ST. GEORGE — More than 100 union members rallied on the steps of Staten Island Borough Hall to call on the developers of a planned outlet mall in St. George to use organized labor.
Build Up NYC, a group representing three citywide unions, held the rally with Rep. Michael Grimm, State Sen. Diane Savino, Assemblyman Matthew Titone and City Council Candidate John Mancuso to push BFC Partners to use unionized labor for their Empire Outlet project.
"This is the type of project that's going to change Staten Island for everyone," Grimm said at the rally.
"They're going to come from all over the world to see this wheel, and they should know that it's going to be built safely. They should know that it was built by the most skilled workforce in the world."
Developers of the project, which is on the same Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application as the New York Wheel, have said they would use only partial union labor on the outlet mall and 200 room hotel. The developers of the wheel have committed to using union labor.
"Why can one come together with the unions to create good jobs and why can one not?" said Gary LaBarbera, president of Build Up NYC.
"I'll tell you the reason why, because of profits and because of greed."
The decision to not use union labor has been a major point of contention for the outlet mall since the project started its ULURP process.
A spokeswoman for BFC said the group has reached out to numerous Staten Island contractors, and the project would be a great economic boom for the borough.
"In response to the broad spectrum of economic needs in the borough, BFC has actively reached out to numerous Staten Island based union and non-union sub contractors to ensure both union and local involvement in the project," the spokeswoman said.
"Their response has been overwhelmingly positive and, like us, they are looking forward to building this exciting and transformative project on the North Shore."
At the rally, LaBarbera said Build Up NYC would only use the 4,000 members who are from Staten Island for the project, and keep it local.
Savino said she thought the outlet mall would be a great way to get more tourist dollars into Staten Island, but that the developers needed to create better jobs for workers by using union.
"It's just what we need," Savino said. "We want the economic activity, we want them to stay, we want more retail opportunities for Staten Islanders and we want good jobs."
The ULURP application for the wheel will go up for a council vote on Oct. 30.