New York City’s massive but troubled public-housing system is spending millions trying to catch up on overdue repairs. A group of workers involved in that effort tells City Limits they’re trying to catch up on getting paid—not from NYCHA, but from a subcontractor at a worksite in Queens.
The workers were involved in a $47 million project to repair brickwork and roofs at Pomonok Houses North that began in May 2014 and recently wrapped up. Mohsin Zaman, foreman of a team of seven men involved in full-time masonry work from the end of 2014 until last October, says everything was fine until last March.
That’s when problems began to arise with checks from Expedited Construction & Management, a subcontractor to APS Contracting, the general contractor on the deal.
“They gave us checks—sometimes they told us not to deposit them,” says Zahman. “Sometimes they weren’t signed.” Some checks bounced. The workers asked the company to reimburse them for bounced check fees, Zahman contends, but that never happened. “It was a disaster,” he says.
At least one NYCHA resident was on Zahman’s crew. He says the workers began complaining about the pay problems to a construction manager at the site, STV, and to NYCHA in May or June of last year. After that Zahman said he and others were asked to sign a letter stating that all payment problems had been resolved. He says his understanding was that he had to sign that document before he could receive back pay, and he refused.
Zahman estimates that he is owed $15,000 and that others are due even more.
Neither Expedite nor APS returned calls seeking comment. In 2015, NJ.com reported that a firm called APS Contracting was fired from a project repairing the Union County family courthouse because of the firm’s failure to pay subcontractors, among other issues. (A separate company, APS Contractors, is the lead contractor on a $35 million repair job at NYCHA’s Pink Houses.)
In a statement to City Limits, STV’s senior director for corporate communications Jill Bonamusa wrote: “In our role as Construction Manager as Agent, we do not oversee or manage payments that the general contractor or its subcontractors make to their respective employees. We do not owe anyone money.”
Over the course of the Pomonok project, NYCHA received a total of half a dozen complaints about pay problems, but none since last fall. Three of the 55 NYCHA residents employed on the full project were involved in the pay issues. NYCHA believes those residents have been paid in full.
“NYCHA makes every effort to ensure all contractors fulfill their obligations under the Section 3 and Resident Employment program. When we received complaints regarding non-payment from residents hired by Expedite Construction and Management Services, a subcontractor of APS Contracting, Inc. performing work at Pomonok Houses, we reached out to the contractor immediately to demand that these workers be paid in full,” NYCHA said in a statement. “We also notified the Department of Labor, the Department of Equal Opportunity and the Department of Investigation. We haven’t received any complaints since November 25, 2016.”
A NYCHA spokeswoman says the agency understands DOI is still investigating the matter.
Update: APS submitted this statement after publication: “APS Contracting, Inc. has always paid all its workers, including its REP employees, promptly and on a weekly basis. Further, APS is dedicated to ensuring that its subcontractors likewise honor their commitments and pay their employees promptly. While it is the obligation of each subcontractor to comply with all laws regarding payment of workers, APS has done everything in its power to ensure that Expedite Construction and Management Services has paid its workforce. This includes requesting and receiving written assurances from Expedite’s management that all workers have been paid, and receiving evidence in the form of cashed checks made out to the workers on Expedite’s payroll. APS regrets that, despite these measures, there remains a dispute between Expedite and its workforce over payment, and has demanded that Expedite resolve this dispute immediately.”