Monday, May 19, 2008

City to Add 63 Inspectors for Construction Sites

The Bloomberg administration announced on Sunday that the city would hire 63 more inspectors to enforce safety rules at construction sites, the latest of several measures rolled out since a series of fatal accidents and inspection flaws led to the resignation of the buildings commissioner last month.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the city’s acting buildings commissioner, Robert D. LiMandri, said in a joint statement that the new employees would bring the number of inspectors to 461, or 184 more than there were when Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. The cost of hiring the new inspectors is $5.3 million a year.

“We are in the midst of a historic building boom, and the added development demands that we devote sufficient resources to aggressively enforce site safety,” Mayor Bloomberg said in the statement.

Most of the new inspectors will help increase the number of unannounced and prescheduled checks of construction sites, in part to ensure that previously detected violations have been corrected, the officials explained. In addition, the inspectors will tighten the oversight of a certification program for architects and engineers to weed out those who have committed numerous code and zoning violations.

Mr. LiMandri said that adding to the number of inspectors in the field “substantially increases the incentive for developers and contractors to comply with safety regulations.”

In an interview, Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, which represents construction trade unions, called the addition “a very positive step forward.”

The increase in the number of inspectors comes as the Buildings Department is struggling to deal with a difficult year, with more deaths in construction accidents recorded since January than in all of 2007.

The department has also drawn criticism for its flawed inspection practices. After two firefighters were killed in 2007 in a blaze at the former Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan, investigators found that building inspectors had failed to notice numerous violations, including the dismantling of a standpipe that would have carried water to the firefighters.

And in a particularly troubling episode last month, the former buildings commissioner, Patricia J. Lancaster, conceded at a City Council hearing that the construction of a glass tower at 51st Street and Second Avenue should never have been authorized — an admission that surfaced several weeks after a crane collapse at the site on March 15 killed seven people.

Ms. Lancaster, who was hired by Mayor Bloomberg in 2002 to reform a department with a longstanding reputation for incompetence and corruption, resigned on April 22.

A day after Ms. Lancaster’s resignation, Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. LiMandri, the interim commissioner, introduced a $4 million plan to develop safety procedures at construction sites and hire specialized engineers to assess excavations, crane operations and other types of complex construction work.

The plan also calls for a review of the department’s safety-checking procedures, which could result in changes in the way inspectors do their job.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Local 157 Membership Meeting

Here's something interesting, this is an overview of the May 7th, Local 157 meeting that was posted on the Official Local 157 website. The caption under the picture says "UBC Rep. Mike Capelli answers questions from concerned local 157 member after the meeting."

Builders Rip Crackdown

Minor violations are shutting down construction sites and costing contractors millions of dollars as the Buildings Department cracks down on inspections in the wake of the deadly East Side crane collapse, a new report has found.

A top industry group says the city is paralyzed by fear after eight people were killed when a massive crane fell in Turtle Bay on March 15, according to Crain's New York Business.

"These inspectors are all afraid of losing their jobs," Louis Coletti of the Building Trades Employers' Association told Crain's.

In April, there were 1,403 stop-work orders on construction sites in the city - nearly double the 785 issued in January. Construction workers and site managers told the mag they were shut down for minor paperwork technicalities.

Acting Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri denied the city is going out of its way to slow down work sites.

"Some might argue that certain safety precautions aren't really necessary, but the law is very specific in the precautions that need to be taken," LiMandri told Crain's. "Development is very important to New York's future, but we are not going to compromise public safety."

LiMandri replaced Patricia Lancaster last month after a series of Buildings Department black eyes.

So far this year, 14 workers have died in eight separate accidents across the city.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Video Exclusive-- Local 157 Carpenters Speak Out

Reaction of Local 157 members after the May 7, 2008 meeting, where UBC VP Frank Spencer gaveled the meeting closed without taking questions from the membership.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"BULLSHIT" Angry Local 157 Members Demand Answers

In a huge member turn out, hundreds of union brothers and sisters left the first Local 157 meeting since the trusteeship imposed on November 21, 2007 angry and frustrated (see video).

VP Frank Spencer’s May 7th, “informational meeting outlining the path to restoration” had little if any information.

Other than a tentative meeting schedule announced and nominations from the floor for position of election committee member for the schedule July 21st, local delegate and executive office elections, members learned absolutely nothing.

EST Forde called the meeting to order at 5:00 pm and after the pledge said “we are not looking to hold local 157 hostage, we want to give this local back and this is the first night on the road to getting this local back to you.”

Forde then turned the meeting over to VP Spencer who gave no information about the so-called “improvements and the efficiencies that are apparent at your local union,” stated in his postcard mailing to the membership informing them about the May 7th, meeting.

Members were shocked and outraged when Spencer abruptly ended the meeting after nominations for election committee member (about 10 nominees) by quickly saying “if there is no other business the meeting is adjourned.”

