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Judge orders Flatbush Gardens employees back to work

CRAIG D. FRAZIER Special to the AmNews | 4/5/2012, 3:28 p.m.
Judge orders Flatbush Gardens employees back to work

Federal Judge Brian Cogan has ordered Flatbush Gardens to allow the 70 porters and handymen to come back to work.

In November 2010, landlord David Bistricer and his company, Renaissance Equity Holdings, locked out 70-plus porters and handymen after they refused to take a 30 to 40 percent pay cut. The Federal National Labor Relations Board took the landlord to court, charging the lockout was illegal.

Cogan also ordered Bistricer back to the bargaining table but said the workers must take a 20 percent pay cut while Renaissance and SEIU 32BJ, the union representing the workers, negotiate a new contract.

Hector Figueroa, secretary-treasurer of 32BJ SEIU, told reporters, "The word should go out to Brooklyn and to all cities and towns that bullying workers into accepting unfair, draconian cuts to their livelihoods has no place in our society."

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams said that he will keep a close eye on these negotiations in the weeks ahead to ensure both sides, especially Renaissance, act in good faith.

"As a local elected official representing Flatbush Gardens, I have been deeply invested in the plight these workers have suffered under the iron fist of David Bistricer, as well as the plight of the thousands of tenants whose daily concerns about maintenance and quality of life go unaddressed. I thank Judge Cogan for cutting this irresponsible landlord down to size."

Court documents showed that Bistricer and other Flatbush Gardens shareholders paid themselves $37 million from 2007 to 2009 and paid fees to shareholders' relatives, including payments for a Lexus.

Meanwhile, Flatbush Gardens maintains that they sought the pay cuts only because they needed to save money.

"This ruling vindicates Flatbush Gardens and the position it has always taken with the union. It is most appreciative of the time and effort Judge Cogan has given this case and for his decision," said Robert Wolf, attorney for Flatbush Gardens and Renaissance Equity.