Carpenters Union Slams City For False Willets Point Promise 

Unionized carpenters rallied outside of City Hall against the NYC Economic Development Corporation. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan | 

Over a hundred carpenter union members rallied at City Hall on July 13 for what they say are false promises from the city to designate construction jobs at Willets Point to unionionized workers. 

Willets Point, an underdeveloped and isolated area situated between Citi Field and Flushing, has long been neglected. But in November 2022, Mayor Adams announced that the area will be transformed to contain 2,500 new affordable homes, the city’s first soccer stadium, along with a hotel, retail spaces and a public school. The vision for this new community seeks to create connectivity with surrounding areas with an emphasis on sustainable design. 

“During the construction phase of the Project, Purchaser shall employ contractors that pay prevailing wage, and shall hire workers from state-certified apprenticeship programs for the construction of all non-residential buildings in the project,” states an excerpt from the NYS Economic Development Corporation’s request for proposal document, which was blown up, printed and displayed widely at the rally.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation says its mission is to invest in infrastructure and area-wide redevelopment, while spurring economic growth in the process.

“Just imagine how surprised we were when we discovered that a contractor employed by the city to build Willets Point didn’t have an apprenticeship program,” said Joseph Geiger, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New York City District Council of Carpenters at the rally. “Did the apprenticeship requirements just disappear into thin air? Who did it? Who is responsible?”

“Who’s the rat? EDC,” union members all in orange shirts shouted collectively during the afternoon rally that grew over a dozen city officials. 

Union organizers referred to EDC as a rat in their chants and signs. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

“The Building and Construction Trades Council, including the Carpenters Union, have been a pivotal partner in this project and we look forward to continuing these conversations. This development will create over 14,000 construction jobs, all of which will be good-paying jobs for New Yorkers,” said an EDC spokesperson in an email to the Queens Ledger, ignoring questions on whether workers will be hired from a state certified apprenticeship program like stated in the RFP. 

Union representatives say that when workers who did not go through a state certified apprenticeship program are hired, the safety of workers and future residents, as well as the integrity of construction projects are put at risk. 

“For two months, it was a lot of foot dragging and bureaucratic hot potato to the point that culminated in yesterday’s massive rally, with all those elected officials demanding that EDC answer our questions and enforce their own rules,” said Kevin Elkins, Director of Political Action at NYCDCC in an interview with the Queens Ledger. 

The Economic Development Corporation was heavily criticized from stepped away from the terms they outlined. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

Elkins says that NYCDCC heard through “the grapevine” that EDC chose to go with East Coast Drilling, a Queens based non unionized company, for the project instead. Despite the terms outlined in the RFP, it appears that EDC is straying from their initial promise, which union representatives say is a safety risk given the dangerous nature of the work. 

“To have people who did not go to a four year apprenticeship program and learn how to do their job well, but also safely, is a very, very very, very irresponsible thing, especially when there’s city money at stake,” Elkins pointed out. 

“When workers safety is at stake, rules must be followed. And the rules state that if a  contractor has no state certified apprenticeship program, they don’t belong in Willets Point. Or any taxpayer funded job site,” Geiger reinforced at the rally. “And if we allow this to happen, it’s gonna happen to every contract with the city of New York.”

“It has been so disappointing to learn that everything that was taught to us seems to not be true,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, who mentioned that she was briefed on this project only one day before it was announced. “I was told that there would be no problem on this project, that everything was going to be done by the letter, and that my community would be able to count on good union jobs.”

State Senator Jessica Ramos rallied the crowd with her remarks. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

Ramos, who represents Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and a bit of Rego Park, lost representation of Willets Point during redistricting last year. But she says that her proximity to the site now, and growing up in the area, has reinforced her concerns of its outcome.  

“I see how desperate my community is for good union jobs,” said Ramos, who is Chair of the Committee on Labor. “We know that the only way to do this project is with apprenticeship programs that are going to guarantee worker safety and union wages and benefits to every single worker.”

The majority of the more than dozen electeds who showed up in solidarity were from Queens, but representatives from all five boroughs were present, including Councilmember Joe Borelli from Staten Island,  Councilmember Oswald Feliz from the Bronx and Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez from Brooklyn. City Comptroller Brad Lander also made an appearance and delivered remarks in solidarity. 

City Councilmember Joann Ariola, who represents much of southeast Queens, expressed solidarity with union workers. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

“I want to be very clear about this. As I said, when it comes to our parks or any other project in our city, these projects must be 100% union labor,” said Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, who represents Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. 