Members shouted from the floor "questions, we have questions," which VP Spencer ignored as he gaveled the meeting closed with the speed of light at 5:17 pm.

Local 157 members, angry about the ongoing trusteeship, blasted Spencer out on the street for not taking questions and for not giving any information about the trusteeship.

Members on the street yelled “Bullshit, I came all the way here for this” asked one disgruntled nail-driver.

Brother Joe Rocco said, “the meeting wasn’t run professionally, wasn’t run like a union meeting, they shut everybody up.”

“No questions means they are not interested in our opinions” said Brother Steve Milano.

“Meeting was a sham, didn’t give members a chance to say anything, didn’t answer any questions” said Brother Hercules Reid.

“Meeting was incomplete, didn’t deal with issues members are concerned about” said Brother Tom Robinson.

“No questions, no good of the order, I waited six months for this, its bull" said Brother Roldan.

“I came here with issues, it didn’t happen” said Brother Jim.

Brother Lee Williams when asked, what did you think about the meeting? said, what meeting!

The comments spotlighted grumblings that the 4,500-member local is fed up with the International Union Trusteeship over what many members believe is politically motivated.

After 6 months, "We're still not being heard, they gave us the heave-ho by canceling our Christmas Party and they're still giving us the heave-ho with this meeting" griped a veteran union member who didn't want to give his name. “It was nice to see all the brothers and sisters— but nothing was really discussed, we’re not happy with the International’s strong-armed tactics” members said after Wednesday's meeting.

Many members in attendance believed International VP Spencer would be addressing the member’s questions and concerns, saying “they'd received emails and letters and we have not received any answers.

"You ask questions and you don't get answers, this is really adding insult to injury" said one member, who didn't want to be identified because he said he is a union steward and didn't want to be "the next to be hauled in there and suspended."

"I was so disappointed by what I saw here, no good of the order, we were rushed out the door” said long time union Brother Bruce Miranda as he prepared for the ride back home on his Harley.

Brother Daniel Franco was also angry and upset, “I sent Spencer a letter on April 8, and again on April 22, asking questions about this supervision and still have not received an answer."

Local 157 members are pretty well injured to these goings-on by now, but could not believe Spencer's actions complaining about how they're kept in the dark.

As supervisor of the trusteeship, Spencer has come under attack and criticized for his refusal to answer members questions posted on this blog, and for possible violations of the UBC Constitution and the LMRDA regulations.

I spoke with VP Spencer several times about the questions posted by members and with his assistant Mike Capelli. On April 11, Mr. Capelli told me "UBC lawyer Brian Quinn, is drafting an answer to the questions and I should have them in a few days."

I spoke with Mr. Capelli at Wednesday’s meeting and he told me “UBC lawyer Quinn is still working on the answers.”

An outraged member that is familiar with the issue, and wishes to remain anonymous said, “In the amount of time that has past since the membership has asked Spencer questions…Extreme Makeover Home Edition has built 12 houses, and the membership of local 157 still have not received an answer to six simple questions raised regarding this trusteeship.”

Below is six questions posted on this blog and sent to VP Spencer on March 4th, on behalf of the membership of local 157, which Spencer has refused to answer...

1. General President McCarron's letter to local 157 members dated December 3 cites section 10H of the constitution that granted full supervisory authority. Specifically where in section 10H does it state that the General President has the "authority to remove elected officers" of a local? This would seem to bypass Section 52, which guaranties the right to a fair and impartial trial.

2. Where in section 10H does it give the General President the authority to appoint officers to fill the vacated positions in a local? Section 10M gives the General President the right to appoint interim officers in NEWLY, CONSOLIDATED and MERGED Locals, which does not apply to local 157.

3. Why is Section 32D being bypassed, which gives the recording Secretary of the Local the right and duty to call a meeting to order and in the absence of a President and Vice President those Present shall elect a "President Pro Tem"

4.Why is the District Council involved in the supervision by appointing business reps, business manager and involved with the locals finances and books? This right, under supervision is the Internationals not the District Council.

5. Why is the District Council paying the bills when the only thing the LMRDA limits is the ability of the Councils or International to move money out of the Local to either one of them? It does not require the International to freeze the local’s accounts and stop them from paying their own bills.

6. What is the reason for the continued supervision? If Hanley and Kennedy resigned on November 21 and the District Council fired Dilacio and no accusation of financial impropriety or other fraud was found isn't the problem solved?


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-- MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that FRANK PROSCIA –- a former shop steward and Delegate of Local 157 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (the “Carpenters Union”) --was sentenced today by United States District Judge BARBARA S.JONES to 5 months in prison and five months of home confinement.

