Local 32BJ is positioning itself as the bridge between the governor and the Legislature in an effort to secure a deal on housing.

Its leaders are building a coalition of unions that could be the extra push needed to finally break the gridlock in Albany.

“Housing is the number one issue they're facing. The increasing cost of housing — there's rents are going up,” Manny Pastreich, the president of 32BJ, told NY1 in an exclusive interview.

What You Need To Know

  • Local 32BJ wants to be the bridge between Gov. Kathy Hochul, who backs developer incentives, and the state Legislature's favored tenant protections and labor protections
  • The union is gathering a group, including the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council and District Council 37, to push for a deal on housing
  • Housing development has dropped in New York over the last two years
  • Developers argue it is too expensive to build between New York's regulations, inflation, plus labor and material costs

That is why Pastreich is putting together a coalition of unions — including the powerful Hotel and Gaming Trades Council and District Council 37 — to blitz the Albany gridlock.

“The issue is getting more and more dire every week. Every month that we don't build the housing, we don't meet the housing need that is out there. So everyone feels the rents are increasing. The housing bill though is going down,” Pastreich said.

Since Jan. 1, Pastreich has lobbied Hochul and legislative leaders on a weekly basis, arguing that his union’s strength is the missing link that can make a difference.

“We're going to have to address all kinds of issues — immigration, tax issues, making the budget balance. All of those things are important, but I don't think anyone will say it was a successful session in Albany if we don't address housing,” Pastreich said.

After failing to make a housing deal with state lawmakers last year, Hochul is insisting that she will now be able to reach an agreement with the Legislature that will create thousands of new homes for New Yorkers across the state.

The Legislature allowed a developer tax abatement program to expire at the end of 2022, formerly called 421-a, and did not pass a replacement program.

This has helped contribute to a near-halt in building and a vacancy crisis.

As of right now, new housing is largely built on a piecemeal basis under a temporary, state-run program.

“People were writing, 'Well, Hochul's done working on housing.' Except I was rewriting my housing plan when I was reading those articles. We're not giving up!” Hochul said last Friday in Gowanus at the site of an affordable housing project.

“Capital got more expensive. Banks were saying no. No one was willing to deal with the realities that it was a different world for developers. And they said, 'We’re not going to build. It doesn't work.' I warned that. I said it could happen. And now since the expiration of 421-a, the total unit filings have dropped 78% in two years,” Hochul added.

“So instead of getting out of our hole with all this equipment, we dug deeper into the hole. We're in deeper trouble now,” Hochul said.

That’s why the powerful union is stepping in, to encourage compromise, and if needed, force Hochul and the Legislature to forge a housing deal.

“I think if Albany can't hear the essential workers, they can't hear the door. Folks, they can't hear from the people that kept the city going during the pandemic. I'm not sure who they'll hear from,” Pastreich said.

As president of Local 32BJ, Pastreich is responsible for over 90,000 union members who are working-class New Yorkers. They’re doormen, security officers, bus drivers and food service workers.

“We've been pushing on housing for years, and there's been years we made progress. I would say the last two years we haven't made progress,” Pastreich said.

“We don't understand why they're being put as polar opposites. We need to make sure that rent-gouging doesn't happen. We need to look for vouchers to make sure folks can afford to live in the city. We need to give tenants the right to council. All those things are needed and there's nothing in that set of things that's opposed to the idea that we need more to build more housing,” Pastreich added.

But this year feels different when talking to lawmakers, the union boss admits — not just because all 213 members are up for reelection, but because they also recognize the pieces to a solution are available.