Door Closing on Building Talks

Final Hours Ahead Before Threatened Strike

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In one of the longest running periodic stare downs between labor and management in New York, 30,000 doormen, handymen and porters seem again on the verge of walking off their jobs.

Similar standoffs went to the brink -- but not over -- in 2006, 2003, 1997 and 1994. The last strike was in 1991, when the workers were out for 12 days.

At issue this time are wages -- Local 32BJ wants more, and health and retirement benefits -- the Realty Advisory Board, representing building owners, wants to provide less. Stuck in the middle are one million residents in four boroughs of the city. Bronx building workers have a different contract that does not expire Tuesday at midnight.

So, in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island apartment residents have been signing up for volunteer fill-in duty.

"We have to do the garbage. I'm a little confused about that because you have to get a very large bag from the super, so if I have a small amount of garbage I'm not sure how to handle it," said Marvis Berk of 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

What seems clear is that neither residents nor their building workers want a strike. "The tenants look at us not just as doormen, but as people. We respect them. We like them. we wouldn't want to strike," said George Williams as he helped visitors into 850 Park Avenue.

Talks are expected to continue throughout Tuesday at the Sheraton New York Hotel, with sources on both sides saying they remain well apart.

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