2006-05-19 / Front Page

Strike Brews Problems For Tenants, Union

By Howard Schwach


State Senator Malcolm Smith speaks with strikers. Smith promised to support their strike for a contract and for health benefits.
State Senator Malcolm Smith speaks with strikers. Smith promised to support their strike for a contract and for health benefits. The strike at the three-building Surfside Houses complex in Rockaway Park turned ugly this week as union laborers were threatened with physical violence and signs of neglect became evident.

While charges of a refusal to move off dead center come from proponents of both management and labor, it is clear that the problems that strike has brought go deeper than a simple disagreement between the parties.

On Monday afternoon, eyewitnesses say two vans pulled up to the strikers congregating in front of 1 Beach 105 Street.

John Brady, a resident of the building, told The Wave that a dozen "large men" got out of the van and started yelling curses at the handful of strikers.

"We work for Steve and if you guys stay on strike, you are going down," one of the interlopers yelled at the workers, Brady said. Steve Valiotis is the owner of the apartment buildings.

Garbage is strewn all over the grounds at Surfside due to a strike against the complex's owners.Garbage is strewn all over the grounds at Surfside due to a strike against the complex's owners. "These were really goons and they threatened the workers," Brady added.

"They were really threatening," a striker who would identify himself only as Doug said. "They told us that if we f***ed with them, we would be going down. They didn't show any weapons, but their message was clear. They were big and they looked like a lynch mob."

Brady said that he called 911 and police came and stopped the vans as they were leaving. No charges were filed, sources said. A police officer was stationed in front of the entrance to 106-20 and 107-10 Shore Front Parkway for the remainder of the day, however.

At the same time, the lack of services is beginning to impact those who live in the building.

A Wave editor made a quick tour of two of the buildings on Monday afternoon and found them odorous and full of garbage. There were rodent droppings in one hallway and residents say that many of the apartments are infested with the rodents.

"I pay a lot of money for my one-bedroom apartment," a resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Wave. "I am not going to pay my rent to Alma if I don't get the services that I'm supposed to be paying for."

Some residents, in fact, have called for a rent strike against management and a flyer posted by the tenant organization said that a rent strike is one of the options under consideration.

Some residents have charged that management is bringing in illegal immigrants at a very low cost to help maintain the buildings.

"They are bringing in illegal aliens in the middle of the night to clean the buildings and to repair the parking lot," said Eugene Jackson, an eight-year veteran of the apartment complex. "The guys on strike are vets and they are being replaced by illegals who are earning who knows what."

The strike began last week when, a spokesperson for the union said, "Building management is putting our health care and rights to a job in danger by refusing to sign a contract with our union that contains the standard industry terms. It has been many years since our previous union contract expired. Without a new contract, our employer it taking away many of our benefits and the protection of our union."

Danny Massey, a spokesperson for the union, said that the realty company has refused to sign a contract with the union for more than three years. Massey said that the union plans to file federal charges against Alma with the National Labor Relations Board this week.

Repeated calls to the telephone number listed for Alma Realty went unanswered.

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