New York State Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, along with Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ (32BJ SEIU), announced that they had recovered $3 million from a luxury residential property developer who withheld wages from workers.
Heatherwood Communities LLC (Heatherwood) received tax exemptions on two of their NYC rental properties in Queens and Brooklyn under the 421-a program, however they failed to pay wages and benefits to the building service employees as required.
As a result of the Oct. 6 announcement, Heatherwood will return $723,324 – the full amount owed plus interest – to 24 workers and pay a penalty to NYC and New York state for violating the conditions of the tax credit program.
“Workers are the backbone of New York, and they deserve fair pay and benefits for their hard work,” said Attorney General James in a press conference on Thursday. “These individuals worked day and night to make ends meet but were denied their hard-earned money. Paying workers fair wages and benefits is not a luxury, it’s the law and Heatherwood cheated these workers and taxpayers. Today, two dozen workers will get back wages they earned but were unjustly denied. I thank Comptroller Lander and 32BJ for their collaboration on this effort to hold bad actors accountable and protect everyday New Yorkers.”
An investigation by the Attorney General’s office found that over two years Heatherwood failed to fairly pay employees their wages or grant them their benefits in the building in Queens and the one in Brooklyn.
Those involved in the settlement explained just how important a precedent was set.
“This $3 million settlement’s importance goes beyond the dollar amount,” said Kyle Bragg, President of building workers union 32BJ SEIU. “We are sending a clear message to owners and developers like Heatherwood that they cannot enjoy the benefits of our city’s tax exemptions if they can’t meet their basic responsibilities to their workers. 32BJ SEIU thanks Attorney General James and NYC Comptroller Brad Lander for their partnership in this crucial fight. Together, we have won a crucial victory for not only our members but working people across the state.”
Workers at the Heatherwood building also emphasized how detrimental underpaying is to communities.
“I am a working person, and I expect my employer to pay me what was promised,” said Francisco Giuliano, a worker at a Heatherwood building. “Underpaying workers is not just wrong. It throws lives into chaos. The money I am receiving will provide me with financial stability and justice. I want to thank AG James, NYC Comptroller Brad Lander, and 32BJ SEIU for ensuring that companies like Heatherwood can’t act like they are above the law.”