Workers Get $400k in Back Wages Just Ahead of Holidays

Workers Get $400k in Back Wages Just Ahead of Holidays
(R-L in center) Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg today distributed more than $400,000 in back wage plus interest to 11 building service employees who were cheated out of their prevailing wages for work at a luxury apartment building in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Susan Watts/Office of the NYC Comptroller

In November 2019, Attorney General James and Comptroller Stringer announced a historic $2.9 million settlement with the developers and landlords of 180 Nassau Street, Brooklyn Warehouse 180 LLC and Mica Gabe Brooklyn LLC. The landlords of the  10 story, luxury rental building with 103 units, were found to be violating prevailing wage requirements they had to comply with to claim 421-a tax benefits.

The 11 workers received various amounts ranging from $5,500 to $80,000, James’s office said in a statement, based on hours worked and date of hire.

“There is zero tolerance for cheating workers out of their hard-earned pay,” said Attorney General James.

“Today, these 32BJ SEIU members received the wages they earned and the justice they deserve — and we’re sending a clear message to unscrupulous developers, contractors and landlords that they better follow the rules when they get millions of dollars in property tax breaks,” said Comptroller Stringer. “I am proud of the collaborative effort between my office, the Attorney General’s Office, HPD and 32 BJ SEIU, which allowed us to recover these wages and put them back where they belong — in the hands of working New Yorkers to provide for their families, just in time for the holidays.”

The joint investigation by the NY Attorney General and the New York City Comptroller revealed that, in 2014, defendants received a Section 421-a partial tax exemption for the Brooklyn property, based on an assurance that building service employees would be paid prevailing wages. However, they further discovered, that the defendants failed to pay the applicable wages to employees between August 2014 and March 2016 – hiring doormen, porters, and a superintendent for the 180 Nassau Street property and paying them wages lower than required by law just two weeks after certifying to HPD they would pay prevailing wages.

32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said: “The back wages will help Brooklyn Warehouse’s concierge, superintendent, doormen, porters and other building service workers get back on their feet after being grossly underpaid.”

For their violations of Section 421-a and the New York False Claims Act, the two defendants paid the full back wages to workers, along with 16-percent interest, in addition to over $2.5 million in damages to the city and state. Union 32BJ SEIU, the whistleblower that came forward to report the fraud, also received a percentage of the damages to be paid.

The Comptroller’s Office publishes a list of buildings covered by prevailing wage requirements under Section 421-a, as well as the prevailing wage and benefit rates for building service employees, on its website at www.comptroller.nyc.gov/wages. If workers believe they have been cheated out of prevailing wages, they should call the Comptroller’s confidential Labor Law Hotline at 212-669-4443 or email laborlaw@comptroller.nyc.gov.

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