By: Ruben Gonzalez
Rutgers University of Newark continues to develop the 15 Washington Street building despite protests.
The property will be the site of new student residential housing as well as have living quarters for Chancellor Nancy Cantor.
Of the more than 12,000 enrolled students at Rutgers-Newark, approximately 1,300 or 10 percent live on campus. The project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2015, according to current estimates.
“It was with the enthusiastic support of President [Robert] Barchi that Nancy Cantor would live in Newark at 15 Washington Street,” said Senior Vice Chancellor Peter Englot.
The building was opened in 1931, just a few years after the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929, by an insurance company. By the 1970s, with the original owners having left, Rutgers-Newark acquired the edifice.
Originally, the Washington Street property was called the S. I. Newhouse Center for Law and Justice. It was named after a graduate from a previous incarnation of the law school. At the turn of the new millennium, the Newhouse Center became unsuitable and outdated for the needs of a new wave of students, according to the Rutgers Law School Web site. The law school then was moved into a new facility down the street.
Attempts to gather enough funding to renovate the old complex lasted six years. But, with the help of a state-issued bond, the rejuvenation of this property has commenced. The cost of which is $85 million excluding the land’s value.
Rutgers-Newark is currently working with developer Dev Co who themselves are working in cooperation with AJD Construction.
“There are always plans under consideration and development,” said Facilities and Capital Planning Vice President Antonio Calcado via e-mail. “These plans would be in line with the Chancellor’s strategic plan for the campus, which is now, with the input of the Newark community, undergoing development.”
The new reconstruction is not without controversy. A local union has taken umbrage with the new project for not including members of its own crew.
The Laborers’ International Union of America believes they have been unfairly left out in favor of an out-of-state workforce. Michael Lockett, Business Agent for Local 3 Essex said Newark’s unionized workers should be given the complete responsibility to work the area. Lockett said the renovations would have employed from 50 to 75 of these union members.
“We weren’t employed because they wouldn’t follow our guidelines,” said Lockett in a telephone interview.
These rules would have included workers’ safety as well as wages. AJD Construction could not be reached for comment, but Rutgers-Newark still maintains the legality of hiring the current workforce. Lockett believes this is not enough.
“They should go above and beyond,” said Lockett.
According to him, if LiUNA 3 had its constituents at work, it would have been a boon to the Newark economy. The laborers would buy from these hometown locales, increasing business sales, and keep its residents working which would continue the economic cycle.
Negotiations between the two have stalled. Lockett said that those in charge of the Washington Street project have stopped bargaining with the union. The last time both sides negotiated before a stalemate, the percentage of the union labor force allowed to work was 40 percent.
“[The] ideal solution would be to have Newark workers on the job,” said Lockett.