Midtown East Task Force Leaders Want Union Input, Too

Grand Central Terminal.
Grand Central Terminal.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Dan Garodnick clarified earlier reports that unions won’t have representation on the committee of 10 organizations tasked with compiling a framework for the rezoning of Midtown East yesterday.

The two leaders of the pre-Land Use Review Procedure steering group pledged to involve union representatives in the negotiations despite initial reports that unions like 32BJ SEIU, the Building and Construction Trades Council of New York and the Hotel Trades Council won’t have any delegates on the committee of Community Boards, business groups and advocacy organizations.

“We will be meeting with labor groups soon to discuss how best they can participate in the process,” said Ms. Brewer in a prepared statement. “And we will certainly be hearing various labor perspectives as part of the stakeholder input process once the committee gets underway in the fall.”

Unions play a prominent role in the city’s land-use process, and the hotel workers in particular dominated last year’s failed negotiations over Midtown East with the union’s contention that any new hotels in the area should require approval by the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Hundreds of workers crowded the rezoning hearings to call for the full inclusion of the permit process in 2013 after negotiations with the Bloomberg Administration fell apart, but the unions will wield strong pull before ULURP starts this time around, said Mr. Garodnick.

“We will be meeting regularly with labor representatives—both formally and informally—to ensure that their voices are heard clearly through this process,” Mr. Garodnick said in a statement.

For their part, officials with the unions expressed confidence that the steering committee would incorporate unions along the lines the two elected officials suggested. The city’s 32,000 unionized hotel workers scored a victory last month when the city included the hotel approval plank in the five-block 1 Vanderbilt proposal for part of Midtown East that’s currently starting ULURP, and the hotel worker union plans to make its desires well-known on the steering committee.

“HTC looks forward to working with all stakeholders throughout the process to pass a comprehensive rezoning that provides new state of the art class A office space while protecting middle class jobs, like the 7,500 HTC members who work in Midtown East,” said Josh Gold, the union’s director of political strategy and affairs, in a prepared statement.

Representatives for 32BJ’s 70,000 area building service workers echoed that sentiment on the process where union demands loom as just one complicating feature of a rezoning framework that will also include discussions around building height, landmark protections and the price of development rights, among a host of other issues.

“We are pleased that the rezoning process of Midtown East is moving forward and feel confident that the community groups and elected leaders involved will craft a plan that both creates state of the art office space while maintaining good jobs that can help working families in New York make ends meet,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ, in a prepared statement.

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