New York, NY— As a strike by doormen and porters at a 130-unit tower in Midtown reaches its one-year anniversary this week, dozens of tenants, elected officials and supporters rallied today to support the workers.
“Koeppel’s disregard for the fate of the long-time workers and tenants who have endured this strike for a full year is appalling,” said Hector Figueroa, Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ. “This community deserves better than an absentee landlord who is neglecting his responsibilities.”
In June 2011, workers at 350 East 52nd Street went out on strike after William Koeppel, the owner of the building, threatened employees for supporting their union, a possible violation of federal law and demanded the elimination of the employees’ health and pension plans.
“William Koeppel should do the right thing and get back to the bargaining table. The men and women who keep this building running should get a fair contract that allows them to support their families,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “Protecting good jobs will strengthen our struggling middle class and fuel the economy recovery we all need.”
According to the brokerage City Habitat, Manhattan rental market prices have hit record high this spring with apartments renting for an average of $3,429 during April, up from $3,418 in March, and $3,317 in April 2011.
Koeppel has a history of mistreating tenants, including through rent gouging. In the 1996, he pled guilty to soliciting campaign contributions for Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral campaigns in exchange for rent-regulated leases. Also, in November 2011 tenants filed a lawsuit against Koeppel, claiming that he had been illegally overcharging on rents for years.
According to the lawsuit, tenants at the 142-unit complex discovered that the building was covered by the J-51 law, which means the owner received certain tax advantages in return for pledging to rent-stabilize a portion of the building. The tenants were never informed of this and were charged at market rate, the suit states.
With more than 120,000 members, including 70,000 in New York, 32BJ is the largest buildings services union in the country and the largest private-sector union in the state.