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Strike Free Zones

While most of us are helplessly awaiting the countdown to the strike, fielding robocalls from Cynthia Nixon supporting the doormen as we contemplate hauling our trash to the dumpster, a few among us are sitting pretty.  Yes, it’s business as usual at a number of tony co-ops and condos that started out as hotels and remain under the aegis of the Hotel Trades Union, having snubbed the advances of Local 32BJ that is set to walk.

One of them is One Fifth Avenue, built in the 1920’s by developer Joseph Siegel as an apartment hotel, and converted in 1976 to a 190 unit cooperative right off Washington Square Park.

“The guys back then decided to stick with the Hotel Workers, and we never switched,” explained the dark haired concierge seated llike an executive behind a massive marble-topped console, as he scanned surveillance videos and answered phone calls.  “It’s better for me.  I’ve been here almost 24 years.  The residents here are my family. But times are tough. There used to be 16 guys, now there are only 14.”

Over at 24 Fifth, a 15-story Emory Roth hotel finished in 1926 and converted to a 419 unit co-op in 1988, the concierge was a relative newcomer, on the job only a few years.

“I hear they got better health benefits, but on balance we’re ahead,” the thirty something staffer said, as he weighed a letter handed to him for postage by an elegantly dressed matron with bouffant hair.

“I’m just glad we don’t have to worry about a strike,” she whispered to me out of sight almost guiltily.

It’s not just lucky residents at upscale towers who are free from strike anxiety, but also students at a number of NYU dorms that once were hotels. No, dorms don’t have doorman, they have public safety officers employed by the University to keep students secure. But they do have porters and handymen to keep the place clean, the vast majority of which are members of 32BJ, ready to walk along with their brethren.

Not at Britanny Residence Hall, on East 10th Street.

“This place was once a hotel so we’re part of Local 6,” a blue uniformed handyman outside the building on his lunch break unhinged himself from his iPhone.  “Yeah, 32BJ wanted us to convert, but we said, no.”

“Why’s that?”

“Our work week is 35 hours, theirs is 40.  We get time and a half for lunch hour, and our basic hourly rate is higher.  We got a better strike fund in case we ever go on strike, but our contract is for 6 years, and it’s not up till 2012,” it was clear this was someone who had read the agreement from cover to cover..

“So the students here won’t have to worry about cleaning up after themselves?”

“Good thing, if you ask me.  We don’t have roaches, and I wouldn’t want that to change.”

Hopefully, things also will stay spic and span at Rubin Hall, which used to be the Grosvenor Hotel before NYU bought it for a dorm in the 1960s, and Hayden Hall, another student residence that incorporates what once was Holley Chambers Hotel – both strike free zones.

So while the clock is ticking away for the rest of us, time is standing still for a lucky few.

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