Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Brinksmanship with unions behind stall at the Beekman Tower

Yesterday, during a conference call with investment analysts, Forest City Enterprises CEO Chuck Ratner explained the stall at the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan.

"We have put additional vertical development on hold while we assess overall costs," he said. "Given falling construction costs, we have an opportunity to achieve savings on construction." Meanwhile, he said, work continues on the lower floors at the site, and the school and ambulatory care center will open as planned.

It's a threat

What does this mean? The New York Times's Charles Bagli, in an article today about efforts to lower construction costs, points to brinksmanship:
Bruce Ratner, a developer who traditionally builds with union contractors, recently stopped at the 38th floor of his planned 76-story Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan, threatening to cap the building at 40 stories if construction unions did not accept concessions on wages and work rules.

Ratner, Bagli writes, was not involved in current negotiations among developers and unions to modify work rules, wages and benefits to cut labor costs by 15 to 20 percent--less than the 25 percent sought be the real estate industry.

Was that because others took precedence? You'd think that if he's serious about beginning construction this year on the Atlantic Yards arena, Ratner would want concessions.

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