Bellone, unions pan group on hotel project

Surrounded by dozens of union construction workers, Steve

Surrounded by dozens of union construction workers, Steve Bellone holds a press conference denouncing what he says is unlicensed work going on at a construction site in Central Islip. (Oct. 19, 2012) (Credit: Ed Betz)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Friday blasted the use of nonunion and nonlocal labor at a Central Islip construction site, as union leaders called for Islip Town to rescind tax subsidies on the project.

At a news conference outside the future Central Islip Marriott Residence Inn, Bellone, union heads and building industry leaders denounced developer Briad Development East for not using local labor despite benefiting from local tax breaks -- the firm was granted $2.3 million in Islip tax abatements over 14 years, town officials said.

"What we have here is an egregious violation of our local codes," Bellone said. "But worse than that, what we're witnessing here is an assault on our local economy because jobs are being taken away from local workers."

County labor commissioner Samuel Chu said the Department of Consumer Affairs last week issued a violation to Lombardi Electric, a New Jersey-based company, for doing electrical work at the site without a county license. And Islip officials have decided not to issue a plumbing permit for the project until Briad, also based in New Jersey, can prove that a town-licensed firm is doing the work.

"We're ensuring that those plumbing licenses are local," town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said.

Briad did not return calls seeking comment.

James Castellane, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, said Islip should "claw back" its tax subsidies, claiming that Briad is not fulfilling a town law requiring developers to use 90 percent local labor.

But because the hotel project was approved in 2011, it doesn't fall under that law, which was passed in July, said Bill Mannix, executive director of the town's Industrial Development Agency. He said it's rare that the agency rescinds tax subsidies.

"They would have to fail to live up to their legal obligation" to build the hotel and employ the 30 people Briad claimed it would hire in its application, Mannix said.

But deed covenants placed on the property when it received a change of zone last year require Briad to "make a good-faith effort to construct and operate" the hotel "primarily with laborers or employees residing in Central Islip or the Town of Islip."

The developer will need to prove it's living up to that covenant, Birbiglia said, after a meeting Friday with Briad executives in which town officials expressed concerns about the project.

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