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A different kind of welcome: Carpenters picket Krispy Kreme. Photo by: Teri Currie

Not So Sweet for Local Contractors

Latham’s new Krispy Kreme, the first of its kind in the Capital Region, has been enticing hungry folks from all over the Capital Region to line up inside, outside, at the drive-through, and in traffic jams up and down Route 7 since its opening in February. This Saturday (March 13), it also drew attendance from the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters, who were willing to stand outside in the blustery weather for reasons other than satisfying a sweet tooth.

According to the council of carpenters, Dynamic Doughnuts Inc., owner of the Latham Krispy Kreme franchise, brought in nonunion contractors from Syracuse-based Unique Designs to build the store, and the neighboring Applebee’s, rather than using local union workers. The company paid these out-of-towners a wage that was substantially lower than the area’s industry standards, said the council.

To raise awareness about these labor practices, council members congregated in front of Krispy Kreme and Applebee’s and handed out flyers to patrons. “We are trying to bring to the public’s attention that those of us who live here and support the businesses here deserve to have the jobs in this area,” said council representative Michael donVito. However, the carpenters take issue less with the bringing in of outside workers than with the wages these workers received—30 to 50 percent below industry standards—and what this could mean for future work for area carpenters.

This practice “undermined area workers trying to make a living. . . . We cannot [make a living] with corporate greed that hires contractors at the lowest common denominator. We don’t want corporations lowering our standards of living. Bring [non-union workers] up to ours,” donVito explained further.

The union members began their Saturday protests on March 6, and plan to continue throughout the month.

Dynamic Doughnuts Inc. is the franchise owner of Krispy Kreme stores throughout New York, as well as the majority partner for the West Palm Beach, Fla., market.

A Krispy Kreme representative said she was not aware of the company’s “union or nonunion hiring practices” for construction matters, only that that those employed at Krispy Kreme are not in a union.

Many customers weren’t deterred by the revelation. “Hot doughnuts are hard to come by,” said local resident Jeffrey Sansobrino in defense of his favorite doughnut store. On the other hand, 50 to 75 potential customers decided not to give Krispy Kreme their business after receiving a flyer, donVito estimated, adding that the union’s goal was to make the public aware of the situation rather than take serious business away from the store.

—Ariel Colletti

Doing Right, for Unclear Reasons

New York state has withdrawn from a multistate anticrime/antiterrorism database program that has been assailed by civil libertarians as a threat to privacy, a state official announced last Thursday [“Spy, Spy Again,” Newsfront, Feb. 12].

According to a March 11 Associated Press report, Lynn Rasic, a spokesperson for the New York State Office of Public Security, said that concerns over the continuation of federal funding and the diminished benefits of remaining in a project in which the number of states has dwindled spurred New York’s decision to pull out. Of the 13 states originally involved in the program, which had received $12 million in grants from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, only five—Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Connecticut and Pennsylvania—are still sharing information.

The MATRIX (short for Multistate Antiterrorism Information Exchange) program had been launched by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in conjunction with the Seisint Corp. to pool the law enforcement and motor vehicle records of several state governments with commercial data such as property and civil court records, bankruptcies, liens, and business filings into a searchable database. The proponents of the effort had billed it as it potent tool against crime and terrorism, but critics decried the program as a clandestine attempt to revive the Pentagon’s disbanded Total Information Awareness project. In New York state, assemblymen Alexander B. “Pete” Grannis (D-Manhattan) and William L. Parment (D-Jamestown) condemned MATRIX as a violation of privacy rights.

“We think New York recognized that this is a dangerous program with great potential to invade people’s privacy and violate their civil liberties,” said Christopher Calabrese, an attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Although several states cited privacy concerns as a reason for dropping out of the program, it is unclear if New York shared that view. Telephone calls to Lynn Rasic seeking to clarify this were not returned.

But in a March 9 letter from Lt. Col. Steven Cumoletti of the New York State Police explaining New York’s reasons for leaving the project to Matrix chairman Guy Tunnell, who is also the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Cumoletti conveys no such worries. “To date, nearly two-thirds of the original states have opted out. The uncertainty of continued funding and the valid concerns about the feasibility of expanding the project . . . have been the most crucial reasons provided for withdrawing,” he wrote.

Moreover, further battles over police powers and civil liberties may lie ahead: Cumoletti states that “the need to provide law enforcement investigators with improved access to information and data sources that are legally available to them remains more critical today than ever before,” and assures Tunnell that “the New York State Police remain receptive to exploring other efforts to improve law enforcement information sharing and to improve the overall capabilities of law enforcement in our nation.”

—Glenn Weiser

A Downtown in Turnaround

The $12.5 million plan to build a 14-screen cinema in downtown Schenectady [“Recharging the Electric City,” Jan. 22] is dead. On Friday, developer Joseph Tesiero announced that he had ended negotiations with the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, and would no longer be involved with the Diamond Cinema project.

A combination of factors doomed the cinema. There were cost increases related to construction problems with the site; new Metroplex chairman Ray Gillen indicated he doubted the commercial viability of the cinema; and M&T Bank reduced by $1 million the amount of financing it was were providing. Tesiero told the Albany Times Union that Metroplex—which was already contributing more than $5 million to the project—was unwilling to make up for M&T’s reduced contribution.

Now, Metroplex will looking for someone else to build on the newly vacant lot. “We’ll be looking at different alternative uses for that site,” explained Metroplex executive director Jayme Lahut.

Gillen said to the Times Union that he was still in favor of building movie theaters downtown, but with “far fewer screens” and in a different location. A cinema with fewer screens, however, would go against long-term trends in the exhibition business: The only multiplexes in the Capital Region with fewer than eight screens are Sony’s Rotterdam Square 6, which recently announced it is exploring plans to renovate the theaters, and the now-closed Madison Theatre in Albany.

Not everyone is sorry to see the Diamond Cinema plan collapse, however. Joe De Lorenzo, owner of Scooter’s Sports Café on State Street, said “this is one of the best pieces of news Schenectady’s had in a long time.” De Lorenzo was unconvinced that the theaters would have drawn people downtown, and doesn’t think that it would have helped his business at all. He is in favor of retail development, or an idea recently floated by State Supreme Court Justice Vito Caruso: using the location for a new county courthouse.

Whatever the ultimate project turns out to be, Lahut said, the site will be “prepared and available for use by the end of March.”

—Shawn Stone

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