2002-10-12 / Letters

Union Take On Arverne

Union Take On Arverne

Dear Editor;

The Rockaway community has always been a special part of New York City to the New York City District Council of Carpenters. Many of our members live in the Rockaways, and our Local 45 is centered near this area. Many union workers from different unions, including firefighters, police officers and teachers also live in the community. It is clear that the Rockaways is a worker friendly community where people understand the idea of hard work and just wages. For these reasons, the NYCDC has decided to launch a letter campaign directed towards Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and State Senator Malcolm Smith. The letter campaign is geared against the Beechwood Organization, which is building the "Arvene by the Sea" project in the community. There are many reasons why the community should fight the Beechwood Organization. The issues are widespread, from workers rights, to community investment, to safety.

We only need to look at a recently completed project by the Beechwood Organization in the Bronx to see the warnings. The "Gunther Avenue Homes" in the Bronx were completed less than two years ago by the Beechwood Organization. The houses average $350,000 and are meant to spur economic growth in the area. In an article dated February 7th of 2002, Jon Minners from the Bronx Times writes, "The homes had only been built for approximately two years and residents already had to deal with problems ranging from cracks in the ground to sewage backup and heating problems." Unfortunately, the article goes on to state other faults which include; the heating system, squeaky floors, sheet rock tapings that have come loose from ceilings and walls, plumbing, sewer backups, cracks running across most houses' laundry rooms and garages, poor paint, loose tiles, problems with water pressure, poor windows, masonry work, bricks cracking in half and the stone façade on the houses having gaps.

In an article dated March 21 (one month later), Jon Minners from the Bronx Times again writes, "Beechwood's developer agreed to work on repairs needed in the new homes built on Gunther Avenue, but according to residents, no sooner had repairs started when suddenly, they stopped". Could this be? Is it possible that a company in charge of building homes where families will grow and communities will strengthen, not care about the very people who fill their pockets? Joe Bacote, the President of the homeowners association, answers our question when he states, "They haven't been doing anything since. They were here two Wednesdays ago for an hour and haven't been back. Will the Rockaway Community stand for this, or will we heed the warnings of our fellow New Yorkers and reject irresponsible contractors. I think Edward Fabian, the Vice President of the Association, finalizes the thoughts on Beechwood when he says, "They sold us dreams and they wont come back to fix the nightmares."

Who should build in the Rockaways? Should outsiders build in your community or should workers that live next door and you see at the store be the ones who strengthen your community? The Beechwood organization has a strong tradition of using labor from outside the communities they attempt to beautify. There is a sense of accountability within a neighborhood, a true sense of loyalty and pride. Workers who live in the Rockaways are the ones that should build the Rockaways. Many of your neighbors work in the building trades and are highly skilled in construction; they want their community strong and beautiful and would work towards that goal. With that in mind, there is a real question of investment. The wages earned in the Rockaways should benefit the same area. Workers from outside the area spend their earnings somewhere else, instead of your local stores and on your local commerce. It is simple economics that we too frequently ignore. A project such as the "Arvene by the Sea" is a tremendous investment by the Rockaway community, and there is no reason that investment should not return to your local economy and your local schools.

Over 300 Union Carpenters in the Rockaways are sending letters, looking for assistance, to Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and State Senator Malcolm Smith. We are doing this to plead for intervention on behalf of the community and working families. If the Beechwood Organization is allowed to build the "Arvene by the Sea", we could be facing years of re-construction in order to rectify bad initial construction. We will also see a decline in the local economy, and standards for working families. We have faith in our elected representatives that they will uphold their oath to protect our communities and families. Please feel free to join the letter writing campaign and contact your elected officials. We need to stand up together against the irresponsible Beechwood Organization and say, "Not in our Backyard"!


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