The sentence follows PROSCIA’s October 2007 guilty plea to one count of aiding and abetting the embezzlement of funds from employee benefit plans. According to documents filed and statements made in Manhattan federal court:

From February 2006 through June 2006, FRANK PROSCIA conspired with others to defraud the Carpenter’s union benefit funds by, among other things, submitting false shop steward reports that underreported the number of carpenters and the hours worked by carpenters for a construction contractor at a jobsite located in New York City.

During the time of the charged conduct, FRANK PROSCIA was an elected delegate representing members of Local 157.

He was also the shop steward for L&D Installers, Inc. (“L&D”), a furniture installation and construction contractor, at a jobsite located at 11 Madison Avenue. L&D was a party to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) with the District Council. Pursuant to the CBA, L&D was obligated to pay all of its workers at an hourly rate specified in the CBA and to make contributions for each hour worked to the District Council Benefit Funds.

The District Council Benefit Funds -- which are covered by the laws governing Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) plans -- provide life insurance, hospitalization, medical care, pension and vacation benefits to union members.

A shop steward’s principal duty is to be the daily “eyes and ears” of the union and to report a contractor’s violations of the collective bargaining agreement. The shop steward is required to submit weekly reports, called “shop steward reports,” to the union office setting forth the hours worked by each of the union’s members assigned to the jobsite.

Thus, the shop steward is required to observe the number of hours worked at the jobsite by the union members in order to report the carpenter-hours accurately each week. The union’s auditors rely on shop steward reports to be accurate when they audit contractors to ensure that all benefit contributions have been paid.

During PROSCIA’s plea of guilty, he admitted that he had intentionally filed false shop steward reports to assist L&D in defrauding the union benefit funds. In all, L&D embezzled over $2 million from the funds

PROSCIA’s co-defendant in the case, MICHAEL ANNUCCI, was convicted, after an eight-day jury trial in February 2008, of engaging in similar conduct from July 2001 until February 2006.

ANNUCCI, who is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge JONES on June 13, 2008, was also a shop steward and executive delegate of Local 157 at the time of his criminal conduct.

By falsifying his shop steward reports, PROSCIA and ANNUCCI helped L&D cover up the scheme to evade its benefit payment obligations. Because of those actions, some carpenters got paid lower wages, lost years off their pensions, lost vacation and retirement annuity benefits, and lost health coverage.

In addition to the prison term, Judge JONES sentenced PROSCIA to two years of supervised release, with the special condition that PROSCIA be subject to home confinement, with electronic monitoring, for the first five months of that time.

He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

In sentencing PROSCIA today, Judge JONES called his conduct an “extremely serious offense,” observing that “shop stewards are supposed to be the protectors” of the rank-and-file carpenters. Judge JONES also stated that it was important to sentence PROSCIA to prison because other union representatives and officials “need to understand that they will go to prison if they show no respect for the law or their duties under the Consent Decree,” referring to the court-ordered Consent Decree entered into in 1994 by the Carpenter’s Union and the federal government seeking to rid the union of corruption and organized crime influences.

Mr. GARCIA praised the work of the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, and the assistance provided by the District Council’s anti-corruption committee. Assistant United States Attorneys LISA ZORNBERG and KATHERINE GOLDSTEIN are in charge of the prosecution.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Newsweek Signs Lease For New NYC Office

NEW YORK - Newsweek is moving from midtown to downtown Manhattan.

The magazine has signed a lease for 163,000 square feet at 395 Hudson St., a 10-story office building just north of Houston Street.

The deal was announced Tuesday by the real estate giant Cushman & Wakefield.

The building is owned by the Carpenters Union Pension Fund. Newsweek will move from 1775 Broadway, where it has occupied nine floors for the past 15 years.

Give heave-ho to 'Lego' building, say Atlantic Yards critics


Building One (foreground) replaces Miss Brooklyn in Atlantic Yards development. Click image to see photo gallery of the evolving plans for Atlantic Yards. Click for more pictures.

Call it a scrap heap, a life-size land of Legos or, as one critic described it, a post-apocalyptic nightmare - just don't call it fit for Kings County.

One day after the release of scaled-back new designs for the controversial Atlantic Yards project, New Yorkers took a bite out of the spiraling, Lego-like remake of the signature 620-foot Miss Brooklyn building.

"You're kidding, right?" said Anthony Lomastro, 62, when shown renderings of the wild-eyed, glass-and-steel skyscraper, now called Building One. "That looks like it's falling down instead of going up. It's awful."

The building, which is conceived as a centerpiece to the $4.2 billion project, was designed by architect Frank Gehry to calm critics who feared an earlier version would overshadow the nearby Williamsburgh Savings Bank building.

Although a 110-foot height reduction was announced by developer Forest City Ratner in 2006, the new designs were completed recently and obtained exclusively by the Daily News.
They were front and center in conversations yesterday among many Brooklynites, who called the tower a disaster.

