"I've been in Queensbridge virtually all my life, serving our community for over 30 years,” Taylor said following a press conference held across the street from the Queensbridge Houses last week. “This is about jobs and has been since day one.”
Taylor said the violent backlash was because of frustration with hotel management following the latest of two meetings set up to devise a recruitment plan to hire employees from the Queensbridge community.
“All I asked from the hotel is that our neighbors be given a fair chance to apply for the job openings this new business brings,” he said. “I offered Urban Upbound, a free service, as a resource that connects qualified workers with businesses. This is a standard process used across the city.”
Although Taylor was surrounded by support from fellow clergy members, residents of the nearby Queensbridge Houses and local elected officials, lawyers representing the hotel said he was rebuffed because he was simply asking for too much.
Attorney Elio Forcina said Taylor has previously made “threats to break windows if he doesn’t get what he wants” and “implied” that he wants 30 percent of the salaries made by newly hired employees.
“Bishop Taylor is trying to control everything; he’s trying to control the hotel,” Forcina said. “He’s on the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and he’s using textbook extortion tactics to try and extort money out of their entity.”
Forcina said that although the hotel management has yet to hold a job fair at the Queensbridge Houses - something they plan on doing in the next three weeks - the outreach method does not discount the fact they plan to hire without any discrimination.
“We’re looking for good workers and we can hire from anywhere,” Forcina said.
A spokesperson for Bishop Taylor noted that while talks with the hotel had been cordial only up until the recent falling-out just four weeks ago, it is suspected that the miscommunication came after negotiations were recently handed over to another hotel official.
Despite claims from the hotel that owner Xiao Zhuang Ge made a $4,500 donation to Urban Upbound, Taylor responded that his organization only sold them a $2,500 ticket to an October 2013 gala operated by the organization.
“I don’t know what the amount was,” Taylor said to the cheering crowd. “It wasn’t $4,500, but it should have been $45,000 and so I don’t apologize for that.”
April Simpson, resident associate president of the Queensbridge North and South developments, was present at the most recent meeting with Taylor and the hotel management and denied accusations that Taylor “alleged” that he wanted 30 percent from the salaries for his organization.
“You’re lying,” Simpson told Forcina and hotel operating manager George Frangoulis in a dispute outside of the hotel during the rally. “You…agreed that you would give us 43 jobs initially. You’re lying.”
Frangoulis noted that he already hired seven people from the community and currently has 300 resumes awaiting review, most of which he says are from the neighborhood.
“[Bishop Taylor] didn’t even shake my hand,” Frangoulis said of their last meeting together. “I have already hired seven people out of 20 [recently hired employees], and I don’t base my decisions on race, creed or color.”
Prior to a march to the front steps of the new hotel last week, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer joined Taylor and his supporters at the Center of Hope International Church.
“This is a call for racial and economic justice,” Van Bramer said. “This community has so many great things going for it, but we also have needs, and we need jobs.”
Van Bramer added that he plans to help continue Taylor’s fight for high-paying jobs in the underserved communities of Western Queens.
“I firmly believe, by someone who was raised by parents who were in unions, that operators of the hotel should make sure that these aren’t just any kind of jobs,” he said. “We want good jobs with good wages and good benefits and pensions. We want to lift people into the middle class.”