Verizon solidifies intent to sell; leaders on edge

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A multi-agency meeting regarding the controversial sale of the Westchester Square Verizon building received mixed reviews after an angered union and anxious politicians gathered on Monday, August 18.

“The bottom line for them is to sell the building to whoever has the most money and is qualified,” Robert Shannon, vice-president of the Communication Workers of America, said about Verizon’s intention for the space.

While such a statement failed to mesh well with the union that represents Verizon, it raised further worry among the community leaders and elected officials in attendance.

“Basically what we told the Verizon people is that we’re concerned about what’s going to happen to the 150 Bronx workers who work there,” Ben Randazzo, chief-of-staff for Assemblyman Mike Benedetto, said.

Though Verizon failed to alert either Senator Jeff Klein, Benedetto or Councilman Jimmy Vacca when they initially decided to place the 60,000 square foot building at 2510 Westchester Avenue on the market, Verizon spokesperson Alberto Canal said the company would maintain lines of communication with those directly affected by their plans. 

“We are willing to listen to community concerns and take that into account,” he said.

Though the future currently appears dim for the Verizon employees, Westchester Square Merchants Association president John Bonizio said, “There may be a win, win, win down the road.”

Bonizio maintains there are viable alternatives to relocating Verizon’s staff outside the borough.

“There’s no doubt there’s a way to keep these jobs in the Bronx,” he said, referencing the option of moving the workers to the Hutchinson Metro Center.

Similarly thinking, “Why not combine all of Verizon’s Bronx staffing into the Westchester Avenue site,” Klein commented, knowing the telecommunication giant’s intention to downsize across the board.

“We’re also worried about how this will impact the community of Westchester Square,” Randazzo explained.

And he’s not the only one.

“I wanted them to understand what we need in the community because Verizon has a responsibility to the neighborho­od,” Bonizio explained.

Though he said the Westchester Square Merchants Association and the BID Steering Committee take no official position regarding any labor disputes between Verizon and its employees, Bonizio added that “We will be very much opposed to a Verizon decision that relocates these employees and puts the Verizon building into the hands of an individual whose goals are inconsistent with the future economic viability of the Westchester Square community.”

Further commenting on Verizon’s interest to help maintain the increasing vitality of the area, Canal stated, “As much as it makes sense, we’re committed to help with that vision.”

Bonizio said he’s currently working with Verizon’s broker, Cushman and Wakefield, to try and locate buyers interested in creating a retail unit in the space.

The union is planning to host a rally outside the Verizon facility in the next few weeks to oppose the sale.

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