Luxury Waterfront Building Seems to be Anything But

Residents of Two Blue Slip describe ramshackle living experiences at the Greenpoint Landing property, which was built by non-union contractors.

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The gleaming exterior of the new Two Blue Slip luxury apartments in Brooklyn belie a ramshackle living experience for resident Christian Desrosiers who went to battle with the development manager over several alarming construction flaws in the non-union-built structure. His is just another tale of buyer's remorse in the world of non-union construction.            --The New York Post

Imagine you’re a young New York City renter who has scored a beautiful but expensive apartment. You’re overspending on rent, but the waterfront views in a happening Brooklyn area make the cost seem worth it. But when you move in—the roof literally falls in on you.

 

Two Blue Slip, a 421-unit luxury residential property located in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Landing waterfront development, made headlines last month when the New York Post published the story of one renter’s terrible experience living in the building. The resident, Christian Desrosiers, described deplorable living conditions including leaks pouring from the ceiling (which he shared photos and videos of) and subsequent mold buildup. What made Mr. Desrosiers’s situation worse was that the building’s management tried to blame him for the problems he was dealing with. Eventually, he was driven away from his $3,590/month studio.

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A still from a video shot by Christian Desrosiers in his Two Blue Slip apartment showing water gushing from the ceiling into his kitchen. Mr. Desrosiers says that the management company blamed him for the apartment's problems.    -- The New York Post

“Three toilet seats have broken and the medicine cabinet is cheap and had to be replaced three times,” and the finishing is cheap and the kitchen sink leaks.

One resident's summary of his luxury non-union accommodations at Two Blue Slip in Brooklyn

But Mr. Desrosiers hasn’t been the only Two Blue Slip tenant to face problems like this—or with the allegedly difficult management company and owner, Brookfield Properties, which co-developed the property along with Park Tower Group. As the Post reported, other residents noted problems like windows shaking during windy winter nights (reminiscent of the problems at the notorious 432 Park Avenue) and a frequent lack of hot water, which Brookfield blamed on the residents. More recently, a millennial renter who wishes to remain anonymous told Union Built Matters about some recurring issues inside of his unit.

 

“I’ve never paid this much in rent before,” the resident said. “My last apartment in New York City was a pre-war in Washington Heights.” At Two Blue Slip, problems frequently get in his way. “Three toilet seats have broken and the medicine cabinet is cheap and had to be replaced three times,” he said, also noting that the finishing in his unit is cheap and the kitchen sink leaks.

 

It's Important to Ask Who Built the Building

But why is this happening at a supposedly “luxury” building? After all, Two Blue Slip—which officially opened in February 2020—was designed by the reputable Handel Architects LLP, which boasts hundreds of properties across the world and more than 50 in New York City alone, including the National September 11 Memorial and Museum as well as Two Blue Slip’s predecessor, One Blue Slip. When looking more deeply at the layers of Two Blue Slip’s formation, though, it becomes clear why tenants are seeing leaks and broken cabinets: the construction project was non-union.

 

According to the Department of Building’s permits for Two Blue Slip, Brookfield hired Consigli & Associates as the general contractor and and Casino Development Group—which has a concerning record including a history of crime and a recently settled wage theft suit—as the concrete superstructure contractor. The main reason most developers choose to go non-union is to reduce their costs. Hiring a non-union contractor can be reflective of a developer’s priorities: seeking their own profit over the quality of the building and the safety of the workers. If such corners were cut to aid profits, it can also explain why cheap materials were used for cabinetry, toilet seats and more. Brookfield Properties, Park Tower Group, and Handel Architects did not respond to Union Built Matters’ requests for comments.

 

When looking at the bigger picture of the New York City real estate market in 2021, what’s happening at Two Blue Slip isn’t exactly surprising. Paying an extremely high rent for an apartment that is essentially falling apart has become commonplace. Wealthy developers like Brookfield often hire non-union contractors based on price, and those contractors slash their costs any way they can. Sometimes this means poor construction methods, and sometimes this means safety regulations are ignored and workers get hurt—or even die—on the job. As the Atlantic reported earlier this year, in the most recent annual report of construction fatalities, the worker-advocacy group the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that 86 percent of the workers who died on private construction sites were non-union.

 

As it turns out, there were numerous safety complaints throughout the construction of Two Blue Slip, according to the New York City Department of Building’s overview on the property. “Worker fell into 6-inch hole and twisted his ankle,” states a report from October 2019. “Unqualified foreman” and “inadequate pre-shift inspection” states one from February 2020. Among the many other postings are worker injuries and accidents and reports of general “unsafe conditions,” like blocked walkways in construction zones.

 

It seems like these reports were generally swept under the rug as many related to non-union construction projects seem to be. And as Documented reported in September, the developers rarely face the consequences. Mid-level managers or foreman are the ones who face criminal indictments (if it comes to that). In the city’s construction industry, there are so many layers of companies involved in projects that large corporations can easily shift responsibility for mistakes or wrongdoing onto the smaller players. Perhaps the recent “sweeping updates” to the city’s construction and building regulations will begin to change this, especially since they appear to increase the number of certain inspections at construction sites.

 

The abundance of non-union construction projects is, overall, damaging New York City’s real estate market and the quality of luxury living. The victims are the construction workers who are hurt and even killed on the job—most of them exploited undocumented workers—and the property owner/renters who pay small fortunes to live in spaces that turn out to have a slew of problems.

 

The residents of Two Blue Slip—and probably people living in other non-union construction—who pay from $3,500 to $6,000 a month for a one-bedroom or from $8,000 to more than $12,000 a month for a more “premium” unit (StreetEasy), find themselves saddled with complications and an obstinate management company unlikely to step in and help.

 

The story of Two Blue Slip is a lesson to anyone looking for living space in New York City: Ask your realtor, is this property union-built?

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New York City Department of Building permits show a lead contractor at Two Blue Slip to be Casino Development Group, a non-union shop that has been highlighted on this site for its concerning record.

 

Hiring a non-union contractor can be reflective of a developer’s priorities: seeking their own profit over the quality of the building and the safety of the workers.

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Jessica Beebe is a multimedia journalist living and working in New York City. Email her at jessica.beebe.ny@gmail.com.

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