This article originally appeared in Newsday
What happens in Albany over the next several days could change the future for one of Nassau County’s most prime pieces of developable land — the Nassau Hub.
Developer Scott Rechler, who, along with partner BSE Global, is supposed to build housing, entertainment and office space at the Hub, told The Point Friday that things at the Hub could change, depending on what happens with proposed legislation that would require all workers — union and nonunion — to be paid the same wages on projects that receive public money.
“If we do not see a reasonable outcome on prevailing wage, we will unfortunately need to reevaluate whether there is a future for transformative projects like the Hub project in New York,” Rechler said.
The original legislation proposed earlier this year would require developers to pay prevailing wage — an hourly rate usually established in collective bargaining agreements — on any project that receives any public money, including tax breaks, incentives, and grants.
Since then, the real estate industry, including Rechler, and labor leaders have tried to negotiate a compromise. Those conversations are ongoing, and now Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is involved, sources told The Point.
But getting to a deal will likely come down to the wire. Part of the reason is that Long Island labor leaders, including Matthew Aracich, who heads the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, aren’t directly involved in the negotiating. Aracich told The Point that he’s in regular contact with state labor officials who are at the table, but real estate leaders say it’s harder to come to a deal without his presence.
“It makes it a much more challenging negotiation when you’re not negotiating with people you do business with every day,” Rechler said.
And the implications of legislation that doesn’t address Long Island’s concerns could go far beyond the Hub, he added.
“This would be Long Island’s Amazon moment,” Rechler said. “At a time when Long Island is trying to reposition itself for the 21st century, this will slow it down or could even stop it.”
Nonetheless, Aracich said that there has been progress, and he expects a solution to emerge before the session ends next week.
“If I’m looking at a gas gauge, the empty side is coming up, and the full side is coming down, and we’re meeting towards the middle,” Aracich said.
Multiple sources told The Point that the latest offer from real estate and business leaders would allow prevailing wage to apply to any project where 30 percent or more of the project’s cost is paid by public money. Those projects would have to pay all workers prevailing wage. That represents a change from past offers, which suggested that only some workers would be paid the higher wages. Some projects — like those built by not-for-profits and those that contain certain levels of affordable housing — would be excluded.
But there’ve been wrinkles since then, including a suggestion by some officials in Albany to create yet another commission in the legislation. The commission would set additional thresholds, where projects that receive a certain dollar amount of public funds — no matter what percentage of the total it is — would also have to pay prevailing wage. That would mean that larger projects — like the Hub — likely would automatically fall under the prevailing wage umbrella.
Long Island Association chief executive Kevin Law said he remains “hopeful” that a compromise can be reached. And representatives from both sides said they expected meetings to continue into next week.
“These negotiations … are almost like a Rolling Stones song. ‘You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need,’” Aracich said.