"It looks ugly," said Joseph Charles, 19, of East Flatbush, who said he supports the project. "It looks like scrap metal. The whole NBA thing is good, but not like this."
Crown Heights resident Brian King professed his support for the ambitious project, insisting the 22-acre complex promised to bring needed jobs and basketball. But the architecture? Fat chance, said King.

"It looks like milk crates," said King, 36, before name-dropping another building with similar features. "There's a building on the West Side that looks like that - but better. This one looks like ... a post-apocalyptic Earth or something."

Not everybody was sour on the building, which Forest City Ratner officials say will now house only office space as opposed to a mix of residential and commercial space.
"Why not? It looks fun," said Prospect Heights resident Colin McCabe, 31. "I could see this being like the Empire State Building, with all the lighting schemes. You could light it up at night, and it could be part of the skyline."

Spokesmen for Gehry did not respond to calls.

Connecticut Laborers’ Plan Protests At New England Carpenters’ Offices In Hartford, CT & AGC Offices In Wethersfield, CT

Connecticut Laborers’ District Council To Protest This Monday Morning Against New England Carpenters’ Agreement With Associated General Contractors That Splits Union Harmony & Loss Of Jobs

( - (Hartford, CT) – Over 100 members of the Connecticut Laborers’ District Council (CLDC) are planning an organized protest this Monday morning, May 5, 2008 from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in front of the New England Carpenters Local #43 offices, 885 Wethersfield, CT and the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Connecticut, 912 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, CT in reaction to an agreement that was recently reached between the Carpenters and AGC that conflicts with a longstanding agreement already operating with the CLDC.

“Instead of promoting union harmony and encouraging job growth here in Connecticut, the New England Carpenters in the Hartford region have decided to create an agreement with the AGC that conflicts with the duties of the Laborers’ on the average jobsite. This is part of the Carpenters’ never-ending attempt to fragment the construction building and trades. They are targeting us because we recently joined the AFL-CIO’s Building and Trades last month,” explained Charles LeConche, business manager, Connecticut Laborers’ District Council. “This is a truly a fight for jobs and our families here in Connecticut. If this agreement is followed, over 40 jobs will be lost at the Hartford Insurance project in Windsor, CT and probably more at the UBS construction project in Stamford, CT. By rejecting our compromises, the New England Carpenters are only promoting union discord and higher building and construction costs in the long run”.

The New England Carpenters are headed by George Meadows, business manager, Local #43, 885 Wethersfield Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut, phone (860) 296-8564 and Glenn Marshall, regional manager, 427 Stillson Road, Fairfield, Connecticut, phone (203) 846-2003. More information about the New England Carpenters can be viewed at

“After several meetings which the Laborers’ initiated to keep union harmony and peace, all of our offers were rejected specifically by George Meadows, head of the Carpenters in the Hartford area. Rather than demonstrating at an area job site and disrupting an ongoing construction project, I thought we would go right to the source of the problem and protest this Monday morning in front of the Carpenters’ headquarters,” said LeConche.

A division of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, the Associated General Contractors of Connecticut is the state chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. Headed in Connecticut by John Farnham, the Associated General Contractors of Connecticut represents commercial, industrial, and institutional construction contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers and professionals serving the construction industry. The offices are located at 912 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, CT, phone (860) 529-6855,

The Connecticut Laborers’ District Council represents approximately 7,000 members employed in the construction industry and other building and trade fields throughout the state. The Laborers’ International Union, founded in 1903 largely by immigrant workers, includes more than 800,000 members who work in construction and hazardous materials remediation, as well as in healthcare, the U.S. Postal Service and other public service sectors of the economy. For more information, call 860.296.8697.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Local 157 Wins One for The Rank and File

by Silence Dogood

The question of rank and file member’s success with a web site or blog that “Rocks the Boat” so to speak has been answered at Carpenters Local 157 in NYC. Local 157 Blogspot created by members John Musumcei and Pat Brennan is a FREE and OPEN blog without restrictions set by the Union. All are welcome to post and the only restrictions are civil behavior. All Union business can be discussed and there is no attempted to hide the so called dreaded “Dirty Laundry” There are no Teamster Power type gag orders just free and open discussion of all UBC Union business.

There has been much discussion on the subject of uncontrolled open forums on the Internet by Union members and its potential to result in the sky falling if unchecked by Union Officials Control. I have always argued that it is just plain censorship by those with quite a bit to hide. Supporters of this type of censorship and Union Propaganda sites have given us speech after speech trying to rationalize and justify the need for Union Officials to censor their membership for the good of the Union. We have been given the doom and gloom warning about the potential for irreversible damage to the Union movement if members are allowed to have democratic rights or free speech. We have been warned that we must hide all negative Union actions behind closed doors for the sake of the movement. The 157 blog has given us an example of free rank and file speech that has not resulted in the sky falling. That is not to say that the UBC Officials who now have to answer for their actions are very happy that they did not attempt to impose Teamster Power gag restrictions on this site. It is however to late. By the way John Musumeci is a 157 Treasure and Pat Brennan is a Trustee.