“What happened in Willets Point can happen in any of the other five boroughs on any major development project,” said Elkins. “If it’s been discovered that rules aren’t being followed by a city funded project, and they no longer matter, that impacts every taxpayer.”

Exclusive: 1-year-interview with Joann Ariola

New district lines include slivers of Glendale

By Matthew Fischetti

Joann Ariola. (Photo:

Last year, Joann Ariola comfortably sailed to victory to represent City Council District 32 – which stretches from Belle Harbor up to Southeast Queens nabes like Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven.

The Queens Republican bested Democratic candidate Felicia Singh, capturing over 67 percent of the vote in a district previously represented by fellow Republican Eric Ulrich since 2009.

Although she was just elected to her first term last year: Ariola has been a long time presence in the community. A lifelong resident of the district, Ariola, 64, previously served the president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association and as the Chairwoman of the Queens Republican Party.

Our paper dedicated to catch up with Ariola to discuss her first year in office as well as discuss upcoming initiatives.

“What surprised me most was [after my first year] how well, a body of 51 people who come from different backgrounds and ideologies can really pull together to make a better city,” Ariola said in a recent Zoom interview.

While Ariola is one of a handful of Republicans in the Democrat denominated city council, she said that she often takes a bipartisan approach to legislating, citing her position on the Common Sense Caucus – a group of conservative and center-leaning legislators, which include registered Democrats like Bob Holden and Kalman Yeger.

In her first year in office, Ariola has been the first primary sponsor of five pieces of legislation and two resolutions. One of Ariola’s bills, a law that requires the Fire Department to survey firehouses on whether they have gender specific bathrooms for female firefighters, was passed by the council and signed by the Mayor last year.

“And the mayor has already signed that into law and you know, that had widespread bipartisan support. Why? because it’s common sense. That’s how I approach things,” Ariola said.

Ariola also wrote a bill that would create an office of Marine Debris Disposal and Vessel Surrendering, which would be responsible for coordinating between federal, state and local authorities to remove debris from New York City’s shores; find ways to recycle and reuse the material; as well as developing new practices to prevent the act.

While the bill is still in committee, it has been sponsored by a majority of the council. Ariola told BQE Media that she expects the bill to pass before the end of February.

“We cannot win in this district, a Republican cannot win without Democrat and Independent voters,” Ariola said, who represents a district where over 50 percent of voters are registered Democrats.

“I ran on three major points to the platform: public safety, quality of life and education. Those are the three top subjects when we were knocking on doors – that’s what people cared about most,” she continued. “And that resonated with the voters. It didn’t matter their background – any type of ethnic background, religious background, or enrollment in a party.”

In respect to quality of life issues, Ariola said she has tackled the issue by funding additional cleanups in both commercial districts and residential streets in the neighborhood. While the issue has not fully been addressed, she said the city is in the procurement phases to get cameras to monitor chronic dumping areas throughout the district. She also emphasized working with the Queens Economic Development Program to clean up graffiti in the district.

While 2022 issues largely centered around public safety, Ariola said that quality of life issues and the economy. Specifically, Ariola said that she is looking into taxes and contributing reasons to why New Yorkers are leaving for other states.

Ariola exclusively told BQE Media that she will be sponsoring legislation that would require Deliveristas to have to register their vehicles and have them insured.

While Ariola is repping many of the same neighborhoods as previous years, her district lines have added slivers of Glendale and Woodhaven while losing parts of Ozone Park.

Ariola represents District 32. The grey lines are what she currently represents. If reelected in 2024, she would represent the area outlined in purple. (Map:, from the Graduate Center at CUNY)

While Ariola hasn’t represented Glendale before, she said one of the local issues she would focus on would be monitoring the Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center, which has drawn the ire of locals.

“I will work as hard for the Glendale homeless shelter, the one that is just across the border in Woodhaven as as I do for the one in Rockaway to make sure that the people who are running the shelters are held accountable for their their population, and that their population is not an at risk population for our host community,” said Ariola.

In response to a question about representing the new areas, Ariola noted that despite being in different nabes, her constituents have similar issues across the district.

“I realized that there are some areas that are more specific in their issues than others, but they don’t want the loud noise from cars,” she said. “So it’s noise complaints. It’s garbage complaints. It’s the fact that construction may be being done on a school.”

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