To help get through the cold winter, low-income homeowners in Chicago and Chicago Heights received free furnace and boiler tune-ups to keep them safe and warm. This initiative was the result of a partnership between Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago, SM Local 73 and SMACNA Greater Chicago.
When the risks associated with COVID-19 limited Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago’s ability to perform interior home repair, the organization met the challenge by broadening the services it provides to families and elderly homeowners. As part of this transition, Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago led an outreach effort with the intent of assessing its clients’ unique needs, while providing valuable referrals and connections to other resources in the community. From ensuring food security to providing PPE, Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago has responded to the crisis by providing a safer, more secure home environment for area residents.
In December 2020, a partnership with Local 73 and SMACNA Greater Chicago provided warmer, safer home environments for low-income families in preparation for winter. This initiative, called Warm the Metro, enlists union members and local HVAC contractors to visit more than 50 homes annually, offering free tune-up services on boilers and furnaces. This year, the Warm the Metro partnership provided tune-ups in 64 homes, plus full replacements in five.
“Furnace and boiler tune-ups are exactly the type of support our homeowners need to stay safe and warm through the winter. We are delighted to continue this partnership for a second year, and so grateful to our SMACNA and Local 73 friends,” said Wanda Ramirez, CEO of Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago.
In addition to providing improved heating efficiency, safety and indoor comfort, a regular furnace tune-up can spell the difference between a five- to 10-year and a 15- to 20-year life expectancy for a heating system. To complete the tune-ups, Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago partnered with South Suburban Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., and RD’s HVAC, Inc. for the Warm the Metro initiative.
“The men and women of Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 73 have a long history of giving back to our community,” said Local 73 President and Business Manager Raymond Suggs. “We are proud to work with Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago to Warm the Metro in preparation for winter. The danger posed by COVID-19 makes it more important than ever to have a safe, warm, comfortable home to protect residents’ health and safety this winter. We look forward to future partnerships with Rebuilding Together Metro Chicago and continuing to provide and give back our services to those in need.”
On Sept. 9, SMART General President Joseph Sellers and a delegation of union officials including SM Local 28 (NYC & Long Island- BT) Business Manager Eric Meslin, Business Manager Dante Dano from Local 137 (NYC Sign) and Alt. Vice President/General Chairperson Anthony Simon from SMART TD GCA-505 (LIRR) traveled to the UBS Arena project to tour and meet members working on that project.
UBS Arena is a $1.5 billion multipurpose arena under construction in Elmont, N.Y., next to the historic Belmont Park racetrack. Thanks to the work of SMART members from SM Local 28 (Building Trades, NYC & Long Island ), SM Local 137 (Sign) in NYC and TD members affiliated with GCA-505 (Long Island), the arena is set to open this November. The groundbreaking for the arena was held Sept. 23, 2019, and was attended by the governor of New York along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and officials, alumni and current players from the NY Islanders, who will call the arena their home.
Unique to this project is the presence of SMART members from across the union, including Local 137 sign members who installed the giant center ice board as well as signage across the arena and in the train station newly built to handle the swarm of fans from across Long Island and the NY metropolitan area.
Much as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted work and events across the world, this arena project was no different. On March 27, 2020, construction was paused due to a state order to stop non-essential construction work until April 21. That pause was further extended several times to May 27, 2020, when construction was finally able to resume. Unique to this project is the presence of SMART members from across the union, including Local 137 sign members who installed the giant center ice board as well as signage across the arena and in the train station newly built to handle the swarm of fans from across Long Island and the NY metropolitan area. SMART-TD members led the way in constructing the Long Island Rail Road track leading to the new station. SMART Local 28 sheet metal workers were instrumental in seeing various critical pieces come together across the facility, installing all parts of the HVAC system, including ductwork, units, fans, fire dampers and smoke purge systems. SMART members also installed architectural features, including roofing and decking, and specialty work such as kitchen equipment, lockers and toilet partitions. Beneath the brick façade of the building is one of the most ultramodern spectator venues in the world, with large air shafts designed to safely handle the indoor air and lines of sight that allow even fans at the highest levels to feel close to the on-ice action. The concourses at the spacious arena are twice the size of those at the old Nassau Coliseum, whose dimensions this new arena replicates to preserve the feel of the old facility. The Islanders played in the previous arena from 1972 to their elimination during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Islanders’ dressing room area, built in large part by Local 28 building trades and Local 137 sign members, is a replica of the facilities at their training site, at the request of the team. In keeping with new innovations started by other franchises in places like Foxboro, Mass., where entire sports villages were built around stadium complexes, the Islanders plan on turning the arena into a destination where fans can not only go to cheer on their local team, but also to eat, shop and find multiple sources of entertainment.
