Sunday, September 15, 2013

More Heat for Post Brothers

Post Brothers are receiving heat again with claims from the city's unions, aided by a hackneyed investigation on the part of ABC's Wendy Saltzman.

I have to give it to Saltzman for doing her job. After all, the mainstream media is in the business of running stories that accumulate comments that translate into advertisement, not peddling that annoying little thing called journalism. Nothing gets people talking in Philadelphia like unions, and any reporter in Philadelphia worth her words has a Google alert set for "Goldtex Apartments."

The tactics to derail Post Brother's Goldtex project have become increasingly tedious and technical as the building nears completion, however this time the claims are not completely erroneous.

Although the blueprints were approved years ago by L&I, the city's firefighter's union president, Joe Schulle has filed a legitimate concern.

Unions stick together, but the recent complaint filed with L&I may not be part of our unions' mafia-like solidarity that tends to bring construction to a halt.

So what's the problem? Well, that's not entirely clear.

The plans approved by L&I show the building's studio units with lofts above the bathroom and closet. Access to the loft is by way of a pull down staircase that blocks the unit's only entrance. Plain and simple, it's a fire hazard. When L&I approved the plans the loft space was strictly designated as storage or utility space.

Unfortunately, Goldtex Apartment's sales reps are selling the space as extra living space. Let's be realistic here, that's what they were going for all along and how any tenant would use the space. L&I might not be in the business of marketing apartment units, but they should have a rigid set of guidelines that dictates that any space, utility or otherwise needs to be easily escapable.

It was shortsighted of L&I to approve this configuration, but also shortsighted on the part of the architects. Access to the loft could be easily configured to the right or left of the apartment's entrance. L&I should have pointed that out when they reviewed the plans, and the Post Brothers and their architects should have complied.

At Post Brother's eleventh hour it poses a last minute headache that would be minimal to any other developer. But for developers embroiled in an ongoing battle with the city's trade unions, and now the firefighter's union, the media has turned an easily addressable issue into breaking news and stalled construction.

The stairs will either stay or get moved, but our trade unions' dream of a vacant Goldtex Apartment Building and a bankrupt Post Brothers won't happen. The positioning of the stairs is certainly a valid concern, one which should have been addressed before construction began.

But the outcry from the trade unions and their supporters, and the media's overreaction on their behalf is only making them appear less credible and relevant to a much larger and rational public that already views these unions as petty and outdated.

It's a shame because in this particular instance the firefighter's union is actually doing what it was designed to do, but the trade unions have done such a good job at crying wolf that when any union actually does its job, only the union members and muckrakers seem to care.

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