2011-04-29 / Top Stories

Union Battle Shapes Up At Dayton Beach Park

By Howard Schwach

The five-building Dayton Beach Park Complex is located on Shore Front Parkway between Beach 81 and Beach 90 Streets. The five-building Dayton Beach Park Complex is located on Shore Front Parkway between Beach 81 and Beach 90 Streets. A battle shaping up at the Dayton Beach Park Cooperative in Rockaway Beach is a microcosm of what is happening all over the nation.

The board of directors says that it can no longer afford union workers and has refused to sign a contract with the union since last year.

Union workers at the five-building complex say that the president of the cooperative, who grew up in a union home, is now a union buster, determined to fire all the union workers and hire cheaper, non-union labor.

Because of the battle and the board’s refusal to sign a contract with Local 32BJ, all of the unionized workers will lose their benefits as of midnight on Saturday, April 30.

A group of unionized workers came to The Wave on Tuesday to make their point.

Although they asked not to be identified for fear of retribution on the part of the board, they were angry about how they were being treated by the board’s president, Jennifer Grady, whom they charge with “union-busting” and bargaining in bad faith with the workers.

They claim that Grady has told residents that, “We cannot afford union workers anymore,” and “We’re going to get rid of the union workers and hire cheap, Mexican labor.”

Grady, however, tells another story. Angered by a demonstration at the complex last week, a protest led by Democratic District Leader Lew Simon,” Grady wrote an op-ed piece for The Wave this week in which she excoriates Simon and the union.

“Simon does not represent Dayton Beach Park’s district, yet he had decided to politically grandstand against Dayton Beach Park and it’s shareholders for the benefit of the huge and powerful 32BJ SEIU, the union which represents [our] maintenance workers,” Grady said. “I wonder if Simon considered fairness for the residents of Dayton Beach Park.

While the average Dayton Beach tenant earns just $22,800 a year, the maintenance workers earn nearly twice that – an average of $44,000 a year. They also get 14 paid holidays, 10 paid sick days and 100 percent paid medical, dental, vacation and pension benefits.”

“Simon would rather we raise the maintenance fees to the residents because every penny of the 10 percent wage increase and 20 percent benefit increase demanded by the workers would come out of the pockets of those who live here,” she added.

She suggests that the workers start negotiating about give-backs and reductions in benefits rather than demonstrating for something that the residents can’t afford to pay.

The problems at the five Shore Front Parkway buildings between Beach 81 and Beach 90 Street are not new.

Most recently, it was revealed that the management company running the complex had not paid its water bill in years and owed millions of dollars to the city.

Many who live there say that the fiscal problems of the buildings go back more than a decade, when the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development allowed a $38 million mortgage without the maintenance fees to back it up.

A little over two years ago, in January of 2009, the 1,147 shareholders who live in the Mitchell-Lama complex got notice under their apartment doors that they would see a 14 percent increase per room beginning February 1.

For some, that meant doubling the amount they paid each month for their apartments.

Grady, who took over the reins of the cooperative in 2008, hired a management company, Phipps Houses, to manage the affairs of the cooperative. The management company is paid in excess of $400,000 annually, sources say.

Last year, City Comptroller and mayoral candidate William Thompson urged that the state investigate the complex’s fiscal affairs.

Meanwhile, union officials have ramped up the rhetoric against Grady and her supporters on the board.

“Shame on you, Grady,” a letter to The Wave said. “You were brought up in a household where a unionized MTA worker paid all the bills and now you try and take the food and the benefits out of our mouths.”

The union plans a massive demonstration at the complex in the next two weeks, promising to announce the date “shortly.”

On the other hand, Grady argues, “Dayton Beach residents have suffered enough and deserve better than to be pawns in a shameless politically-motivated game.

Just as Simon chose to rally for the union, I will rally for the residents of Dayton Beach Park.”

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