Today’s news:

Astoria contractor fined for wage fraud: Hevesi

An Astoria contracting company which allegedly underpaid more than 100 of its workers for several city-funded projects was ordered to pay $2 million in fines and payments for violating the prevailing wage law, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi said last week.

The contractor, Classic Electric Inc. of Astoria at 29-01 21st Ave., was also barred from bidding on or receiving any public works contract or subcontract within New York state for the next five years, the comptroller said. It is the largest amount ever paid by a prevailing wage violator in the history of New York City, Hevesi said.

“This order should be a clear message to other contractors who are thinking of cheating and violating the law by underpaying workers and using unskilled workers,” Hevesi said.

“It’s not worth the risk — we will find you and you will pay. When contractors skimp on professionally trained workers the city may receive shoddy workmanship,” he said in a statement. “This costs the city more in the long run and is something it cannot afford.”

Hevesi said Classic Electric entered into four contracts with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for construction on eight buildings throughout the city for a total of $30 million. The four contracts include the Municipal Building at One Centre St. in Manhattan; 52 Chambers St.; 100 Gold St.; and 2 Lafayette St. In Brooklyn two contracts include Elm Street and 210 Joralemon St. In the Bronx, Classic Electric was hired to work on the Supreme Courthouse on Walton Avenue and in Staten Island it was hired to renovate 130 Stuyvesant Place.

Classic Electric Inc. agreed to pay $1,878,002 in back pay and interest for willfully violating the prevailing wage law by underpaying 105 workers, Hevesi said. The workers include steam lifters, sheet metal workers, laborers, plumbers and insulators. Worker payments and a civil penalty of $171,997 will be refunded from Classic Electric Inc.’s contract earnings that were held by the DCAS.

In a phone interview last Thursday, Classic Electric Inc. President Arthur Batsidis said he was disappointed with the terms of the settlement and plans to sue the city for $4.5 million plus the $800,000 he said he lost in contracts.

“I’m not happy about it,” Batsidis said. “It only shows one side of the story because the comptroller decided to change the titles of some of the workers. That wasn’t part of the contract.”

Since January 1994, Hevesi said his office has won $421.6 million in back pay and interest for workers as well as nearly $2.5 million in civil penalties for the city of New York.

Reach reporter Peter Sorkin by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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