Local 157 has been seized by the International in a Trusteeship, which as it turns out might be in violation of the LMRDA and at the least in violation of the UBC Constitution. For all the possible violations click here.

The issues that have been allowed to be posted on the 157 Blog for the past two months have resulted in a special call club meeting for the 157 members to discuss the continued supervision and to discuss the Constitutional issues raised on the 157 blog. This meeting is the direct result of the member’s discussion and postings on this blog. It would have been business as usual otherwise. After the postings on this blog the required LM15 appeared at the DOL, which was not there in February when the blog discussion began. The outcome of this meeting and the actions taken to resolve the issued raised on the blog will have a wide ranging on all members of the UBC.

Local 157 Blogspot is a shining example that rank and file members can engage in open and uncensored discussion on all Union business. The result is not doom and gloom as predicted but a positive and beneficial conclusion for the rank and file 157 members. Members and outside posters conducted themselves in a civil and positive manner and worked towards a goal that was in the best interest on the membership. Rude behavior and vulgar language was dealt with as Matt Noyes predicted in his previous post. It was done so in an expedient and constructive manner and the blog and discussions continued on. The Local 157 blog further proves that the membership can conduct itself in a productive manner without the guidance or restrictions of the Union Official who would rather keep his activities in the dark.

The Local 157 blogspot should also give us an insight into the need for open and uninhibited exposure of possible illegal and detrimental actions by Union Officials. Had the issues raised been not posted in public and had the UBC moved to censor the blog than the possible illegal actions would have gone unchecked and unchallenged. The result would have only benefited those that hide behind the cover of gag orders to continue their questionable activities. The end result of the 157 blogspot is that free and open discussion has resulted in the membership demanding and receiving the rights they are guaranteed in a democratic Union. Thank god John Musumeci did not build just another Union Propaganda site. Had we listened and keep these possible illegal activities in the dark behind closed doors than we would have enabled the behavior. If Union Officials engage in questionable or possible illegal behavior we have a duty to expose it for all to see. If they are so worried about the negative impact on the Union then perhaps it is THEIR duty to act in a positive manner. It IS NOT our duty to help them cover it up

Update: As a result of the very public exposure at 157 Blogspot it has been announced that regular meetings will resume on May 7, 2008 and that Nominations will take place in July and Officers elected in September. The people illegally planted as officers by the District Council will now face nomination and election as is dictated by the UBC Constitution or must be sent packing. The UBC has informed the members that their lawyers are drafting a response to the possible After the NYDCC attempting to shut down the club meeting it was held APRIL 21,2008 by the members. While there are many issues still to be resolved this is a great victory for the rank and file members of Local 157. It was made possible by the PUBLIC FORUM and EXPOSURE that the Union "Dirty Laundry" received at 157 Blogspot. Not only was it essential to stop the UBC from railroading the Local but it should dispel the theory that Union members need to be guided, censored and controlled by the very people who are attempting to railroad them. The question was asked if the Union should be responsible for providing the membership with an open forum at their expense with the possibility of ridicule. The answer is a resounding yes. Why. Because the sites are built with member’s dues and built by Union employees who are paid with members dues and assessment money. The question should have been should the Union Officers spend money on building Propaganda sites where they censor the membership with member’s money. You see the Unions are operated under the premise that the members need someone to think for them. The theory is promoted that the membership are too ignorant and uncivilized to solve their own issues in a public forum. Local 157 blogspot is an example for the future of the Internet and Unionism.

UN Begins HQ Overhaul After Years Of Wrangling

By Janet Whitman, Financial Post

UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK - The United Nations is finally breaking ground for a massive overhaul of its dilapidated headquarters after a decade of wrangling over plans has added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost.

The projected bill for the five-year project has ballooned to nearly US$1.9-billion, up from an original estimate of around US$1-billion.

The UN's 192 member states are picking up the tab, with the United States shouldering 22% of the burden.

With delays already costing them a bundle, the member states are eager to get started.

The UN's gleaming exterior has held up well since being erected more than half a century ago near Manhattan's East River.

But since construction of the 38-storey Secretariat Tower and the domed General Assembly Hall was completed in 1952, the buildings have seen little in the way of renovation. Inside, ceilings are dotted with water stains from leaky roofs, the antiquated heating and cooling systems struggle to keep an even temperature, and the walls harbour asbestos and lead paint.

Plans for the much-needed renovation have dragged on as officials debated what to do with the 5,000 people who work in the complex while toxic materials are gutted.

At one point, they considered moving UN delegates and employees to a giant cruise ship docked on the East River next to the headquarters. Other proposals included popping up a series of tents on the 17-acre compound, finding a temporary home across the river in less-expensive Brooklyn or Queens, or picking up and leaving the United States altogether.

