen.

In the meantime, the corrupt, mob infested, thug populated New York City carpenters union will stay under the control of government watchdogs. Good thing, too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

United Brotherhood Of Carpenters Endorses Obama

WASHINGTON, Aug 20, 2008 -- Leaders from throughout the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners today unanimously endorsed Barack Obama for president.
"On all the fundamental issues that affect the lives and well-being of our members, the choice of candidates in this election is clear," said UBC General President Douglas J. McCarron in announcing the endorsement, the first the union has made in a presidential contest since 2000.

"More than 10 years ago our union undertook a comprehensive program of change in order to meet the needs of our members and the industry. It was difficult but necessary, and the results of that work are clear. Our union is growing and our members are enjoying the benefits of that growth.

"It is time that our country takes the same steps to change direction and address the serious problems that affect all working men and women. This administration leaves behind a staggering debt, a legacy of unfair trade deals, and a crumbling infrastructure that will cripple our ability to compete economically.

"We believe that Barack Obama recognizes the necessity for fundamental change in our nation's policies," McCarron said at the close of a meeting of union leadership in Washington, D.C.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters represents some 550,000 workers in the construction and forest products industries, including large memberships in key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Nevada.

SOURCE United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Judge Continues Oversight of the Carpenters’ Union

Citing continued corruption, a federal judge has ordered a one-year extension of government oversight of the New York City carpenters’ union, which has spent 14 years under supervision.

Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. of Federal District Court in Manhattan pointed to widespread off-the-books work and the bribery convictions of several shop stewards in ordering the extension in a decision issued on Friday. Under the government’s supervision, Judge Haight and an independent investigator oversee the union.

The union, the New York City District Council of Carpenters, which represents 25,000 carpenters, had asked Judge Haight to end the supervision, saying that the union was no longer under the influence of the Genovese crime family. The union signed a consent decree in 1994 agreeing to court-appointed supervision after federal prosecutors filed a civil racketeering lawsuit alleging that organized crime figures held sway over the union and assigned mob-linked workers to high-paying and no-show jobs at many sites, including the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The carpenters’ request to end supervision was undercut last week when a dissident candidate in a union election was harassed and assaulted at a candidates’ forum that was held in the auditorium of a Catholic school in Manhattan.

According to witnesses and accounts provided to the union’s independent investigator, the candidate was beaten unconscious outside after the meeting on Aug. 5 by a group of men who had been yelling during the forum.

On Monday, in response to the assault, Judge Haight issued a memorandum urging union leaders to ensure that there would be no more beatings at candidates’ forums. He also directed the union and the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan to inform him of the results of a Labor Department investigation into the attack.

Judge Haight rejected the union’s assertion that the standard for ending court-ordered supervision should be whether mob control of the union had ended. The judge, accepting the arguments of the United States attorney’s office, instead concluded that the standard should be whether all forms of corruption and labor racketeering had been eradicated.

Judge Haight cited federal criminal cases brought against the construction contractors On Par, Boom Construction and Tri-Built, which prosecutors said had saved on wages and benefit payments by employing carpenters off the books, with shop stewards often being bribed to turn a blind eye to the practice. The contractors paid far less into the health and pension funds than they were supposed to, prosecutors said.

Judge Haight wrote that the shop stewards and other union officials “played vital roles in facilitating, enabling or abetting the employers’ fraud” by failing to supervise job sites or keep track of hours worked.

The judge also noted that rank-and-file carpenters had reported serious corruption earlier this decade. Investigators later found that out-of-work political supporters of union leaders were frequently allowed to jump the job-referral line and were assigned jobs before many carpenters who had been out of work longer.

In asking that supervision be continued, the United States attorney’s office cited a “culture of corruption that continues to impede efforts to fight that corruption.”

But Judge Haight accused federal prosecutors of “hyperventilation” about the extent of corruption. He wrote that the “outer and visible signs of organized crime influence have been significantly reduced” and that the union officials and Genovese family members involved in corruption in the early 1990s have “departed.”

He said he took the advice of William Callahan, the union’s independent investigator, who said an important test for ending the supervision was that the union “will be able to police itself without court and government supervision.”

Judge Haight concluded that this was not the case. “The record,” he wrote, “makes clear that massive job-site corruption was taking place from the 1990s through 2006.” He also pointed to a recent indictment alleging that the Genovese family had the ability to manipulate the district council, local unions and certain contractors through early 2004.

While praising the union’s reforms, including changes in the job-referral system, the judge wrote, “It is too early to tell whether recent reforms will achieve the purpose of showing whether the union can police itself without supervision.”

He also asked whether the union’s internal culture could change so that rank-and-file carpenters would no longer be scared to speak out about corruption.

“The district council must demonstrate that the union’s efforts to combat corruption have reduced the frequency and scope of corrupt practices to the extent that this court is convinced that the union and its constituent locals can adequately police themselves, without further government involvement and court supervision,” Judge Haight concluded. “At the present time, the district council has not made that showing.”

The assault last week on the dissident union candidate, William Davenport, undermined the union’s assertions of a change in its internal culture. Mr. Davenport, according to several accounts, was heckled when he spoke at the union meeting, which was attended by about 500 members. Despite the presence of two retired police detectives hired to maintain order, a group of men stood up in the front rows and screamed, according to one longtime union dissident who was there.

“It was disgraceful — thugs took over the meeting,” said the dissident, Eugene Clarke, a member for 49 years. Mr. Clarke, who did not see the assault, said the group yelled insults at Mr. Davenport and threw a roll of toilet paper at him when he was on the stage.

When candidates running on the slate of an incumbent, John Greaney, spoke, the crowd was less raucous, Mr. Clarke said.

In a separate decision issued on Friday, Judge Haight rejected the United States attorney’s request to replace Mr. Callahan as the independent investigator.

The government said that Mr. Callahan had not been aggressive enough in unearthing corruption. But Judge Haight said he was satisfied with Mr. Callahan’s performance saying that Mr. Callahan, like his predecessor, Walter Mack, was working diligently to ferret out job-site corruption.

Judge Haight said corruption had declined, thanks in part to Mr. Callahan and Mr. Mack, but too much remained. For that reason, he chose to extend Mr. Callahan’s term for two years.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Mr. Callahan called it “an important decision that reaffirms our credibility.”