Workers protest Verizon sale; demand answers

(L-r) Keith Edwards, Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Communication Workers of America District 1 Vice-President Chris Shelton, Senator Jeff Klein, CWA Vice President Bob Shannon and Westchester Square Merchants Association President John Bonizio spoke against the proposed sale of the Verizon building at 2510 Westchester Avenue at a rally held with the workers on Wednesday, September 10. Photo by Victor Chu

Emotions ran high as dozens of Verizon workers gathered in the shadows of a mammoth rat on Wednesday, September 10, to protest the sale of 2510 Westchester Avenue.

Communication Workers of America District 1 Vice-President Chris Shelton referenced Verizon as the giant vermin that’s behind the shady deal, stating, “They’ve decided they’re going to abandon a community they’ve been in for years and years.”

The unexpected blow came in April when the communication giant alerted the union they were putting the building up for sale.

Upset not only about the proposal, but also over Verizon’s total disregard for alerting elected officials or community leaders of the matter, Councilman Jimmy Vacca explained, “They see dollar signs. We see people. We see families.”

The sale will displace the facility’s 300 employees, with talks of relocating the workforce to a location in Queens.

Such a move, however, would be detrimental to the lives of many of the men and women who’ve made the site their home.

Verizon employee Edgar Marchand said the longer commute and additional costs associated with working outside the Bronx would severely disrupt the care he routinely provides to his ailing wife.

“I don’t even want to hear the word ‘move,’” he said. “Just leave us here. Let us work.”

Also baffled by the Verizon’s decision to uproot the thriving business, Marchand, an employee at the site since 1991, said he’s deeply worried about the economic future of Westchester Square, should the location close.

“We pay for breakfast. We pay for lunch. We buy clothes and school supplies here, so it’s not that it’s just convenient for us, but the merchants don’t want us to leave either.”

In complete agreement, Senator Jeff Klein stated, “What Verizon is planning on doing is breaking up a very important partnership.”

He added the elimination of the powerful and economically stimulating relationship between the merchants and Verizon employees could largely affect the area’s revitalization efforts.

Klein insisted, “Verizon, you hear me! Stop the sale of 2510!”

The company’s selection of a broker on July 18, without any further explanation of plans for the 60,000 square foot site also has Westchester Square Merchant’s Association President John Bonizio on edge.

“To keep their workers, the elected officials and the community in the dark is unacceptable,” he said.

Shelton assured the crowd he isn’t going to back down.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure they can’t sell this building,” he said. “Verizon, I’m not going to let you do this.”

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