Officials thought they'd landed the thriftiest and most practical solution a few years ago with a proposal to construct a 35-storey tower in a nearby park, which would function as a "swing space" for workers displaced by the renovation and eventually be home to the additional 5,000 UN employees currently scattered around the city in various rented office spaces.

But that plan fell apart when New York State legislators, disenchanted by the UN over the scandal surrounding the Iraq oil-for-food program, refused to fund it.

The setback left UN officials scrambling to find affordable temporary space in Manhattan's red-hot commercial real estate market. They also had to figure out an interim home for officials too important to be stationed off the compound.

Worried about more mounting costs, the UN late last year approved a new proposal.

The start of the renovation gets underway today with a groundbreaking for construction of a temporary three-storey conference building on the compound's North Lawn.

As the old buildings are renovated, the pre-fab building will serve as the site for UN meetings and conferences, home of the Assembly and the Security Council, and the interim home for staff from the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. Thousands of other staffers will be relocated to office space around the city.

Michael Adlerstein, the architect who's in charge of executing the renovation, said the temporary building is deliberately being made to look ugly so people won't want to keep it standing after the renovation.

"It's going to be in the same style as a Costco or Wal-Mart," he said in an interview. "It will be functional."

To be safe, the budget also includes the building's demolition, he added.

Officials have shrunk the renovation schedule to five years from seven years to cut the risk of going over budget.

Once the overhaul is completed in 2013, the UN will look pretty much the same as it does now.

The two biggest changes, Mr. Adlerstein said, will be in its energy efficiency and security, both concerns that have increased dramatically since talk of the renovation began. The compound will be at least 30% more energy efficient, with new features such as air conditioning and lights that don't turn on until people enter a room. The famed glass curtain wall will be replaced with a material that can withstand the blast of a terrorist attack.

Mr. Adlerstein, who's worked on the rehabilitation of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Taj Mahal, said the UN renovation is his most challenging yet.

"The UN can't be put out of business even for one day, so everything needs to be done while the train is still moving," he said.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put a spotlight on the renovation's growing sense of urgency late last year when he threatened to ban school field trips to the compound because of safety hazards. Six months earlier, a first-ever inspection by the New York Fire Department found 866 violations, including an insufficient number of smoke detectors and a lack of sprinklers.

UN reps shrugged their shoulders when asked whether chain-smoking diplomats would be likely to stop lighting up in the newly renovated headquarters.

The UN, which is technically international territory, hasn't been entirely successful with its attempt to implement the same smoking ban enforced by Mayor Bloomberg in 2003.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ratner Vows to Break Ground on Atlantic Yards


Developer Bruce Ratner unveiled Sunday a new timetable for the sprawling Atlantic Yards development after admitting recently the slowing economy might delay the project.

In an Op-Ed in Sunday's Daily News, Ratner acknowledged the massive 22-acre project is behind schedule due to numerous court challenges and the shaky economic climate. He insisted the obstacles have not derailed the project - and vowed to break ground on the Frank Gehry-designed Nets arena later this year and complete all 16 residential and office towers by 2018.

"In recent weeks, some have rushed to write the obituary of Atlantic Yards," Ratner wrote in his opinion piece. "Rumors of Atlantic Yards' demise, stirred by opponents, have been greatly exaggerated. The project is moving forward in its entirety."

In particular, Ratner vowed to complete the first residential tower - with "significant" affordable housing - at the same time as the arena in 2010. Ratner also promised to break ground on two more residential towers in the project's first phase by 2011.

"In these three residential buildings, no less than 30% of the approximately 1,500 units will be dedicated to low- and middle-income New Yorkers," Ratner vowed.

As for the complex's signature Miss Brooklyn tower, Ratner said officials are still searching for a key tenant and will not begin construction until a deal is signed.

Even with the softening real estate market, Ratner pledged that the project's original 6,400 apartments, including 2,250 affordable ones, will still be built.

"The cynics can doubt. The critics can naysay. Conspiracy theorists can spin wild tales. But Atlantic Yards is too important to the ongoing vitality of Brooklyn and New York for us to come up short," he concluded. "We will build Atlantic Yards - and deliver on all of our commitments to Brooklyn."

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Hard Hat Passes to a New Commissioner

By ROBIN FINN The New York Times

Please pardon Robert D. LiMandri his temporary amnesia. He is not yet two weeks into learning how to stay afloat in the fishbowl he has occupied since his hasty promotion to acting buildings commissioner. As evidenced by the abandoned Starbucks-and-sidewalk-fruit-vendor spread on his desk, he also forgot to eat lunch — not so wise for a member of the perilously skinny minority.

