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Construction Workers Counter de Blasio’s Talking Points with Rally, Assemblymen Speeches


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With the 421-a tax abatement debate heating up Albany and the New York papers, hundreds of construction workers flooded East Capitol Park demanding lawmakers include prevailing wage provisions in any 421-a renewal.  

Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are odds over the issue, with Cuomo supporting construction worker interest and de Blasio siding with high-profile developers in refusing to tie prevailing wages to tax incentives.  The workers’ 90-minute rally focused on middle class wages as attendees watched both live speakers and videos from politicians and labor leaders shown on giant LCD screens.  James Cahill, President of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, told the crowd:

“Look, Mr. Mayor—you to know a tale of two cities?  Keep going the way you’re going and we’re going to have two cities—one for those with a home and those without.”

Gary LaBarbera, head of the building trades council in New York City, minced few words in critiquing the mayor’s claim that paying the prevailing wage would result in 17,000 fewer affordable housing units:

“That’s bullshit,” LaBarbera said. “The reason I know that’s bullshit is that they’re [building with prevailing wages] now.”

Some in the state legislature are attempting to push their own versions of 421-a renewal rather than wait for the de Blasio and Cuomo camps to come to terms.  Among them is Democratic Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem, who sponsored a bill that would renew the tax program and include wage requirements for construction workers:  

“You cannot have just a city of rich folks,” Wright told the crowd. “I live in the same rent-stabilized apartment that I grew up in. I’m 60 years old. Only way they’re getting me out of that apartment is in a casket. … I ain’t going anywhere.”

It is not hyperbolic to frame this battle as one of the wealthy vs. the workers. It is just that simple. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried sees it this way, clearly. He addressed the rally crowd, arguing that rent control laws and the 421-a tax abatement program are really about working families in New York:

“The people that are buying the $90-million penthouses and apartments on 57th Street do not need our help,” he told the crowd. “The developers who are making hundreds of millions of dollars off of those buildings … they don’t need our help. The people that we need to be focused on is you and working people all across this state.”


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