High-Cost Condos, Low-Cost Labor—and Threats of Violence to Union Organizers

In this age of housing gluttony, high-rise builders sink to new lows

The ironworkers decided to blow up a photo of Capoccia and mount it on a truck. They wrote beneath it: "Shame on Donald Capoccia—Don't profit off immigrant worker poverty." It also carried the developers' office and cell-phone numbers. Then they drove the truck around the work site, City Hall, and Capoccia's bank.

On Saturday evening, June 14, Lopez was in front of his Elmhurst home about to take his nine-year-old daughter to buy some ice cream when a menacing figure appeared. "The guy was about five-foot-nine; he's carrying this big green umbrella and glaring at us. I had a bad feeling. I told my daughter we had to go back. She knew something was wrong. She ran right upstairs and told my wife to call 911, that Daddy was in trouble."

Lopez ducked inside and peered through the window. The lurker walked past his door and disappeared. When he opened the door to look down the street, the man was standing on an adjacent stoop, staring. "I said, 'Are you looking for me?' He cupped his ear like he didn't hear me. I said, 'Are you fucking looking for me?' Then he ran at me with the umbrella and reached under his jacket. I closed the door. He hit the door a bunch of times with the handle of the umbrella. He was shouting, 'I find you and I got you now!' He did that a few times and then went away.' "

High, high labor at low, low cost: Capoccia's condo project in Brooklyn
Staci Schwartz

High, high labor at low, low cost: Capoccia's condo project in Brooklyn

The police never arrived, but on Monday, Lopez and an ironworkers-union representative, Anthony DeBlasie, drove to the 110th Precinct and the district attorney's office to report the incident. Meanwhile, Lopez is planning to take his truck with Capoccia's picture to the next meeting of the city's Water Board, where the developer is a board member. "I knew about this rough stuff in El Salvador," he said last week. "I didn't expect it here."

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