City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach) took aim at the Queens hotel industry Friday for receiving millions of dollars in tax breaks while not doing enough to ensure their workers have a living wage.
“These big businesses, they don’t guarantee minimum wage or a good work environment or benefits,” Addabbo said, standing outside a Comfort Inn in Maspeth that he said had received $230,000 in state tax breaks.
“These workers are in jeopardy of not being paid a minimum wage,” he said.
The councilman also slammed his election opponent, state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R−Glendale), for not voting to increase the minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.15 an hour.
The state Industrial Commercial Incentive Program doles out funds in the form of property tax abatements to businesses undergoing renovation or new construction.
Addabbo said 75 percent of the companies that receive the tax break “say they don’t really need this money.”
“Something has to be done, especially in these tough financial times,” the councilman said. “We cannot be spending money needlessly.”
Ulises Moscoso, a Woodhaven resident who works at the Crowne Plaza LaGuardia Hotel in East Elmhurst, criticized his employer for not agreeing to a union contract.
“We don’t even make half of what our union brothers and sisters make,” Moscoso said, noting that he receives no medical insurance or a pension.
“When we retire, we don’t know how our days are going to be,” he said.
In Queens, only three out of 31 hotels eligible for the tax breaks — 8 percent — are union shops, according to statistics from Addabbo.
The councilman suggested the ICIP program be tied to companies that promote a “good work environment” instead of just the new construction or renovation requirements.
Pat Purcell, director of special operations for UFCW Local 1500, which represents grocery workers, said large corporations would not apply for the tax breaks because it would not be worth changing the way the operate their businesses.
“Whenever they get this ICIP, it is just like my kids on Christmas morning,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz
©2008 Community News Group
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