Adjacent to the arena is the first new train stop built for the Long Island RailRoad in over 50 years, thanks to the work of SMART-TD members. The new train station will be located between the Queens Village and Bellerose stations on the LIRR’s main line, straddling the Cross Island Parkway. Electric shuttle buses will serve LIRR riders traveling to games, as well as to the Belmont Park grandstand and retail village planned for the area surrounding the arena complex. The new full-time station will relieve pressure on the existing Belmont spur station during major events like the Belmont Stakes and Islander regular-season games.
In addition to providing regular service to and from the new arena and surrounding sites, the station will also serve as a commuter hub for area residents, meeting the urgent need of taking cars off the road during intense periods of rushhour travel. The parking lot north of the Belmont racetrack, which has 2,860 spaces, will be shared by commuters and arena patrons. . Building the new station required upgrades to the existing LIRR Belmont spur, including the installation of automated track switches. These upgrades will allow trains leaving the spur after an event to serve stations both east and west of Belmont – providing another post-event public transit option for attendees and facilitating the efficient flow of attendees to and from events.
Road conductors are providing all of the roadway worker protection for the third-party contractors being used to support the project. SMART-TD track workers from Local 29 are providing all of the switch and track work to support the infrastructure around the new station, as well as the interlockings that will manipulate trains to the location. Once the project is complete, train crews and maintenance of equipment members will run and support service operations at the station.
SMART-TD track workers from Local 29 are providing all of the switch and track work to support the infrastructure around the new station.
Currently, 60 SMART Local 28 sheet metal workers are employed at the location. This includes members working at Triple S Air Systems and Eastern Metal Works performing HVAC work around the facility, including work on ducts, units, fans, fire dampers and smoke purge systems. Architectural work onsite was performed by Local 28 members working for JC Steel Corp, L Martone and Sons and Metropolitan Roof Systems. The work includes decking, metal roofing, and coping. Specialty work onsite is performed by Donco Inc., Cross Country Kitchens and A.LISS & Company. This work includes installation of toilet partitions, lockers, walk-in boxes, kitchen hoods and kitchen equipment. Testing and balancing onsite is currently being performed by All City Testing & Balancing. All of the above contractors are signatory to Local 28. SMART Local 137 sheet metal workers fabricated and installed the massive jumbotron hoisted above center ice, thanks to members employed at Northshore Neon who also installed the center hung led display, sign letters as well the LED ribbons. The LED ribbons surrounding two levels of the stadium will be used for advertisements and keeping spectators abreast during the game. Exterior lights and signage were also installed exclusively by Local 137 sign members as well as signage across the facility.
The day after the visit to members at the UBS Arena, SMART General President Sellers spoke as the keynote speaker at the LaborPress annual celebration in the Bronx.
LaborPress is one of the largest labor news organizations in the nation. It was founded in August 2009 by LaborPress President Neal Tepel to provide a media outlet for unions and workers. Their articles regularly appear in the New York Daily News and on their website. iHeart radio’s WOR radio station features their daily reports.
LaborPress.org regularly has features on the construction and transportation industries. Most notably, LaborPress recently posted spotlight features on members from Locals 28, 137 and SMART-TD GCA-505. This also includes an op-ed in the NY Daily News from General President Sellers that called for passage of the entire infrastructure package, as well as the importance of keeping schoolchildren safe by addressing indoor air quality in schools.
During his lunchtime speech in front of an audience that included NY building trades and elected public officials, Sellers doubled down on his infrastructure points as he discussed the issues important to SMART SM and TD members, as well as other issues like the PRO Act, essential to all of labor.
“We are honored to have our general president attend this event as the keynote speaker. This event takes place in New York, where many labor leaders throughout the state will join us to hear Joe’s opinions on the labor movement and the infrastructure bills that we are fighting for in Washington,” Local 28’s Meslin said. Dano added that “this event shows that when we all stand together across the labor movement, our voices and actions are stronger than ever.” Simon summarized that “SMART has a history here in New York of standing with one another when we need each other.” Simon concluded that, “when SMART has each other’s backs in NY, it’s not just in words but in our actions.”
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