Things quiet down at controversial Goldtex construction site

Posted: July 27, 2012

It was a bit quieter this week at the Goldtex Building construction site after two men were charged with simple assault and other charges related to a beating of a subcontractor on July 12.

"Ever since your story came out [this] week, since the arrests, it's been a lot calmer," Michael Pestronk, one of the two brothers developing the Goldtex, told the Daily News Friday.

Last Saturday, union protester Ryan Stewart, of Philadelphia, was arrested at his home, and another protester, Philip Garraty, of West Grove, Pa., turned himself in Monday on an arrest warrant.

But Pat Gillespie, business manager of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades, complained that the arrests were made "only after someone high in City Hall" got involved. He added Friday that police arrested the wrong two guys. He also said one of the men arrested was held by police until 4 a.m. in the morning.

"They let out an armed robber before they let him out," Gillespie said, adding, "I've been told I'm being watched [by the FBI]. I've been told I'm under surveillance. I don't know if it's about this thing."

Michael Resnick, the city's director of public safety, said Friday detectives are reviewing a video of the July 12 beating to see if there are others who can be identified. "If so, the same process will be followed to secure warrants," he wrote in an email.

Here's a look at the story so far:

The Daily News published a front-page story on May 9 about developers Matthew and Michael Pestronk, who sought an injunction to stop what they called the "bullying" tactics union members were using to "protest" the use of nonunion labor for the $38-million renovation of the Goldtex Building at 12th and Wood Street in the Callowhill neighborhood, just north of Center City.

Gillespie said Friday the developers are continuing to work without proper permits: "They run down to City Hall, and for anyone else, it would take two months to get a permit, and they get one in two days."

On May 12, the city lifted a "stop-work" order that was placed on the site.

The Daily News reported Tuesday, July 24, that two union members were arrested and charged with simple assault

This week, after the story on the arrests, several union members called the Daily News to say they are only trying to preserve the wage standards and benefits that unions provide them. Some also accused the Pestronk brothers of bringing down members of the Latin Kings drug gang from New York and the Pagan motorcycle gang to act as "muscle" to intimidate the union protesters. "They told us they were members of the Latin Kings," one union protester said to the Daily News.

"That is in no way, shape or form, true," Pestronk said.

For video of the alleged attacks, click here.

Inquirer columnist Inga Saffron wrote a column on the dispute today.

Contact Valerie Russ at 215-854-5987 or russv@phillynews.com, or follow her on Twitter @ValerieRussDN.

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