One Skinflint Developer + One Wage Thief Contractor = 45 Park Place
The legal fight regarding the supertall that is under a work stoppage seems like a scene out of The Forty Thieves
Black pot, meet black kettle. Sharif El-Gamal (left), developer of the supertall luxury condo at 45 Park Place, has been accused of not paying his contractors by Gilbane Residential Construction, which is currently led by CEO Michael McKelvey. Gilbane has a long history of wage theft and other abuses against their workers.
Developer Sharif El-Gamal, who is funding the construction of the luxurious 43-story TriBeCa supertall residential building 45 Park Place, was accused of wage theft in 2019 by the lead contractor on the project, Gilbane Residential Construction, LLC., which has its own industry-wide reputation as an unscrupulous employer and notorious wage thief.
The saga of 45 Park Place’s years-long development—which started in 2016 and remains ongoing but stalled—begins with El-Gamal’s hiring of Gilbane in 2015. Gilbane received minimal payments for its work in 2018, no payments in 2019, and that year sued the developer, claiming to be owed $15,744,766.81 for its work on the supertall. El-Gamal eventually responded to the suit by paying the contractor close to $10 million in April 2019, explaining that the money was delayed because of “imperfected work” conducted by one of the subcontractors.
The supertall topped out at 667 feet. But cranes sit idle because the project has been halted by the Department of Building.
Many people in the business saw Gilbane's getting shafted by a developer as just-desserts for wage thief.
When a Crook Cries “Thief!”
Before you shed any tears over Gilbane not getting paid fairly, you should understand that Gilbane is no stranger to wage theft themselves. The contractor has a long history of violating federal wage and hour laws and other workers’ rights. In particular, the contractor has become quite infamous over the years for running projects in which they do not pay their subcontractors. In fact, when it was revealed that Gilbane would head 45 Park Place, union laborers took to the streets to protest, calling out the contractor’s history of unscrupulous and unfair practices.
Many in the industry saw Gilbane’s delayed payment as just-desserts for a bad actor.
And the contractor’s transgressions don’t stop at wage theft. A construction worker died on a Gilbane site in February 2021, yet the contractor never paid any repercussions. Gilbane was involved in construction site accidents before that, too, named in at least seven court cases and 34 other incidents in New York and across the U.S. in 2021. The contractor has faced multiple fines and summonses from the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) and, last year alone was hit with nearly $50,000 worth of OSHA fines. According to reporting by Documented, Gilbane was responsible for at least 13 accidents on New York City construction sites in 2021.
In the end, Gilbane’s controversial history all goes back to being an open contractor long known for hiring non-union labor. Workers are less safe—financially or physically—when they are not protected by a union. Contractors like Gilbane may exploit undocumented immigrant laborers, who make up a large percent of the industry’s non-union workforce in New York City. These workers often remain silent when they experience unfair working conditions and wage theft because they fear job loss or deportation.
And there’s evidence that unprofessional operations are happening on Gilbane’s work site. There have been numerous complaints and violations listed on the DOB’s property profile for 45 Park Place (most recently there were several reports of a dangerously dangling construction tarp). For now, cranes remain up, but a stop work order is in place on the property.
The DOB has stopped the project due to the many financial and quality violations of the project.
Is Anyone Surprised By This Outcome?
Gilbane, Soho Properties, and 45 Park Place were unresponsive to requests for comments on when the work will continue. So, what’s next for the TriBeCa skyscraper? Units appear to be selling; according to StreetEasy there are currently four active sales, including a $12,350,000 3-bedroom unit. Again, do not cry for the likes of these businesses. Thanks to the current nature of real estate in New York, they all stand to make a lot of money.
But the saga of 45 Park Place should come as no surprise to New Yorkers, who have witnessed much malfeasance in the construction industry from developers and contractors more interested in profits than in ethical construction practices. And when a wage thief developer hires a wage thief contractor, no one should be shocked when multiple lawsuits and bankruptcies follow.
Jessica Beebe is a multimedia journalist living and working in New York City. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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