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Trash Piles Up in Building After Owner Fires Workers, Residents Say

 Tenants at 1711 Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant complain that management has not prioritized cleanup and trash fills the hallways and stairwells after union maintenance workers were fired.
Trash at 1711 Fulton Street
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Tenants and union workers at a state-subsidized Brooklyn apartment building protested against new management Thursday after directors fired the complex’s maintenance employees — leaving the building strewn with trash.

A group of nine former porters, handymen and the superintendent of 1711 Fulton St. — members of SEIU 32BJ — called on management to restore their jobs and benefits.

Residents also objected to the condition of their buildings since the workers left, including garbage-filled hallways that have begun to attract flies.

The termination comes three months after Vertices Holdings LLC, which manages the property, took over the four buildings, slashing workers' pay by nearly 50 percent and eliminating their healthcare benefits, according to former employees and union representatives.

“We did nothing but try to work every day and do our job, and they just put us out on the street,” said Ronnie Coppage, 55, who worked as a porter and served as shop steward for the union.

“They didn’t even give anyone no explanation, no papers, no nothing. They just told everyone, ‘We’re not satisfied’ and to get the hell off the site.”

The changeover occurred after developer Bushburg picked up the 287-unit complex from E&M Associates for $38 million.

Following the March ownership shift, staffers were informed of a 90-day trial period during which new management could decide whether to keep the employees.

From March through June, workers said they experienced harassment from several on-site managers and witnessed new, non-union employees in the buildings.

Former superintendent Willie Hill, who has lived in the complex for 30 years, said administrators are giving him a month to vacate his apartment.

“They don’t care where me and my family go, I don’t know what we’re going to do next,” said Hill, who has four kids under the age of seven.

 Former employees of 1711 Fulton St. in Bed-Stuy protested in front of the building after new management laid off all union-affiliated maintenance workers.
Former employees of 1711 Fulton St. in Bed-Stuy protested in front of the building after new management laid off all union-affiliated maintenance workers.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

A Vertices manager at the building declined to comment on the terminations and Bushburg representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Building sources said management fired only two of the nine union employees, while the rest did not show up to work this week. Union reps refuted the claim.

Residents stood in support of the workers Thursday, asking for greater transparency on the changes and an improvement to building conditions.

Many fear the complex’s Mitchell-Lama affordable housing obligations will not be renewed and that they will be the next to be forced out of their homes.

“Why didn’t they say anything to the tenants about new workers?” said Dorothy Morrow, secretary for 1711 Fulton’s Tenant Leadership Committee.

“This is real. We see what’s happening around us in our neighborhood. What makes you think it won’t happen to us if we allow it?”

The complex will not end its affordable rental program in the next year, building sources said.

Still, tenants unhappy with new management said no repairs have been made since the March takeover, and garbage has lined the hallways and stairwells since the union workers were fired on Monday.

Piles of trash bags sat overflowing in front of elevator entrances on Thursday and dozens of flies filled the hallways where old mattresses, bed frames and boxes were propped up. Garbage blocked several stairwells in the buildings.

Compactors are filled up to the fourth floor and there are no outdoor dumpsters to accommodate trash, a new maintenance worker said.

Residents like Denise Lewis take it upon themselves to mop the floors outside their doors, saying management does not prioritize cleanup.

Tenants said they went over a month without hot water until Tuesday, and several cited mold and leaks that have gone unrepaired since March. Seniors complained of elevators that are out of service up to three days a week.

The complex has four open elevator violations as of Thursday and 115 complaints dating back to 2002 were filed for chronic elevator issues, according to the Department of Buildings.

Management is in the process of addressing the problem, tenants said.

“It started with our maintenance workers and who knows if we could be next,” Morrow said.

“The way they talk to tenants is nasty. These guys are only interested in making money. This is an investment for them.”

Residents and union members are scheduled to meet with elected officials to discuss the building conditions and layoffs.

32BJ SEIU filed unfair labor practices charges against Vertices through the National Labor Relations Board when the new management took over for refusing to negotiate a new contract with the union and for alleged employee harassment. That filing is still pending and the group is now in the process of filing again over the members’ termination.