New York was once a union town, and no one wanted to be on the wrong side of organized labor. The workingman is a lot less fearsome these days. At a panel discussion celebrating the residential redevelopment of Williamsburg last week, members of Local 79 of the Construction and General Building Laborers Union played ringtones on their cell phones and loudly coughed to drown out a land-use expert’s talk on Schaefer Landing, a condo complex developed by BFC Partners on the site of a former brewery—without using the local’s labor. “The coughing was symbolic of the fact that BFC’s words are not worth hearing,” said Local 79 official Chaz Rynkiewicz at the April 22 event. BFC chief Don Capoccia didn’t seem to be bothered, bragging the next day that the first phase of the development is completely sold out. The union promised to fight on. “I definitely feel it was effective,” Rynkiewicz said, “because I’m on the phone with you right now.”
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