What’s Going on With Hudson Yards?

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(Newswire.net — February 20, 2020) — Hudson Yards is a relatively new real estate development that’s in the Chelsea and Hudson Yards neighborhoods of Manhattan. It’s the biggest private real estate development in the U.S. by area, and the first of two phases opened in 2019. 

The first phase includes public green space, and eight different structures housing private residences, offices, a mall, a hotel, and a cultural venue. 

The second phase hasn’t started yet but will include residential and office space as well as a school. 

The two major developers behind the project are Related Companies and Oxford Properties. 

While there’s been tremendous buzz surrounding Hudson Yards, there’s also been controversy, including personal injury lawsuits, labor-related lawsuits, and other issues. 

Labor Disputes

One of the initial issues that arose with the Hudson Yards development involved the labor unions working on the project. 

It was such an issue that it was described as the “nastiest fight in NYC real estate.”

The primary issue in the labor dispute was the freedom of the developers to hire nonunion workers who were less expensive to do lower-skill jobs on the project like site cleanup. 

Initially, the developers used union construction workers only to build Hudson Yards, but an issue arose in 2018 as the Related development company filed a civil lawsuit that accused the building trades of misconduct. 

The defendant named in the suit was Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. 

In response, LaBarbera launched the #CountMeIn campaign in which he ensured the union trades that are hardest to replace wouldn’t break ranks. There were large protests targeted executives of the Related company. 

The protests include demonstrations blocking Park Avenue in front of the NFL headquarters. 

Eventually, the parties agreed. LaBarbera conceded that he would be willing to let lower-skill workers replace some union workers as long as the union trades could have the majority of the work on the project. 

Lawsuits were dropped, and construction proceeded. 

Scaffolding Collapse and Injuries

On November 11, 2019, scaffolding on the 18th floor of part of Hudson Yards that’s still under construction collapsed. Two construction workers were on it at the time, and they were taken to local hospitals along with two others. 

One had serious but non-life-threatening injuries. 

According to the New York Daily News, the accident was the first to occur at the site, but later it was uncovered that wasn’t necessarily the reality. 

According to court records, the four workers in the scaffolding incident were part of a group of more than a hundred others who said they were injured while working on the Hudson Yards development. 

From 2013 to 2019, around 150 workers at the site filed personal injury lawsuits against related as well as limited liability corporations related to the developer and general contractors. 

That is only representative of people who filed lawsuits in the Supreme Courts of New York City.

In 2013 there was a single suit that was the first, and by 2016 when work was going full steam, so were new claims.

Claims vary from falling on wet beams or tripping on debris to more severe situations where equipment allegedly fell on workers. 

At least a dozen of the lawsuits mentioned scaffolding. 

One lawsuit filed at the start of 2020 on behalf of Justin Hartley said he was hit by a falling beam leading to permanent traumatic head injuries as well as injuries to other parts of his body. 

Some experts have spoken to media outlets, saying the number of lawsuits at the Hudson Yards project looks unusually high even given the size of the development. Some have indicated that it could mean there are construction safety issues at the site. 

A personal injury lawyer spoke to the Commercial Observer, and while he’s not involved in the Hudson Yards cases he says 150 cases in just one place is alarming. His opinion is that contractors, owners, and developers are trying to work quickly to start making money and in doing so they are cutting corners. 

Charlene Obernauer, who is the executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, backed by unions, said that anytime there are a lot of injuries at one site, it usually means a lack of safety training early on. 

However, others, when asked, said that they didn’t necessarily think that the number of lawsuits at Hudson Yard was out of proportion with the scale of the project. From 2013 to 2019, around 25,000 workers were part of the project. 

Jose Andres’s Employees

In yet another blow in terms of publicity at Hudson Yards, celebrity chef Jose Andres is being accused of underpaying its employees. 

Andres opened up Mercado Little Spain, which is a Spanish-inspired food market in the Hudson Yards development. 

A bartender filed a lawsuit against the food hall and the chef, saying she was paid an hourly wage under minimum wage. 

Tina Braunstein said she started working at the food hall last April, and her shifts would often include at least two hours of side work. She says she was paid a wage based on her tips, even though she didn’t get tips for her side work. 

Mercado Little Spain representatives have denied her claim saying they believe they have properly paid all of their employees. 

According to Braunstein’s suit, the food hall also paid her less than overtime standards. She said she was paid $15.55 per hour in April when working her regular shift, below the legal minimum of $17.50. She also says when her shifts went beyond 10 hours, she was paid $10 instead of the $15 required by New York law. 

Braunstein also filed the lawsuit on behalf of her coworkers, citing Mercado Little Spain’s systemic underpayment of service employees. She’s being represented by a well-known personal injury lawyer and self-proclaimed hospitality worker advocate D. Maimon Kirschenbaum. 

Only time will tell how the cases work out, but regardless there’s been a lot going on at Hudson Yards, and much of it isn’t necessarily positive.