Back in March, gbNYC joined various industry leaders in calling on Albany to repeal the Wicks Law, anachronistic 1920s-era legislation that requires municipal owners in the State of New York, including New York City, to use four separate contractors on any construction project greater than $50,000 for general construction, plumbing and gas fitting, heating and ventilation, and electrical work; this figure was last adjusted to account for inflation back in 1964. Wicks is a serious obstacle to the integrated construction approach that green design demands, and my prior post supported an outright appeal of this outdated law.
Back in June, it appeared that Governor Spitzer had struck a deal to require Wicks only on projects greater than $3 million in New York City, $1.5 million in the NYC suburbs, and $500,000 upstate, but various upstate interests voiced their concerns with the bill to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and the proposal stalled as the legislative session came to a close. Although the Senate had initially considered a flat-out repeal of Wicks, Bruno noted that such emphatic action was impossible because Wicks is “too controversial.”
The most vehement opposition to the legislation came from the General Building Contractors of New York State (“GBC NYS”) and the Northeastern Subcontractors Association (“NESCA”), who pointed to proposed Wicks revisions that would allow municipal owners to waive the law’s requirements for projects that exceed the cap, provided that they adopt a project labor agreement (“PLA”) applying the terms of union labor agreements to all of the work on the project and requiring every contractor and subcontractor to comply. The organizations claimed that “PLAs simply provide the union contractor with an advantage and discourage the open shop contractor from bidding [on the project in the first place.]” It should be noted that the majority of GBC NYS and NESCA members are union.
Nevertheless, according to this week’s Crain’s Insider, Spitzer will continue to push the Wicks reforms, while Bruno is seeking the Governor’s pledge for a $300 million investment in upstate capital projects before backing the proposal. As I’ve stated previously, the Wicks Law is an impediment to green building throughout New York State. While it’s obviously proving to be no easy task, Albany must find a way to appease the interests of the state-wide construction industry and bring New York’s public construction project requirements into the twenty-first century. Although Wicks is, as Senator Bruno observed, controversial, massaging the existing Wicks language isn’t the answer- Albany should revisit and push for its outright appeal.