Flatbush Gardens management locked out its maintenance workers on Monday, sending in replacement workers to do their jobs.
The complex’s porters and handymen had been working without a contract since April.
The lockout follows months of negotiation between workers at the 59-building, 2,500-unit complex — bounded by Foster Avenue, Brooklyn Avenue, Newkirk Avenue and Nostrand Avenue — and Renaissance Equity Holdings, which demanded significant concessions from workers, including pay cuts of 34 percent, plus a cut in health benefits that would require workers to contribute roughly $100 a month for coverage.
Union officials were outraged by the offer and the plan to lock out workers during the holidays.
“This draconian proposal is way out of line with other employers in this industry,” said Hector Figueroa, secretary-treasurer of the union, 32BJ. “It is a harsh, cold and inhumane tactic.”
Workers said that the pay reduction demanded by Renaissance would be devastating. “My family is going to be out on the streets if my pay and benefits get any lower,” said Brian Miller, who has worked at Flatbush Gardens for nine years. “They’re taking away our ability to feed our children and stay in our homes.”
Tenants were also upset with the building owner’s decision.
“They’re trying to save a little money, but the guys they are locking out are the guys who do the majority of the work,” said Melvin McCoy, a 30-year resident. “We can call them when the office is closed, and they’ll come, at 2 or 3 am, if there’s an emergency.”
But building management is sticking to its guns.
Richard Rubenstein, a spokesman for Renaissance Equity Holdings, said that the company, led by controversial landlord David Bistricer, “would like to arrive at a fair and equitable agreement that will provide services at a reasonable cost to Flatbush Gardens, in what is a very challenging economic climate.”
On Nov. 18, Rubenstein said, Renaissance — which bought the complex in 2005 for $138,500,000 — notified the union, 32BJ, that the lockout would go into effect, and that, “Flatbush Gardens will be using temporary workers until its Local 32BJ employees ratify the Best and Final Proposal,” put on the table by Renaissance on Sept. 1. Workers had voted in August to authorize a strike if an agreement couldn’t be reached.
“We believe that our action is necessary to achieve a fair and equitable agreement,” management told tenants in a Nov. 22 missive.
Flatbush Gardens has had a checkered history under Bistricer, who made headlines when he repaid more than $143,000 to the city for repairs made by the city to alleviate potentially dangerous conditions at the complex, which has “accumulated thousands of housing code violations,” according to Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio. Citing Bistricer, DeBlasio has been pushing the city to look into a landlord’s history of building code violations before deciding whether to renew or enter into any lease.
The city currently leases over $200 million in office space from another company of which Bistricer is a principal owner, Berkshire Equity, LLC, according to DeBlasio.