TV Showdown for Deadbeat Luxury Builder


There’s a nice in-your-face piece of TV journalism about economic injustice that aired last night on — the handle for what we used to simply call Channel 9.

The story, by dogged investigator Barbara Nevins Taylor, reports how a a successful nonunion subcontractor whose cranes and workers have helped erect some of the city’s classiest new towers has been regularly stiffing his immigrant employees.

Taylor tracked down builder Thomas Auringer (above, left) to his posh waterside home on Long Island to ask him what went wrong. Auringer is seen on tape, smiling and and insisting that it’s all a misunderstanding before pulling away in his giant SUV. But the builder was up to the same tricks last year when the Voice wrote about his work on two major luxury hi-rises in downtown Brooklyn.

Back then, employees had the same gripes. They also told of the response they got when they complained: As one supervisor said in an affidavit to federal labor officials: “He said he had about six guns on the job, and he had people there who would do whatever needed to be done. He said that he could dig a hole and put me in it and make the records showing I worked for the company disappear.”

Taylor’s story,which includes a look at the dangerous ways that Auringer stores his cranes in the residential neighborhood, has a happy ending; The developer on one project where Auringer was a subcontractor was embarrassed into paying out $30,000 from his own pocket to settle back wage claims.

Taylor also has a brief interview with Andres Puerta, a relentless organizer for the carpenters’ union. Puerta has been on Auringer’s case for over a year now, arguing that if people can pay top dollar to live in these new palaces, then the people who build them at least deserve a living wage.