This being Construction Safety Week in New York City, where construction accidents since Jan. 1 have already claimed the lives of more workers (13) than occurred in all of 2007 (12), Mr. LiMandri is making a valiant attempt to appear unfrazzled while having his commissioner chain jerked in several directions simultaneously. He was appointed acting commissioner of the chronically dysfunctional — and sporadically corrupt — Buildings Department by the Bloomberg administration on April 22, the same day the administration urged and accepted the resignation of his boss, Patricia J. Lancaster.

Ms. Lancaster, whose tenure commenced in 2002 with a mayoral mandate to rewrite the city’s incomprehensible building code, was undone by a series of construction accidents linked to improper safety inspections culminating in a crane collapse in March that killed seven people.

“The inspector lied, and that really peeves me off,” says Mr. LiMandri, 43, who grew up on Long Island and lives in Hollis Hills, Queens, with his wife and two sons. (He takes perverse pride in being one of just two Yankees fans in his Mets-rabid neighborhood.) His first order of business is to uproot the liars and the lax from his inspection staff. “If we catch you, we’re going to show you the door,” he says. He is empowered by an administrative realignment that groups the Buildings Department under the same public safety mantle as the Police and Fire Departments. “We need to make it clear to everyone at the construction table that we are like the P.D. and Fire, and we need to regulate like them,” Mr. LiMandri says.

HIS new obligations include, for starters: repairing a department in which an inspector failed to investigate a complaint about the instability of a crane that 10 days later collapsed at an East Side building site and killed seven people; ratcheting up compliance by adding 20 specialized engineers to reinspect construction sites throughout the city; reassuring the public that it is safe to stroll the sidewalks of a city that has come to resemble a construction beehive.

Visiting the site of the crane collapse at East 51st Street was, he says, horrific. “It was so devastating,” he says. “Sometimes you go to these events, and frankly” (“events” is a LiMandri euphemism for accidents, just as “frankly” is his go-to adverb) “your stomach, it’s fine, but at others it’s not. This one was almost surreal.” Mr. LiMandri refused to say whether Ms. Lancaster was a departmental scapegoat for the accident. “I feel bad about it,” he says of her exit, “but let’s say we’ve opened a new chapter. I’m in a bit of a position.”

But because he considers himself a mover and shaker who needs to feel needed in the civic scheme of things (why else leave the private sector for public service after earning a master’s degree in real estate at New York University, in addition to his degree in mechanical engineering from Clarkson University?), he deems himself glad to be in it. “We’re trying to move an industry to a different place, not just an agency,” he says of his plan to inundate his department and the city’s construction industry with the message that safety will not be sacrificed to the demands of development.

Not on his watch, or his watch will be short-lived, and he has designs on removing the word “acting” from his title, a maneuver that involves the City Council’s approval to waive a requirement that the commissioner be a licensed engineer or architect. It is his contention that after six years with the department, he is right for the job. “You don’t have to be the biggest guy on the job site to make a point,” he says. “I can be really, really intense.”

“Doing our job alone isn’t going to reduce accidents,” he adds. “And I’m not going to take a hit for what the industry doesn’t do well.” Which is? To obsess over safety like it obsesses over building. “This is an industry that thrives on every square foot and making every building as big and as quickly as possible. And what happens when you do things quick?” Accidents happen. Over on his bulletin board is the spreadsheet of a disaster that didn’t wait to happen.

He points a floppy white cuff (perhaps he plans to grow into his oversized shirt) at Exhibit A, a poster labeled Crane Collapse Buildings Status. A red triangle marks the original location of the toppled crane that rocked the department, cost Ms. Lancaster her job, and shut down scores of construction sites where tower cranes and mobile cranes were in use.

“This is the bane of my existence,” he says. “You should come look at this.”

He looks at it every day.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Work Resumes on Deutsche Bank Building Where Firefighters Died

AP--The city on Wednesday lifted a stop-work order at a condemned skyscraper across from ground zero that had been in effect since a fire there killed two firefighters eight months ago.

The Department of Buildings removed the order after contractors spent several weeks building new fire control systems at the 26-story former Deutsche Bank building.

The building was heavily damaged on Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center’s south tower collapsed into it, leaving a trail of toxic debris. Hundreds of remains of Sept. 11 victims were found in the past two years while regulators battled over how to dismantle the building and remove the toxic debris.

The Aug. 18, 2007, fire, believed to have been started by a construction worker’s discarded cigarette, led to a grand jury criminal probe and shut down work on the building.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the state agency that owns the tower, said 300 asbestos removal workers will begin six-day-a-week shifts to clean 19 floors that still need to be cleaned of toxic material.

Deconstruction of the tower’s 26 remaining floors won’t begin until the toxic debris is removed. The LMDC said it hopes to have the building completely dismantled by the end of the year, more than two years after originally planned. One of five office towers planned at the trade center complex is expected to be built at the site.

