Trash Mountain Piles Up as Doormen Strike in Turtle Bay
By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
TURTLE BAY — The doormen and porters of a Turtle Bay building owned by a one-time fundraiser for former Mayor Rudy Giuliani went on strike last week, allowing a mound of trash to pile up.
Sanitation workers have refused to cross the picket line in solidarity, a DSNY spokesman confirmed.
Ahmet Ulkugil, a doorman at 350 E. 52nd St. for nearly a decade, said he and his colleagues filed a complaint last month with the National Labor Relations Board accusing landlord William Koeppel of unfair labor practice.
The workers walked out last Monday.
The specifics of the complaint were not clear Frday.
"He's intimidating us by putting up 'Help Wanted' signs and taking interviews," said Ulkugil, a union member who is upset over having no contract, unlike doormen in nearly 3,200 other city buildings.
Koeppel — a real estate heir who pleaded guilty in 1996 to pressuring tenants and brokers to contribute to the Giuliani campaign — was one of a handful of Manhattan landlords who did not sign the contract that the doormen's 32BJ union brokered last year, union officials said.
Koeppel told DNAinfo that he was "independent" from the Realty Advisory Board, the industry association representing most building owners, and therefore not subject to the agreement. He said that he stopped paying dues nearly two years ago and blamed a clerical error on his inclusion in the group.
But union reps are disputing his claims and allege that he left the board only after the contract was signed.
"At this point we are negotiating with the doormen's union," Koeppel said, explaining that he made an offer to the union last month and was waiting for a counter-proposal before a meeting at the end of June.
"We are trying desperately to find a solution," he said.
While he wouldn't comment on ongoing negotiations, Koeppel said the agreement "has to be within the parameters of a certain economic reality" and that "everybody has to give a little ground."
Koeppel denied posting "Help Wanted" signs in the building but admitted to bringing in a company called Modern Staffing to find new workers when the union employees threatened to strike.
"We have a responsibility to our residents," Koeppel said, noting that many of the new hires are veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We're getting tremendous compliments," he said of the new workers. "I'm hopeful the men [striking] will allow the garbage men to pick up the trash and don't hold the residents hostage as a prisoner in this fight."
Koeppel put up signs in the building urging residents to call 311 to complain about the trash causing a health hazard.
A Department of Sanitation spokesman said that if the Health Department is called in for an inspection, that agency's report would then determine whether trash picket would need to resume despite the strike.
The striking workers admit that they want to make things difficult for residents.
"We're trying to make it inhospitable to tenants so they force him to sign an agreement," Ulkugil said.
Some tenants may be angered by the pile of trash, but others are throwing their loyalties behind the workers.
"It's about time they strike," said Maria T., 55, a tenant who has lived in the building for 22 years and declined to give her last name.
"Tenants are supportive," she claimed. "It's not the first time the landlord has fired people. He's very unreasonable."
After Koeppel's guilty plea, he sued his mother in 1997 over the family's $48 million fortune and her handling of properties he felt he was due to inherit from his father, according to reports.