Members Questions Go Unanswered

Brother Franco posted this comment in The Outlook For local 157 Very Positive

By Daniel J. Franco

O.k., I tried to be patient and courteous…

After reviewing the 2006 UBC Constitution, the NYCDCC By-Laws, the US DOL LMRDA, and contacting the US Department of Labor at the Washington D.C. and New York City offices, I needed to give D’Errico, Forde, Spencer, and McCarron an opportunity to explain the current LU157 trusteeship much better and in writing. I had wished to provide the answers to my questions to the membership before and without having to send a second letter. However, even before writing the first letter, I knew my questions were extremely unlikely to be answered. (Being ignored or “stonewalled” is the first phase of four phases.)

I tried to fax to each the first letter early Monday April 7 but didn’t get the chance to do it until about 2:00 AM Tuesday April 8. However, apparently none of these first faxes were received. I faxed the first letter to each a second time at about 1:45 AM April 11.

D’Errico responded at about 11:35 AM the following day to my April 11 fax. He was polite and courteous, but stated it would be better to send a letter to Spencer. I informed him that I already had sent to Spencer a similar letter.

I confirmed the receipt of the faxing of the second sending of the first letter and the second letter to Forde’s office and McCarron’s office. I sent Spencer’s letter to the DC as advised by D’Errico. Forde’s secretary told me that the letters addressed to Spencer would be forwarded to him.

Each letter had practically the same questions but some of the questions were adjusted to match the individual.

Below is a sample of the letters Brother Franco faxed on April 11, and 22, 2008, to EST Forde, VP Spencer, GP McCarron, regarding the Trusteeship of Local 157 which were unanswered.

Dear DVP Frank Spencer:

On April 7, 2008, and then again on April 11, 2008, I faxed to you questions pertaining to the current Local Union 157 “supervision”. I have verified by speaking with Ms. Bodha Bodhwattie on April 16, 2008, that, at the very least, the second fax was received. Since I have not received a response yet, I must ask, are the questions being ignored? If not, why have the questions not been answered? Do you have any intent to answer the questions presented?

Due to your apparent lack of presence at the Local Union 157 office, I faxed the letters to you at the NYCDCC because being Supervisor of Local Union 157 would require you to be at least in NYC to supervise competently the Local Union 157 trusteeship. If I am incorrect with your need to be at or near the Local Union 157 office, please explain.

Since having had five months to create, understand, and personally direct the trusteeship of Local Union 157 as Supervisor, you should know the answers to the questions presented. To be unable to answer the questions directly, i.e. now and without assistance, most especially lawyer assistance would imply an evasion of duty and suggest supervisory/trustee incompetence.

I have been very respectful and patient with this needless and wrongful trusteeship. However, my patience with this trusteeship and the lack of information has now been exhausted. So now, I will ask the questions one last time.

1) Specifically, what are all the reasons as to why the supervision of Local Union 157 was initiated? Were there any reasons for the supervision other than Business Representative absenteeism and its concealment? If so, what were the reasons?

2) Why is the supervision of Local Union 157 continuing? How much longer is the supervision expected or planned to last?

3) Was the supervision of Local Union 157 instituted as an "Emergency Supervision"?

4) Why were Hanley, Kennedy, and Dilacio, dismissed as Business Representatives, not formally charged with a violation and then tried [as members]?

5) Why were all the officers of Local Union 157 dismissed? Who authorized the officer dismissals? How were the officer dismissals authorized? What law authorizes such dismissals?

6) Why were the officers who are thought to have done no wrong also dismissed as officers?

7) As of yet, why have there been no officer reinstatements or nominations and elections?

8) Why have there been no regular meetings? Have any special meetings been called during the supervision? If so, why?

9) Why did GP Douglas J. McCarron appoint you as Local Union 157 Supervisor?

10) Why did you appoint NYCDCC EST Michael J. Forde as Local Union 157 Assistant Supervisor?

11) Were and/or are other Local Unions being investigated for similar circumstances?

12) Why was the freezing of Local Union 157 financial accounts necessary? Who is the person who cashes the quarterly dues payments? In to what/who’s account?

13) Is the supervision actually a trusteeship as defined by the US DOL LMRDA? If so, what are the reasons as to why the LM-15 and LM-15A forms were not filed within 30 days from the start of the supervision?

14) Specifically, what are your current efforts with respect to Local Union 157 supervision? Specifically, what are you trying to accomplish with the supervision of Local Union 157? Specifically, what are your duties as Local Union 157 Supervisor?

If personal acknowledgement of the receipt of this letter is not provided via phone, fax, or email by 5 PM today, Tuesday, April 22, 2008, I will assume you have no intent to answer the questions. If the questions are not answered in earnest via fax or email by 5 PM tomorrow, Wednesday, April 23, 2008, I will interpret this as contempt of being questioned. In addition, not answering the questions will further suspicion of your questionable intentions with respect to the Local Union 157 trusteeship.