A Fighter for Civic Causes Brushes Off Her Gloves

Doris Diether, who was once involved in a campaign against Robert Moses, is now fighting with Babbo, the Italian restaurant that she shares a block with in the West Village.Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times Doris Diether, who was once involved in a campaign against Robert Moses, is now fighting with Babbo, the Italian restaurant that she shares a block with in the West Village.

It was 1959, and a painter and actress from Greenwich Village posted an “open letter to the people of New York” around Manhattan, warning that a plan by the formidable Robert Moses, then the city parks commissioner, jeopardized Shakespeare in the Park. Moses eventually dropped the plan. Atop the letter, which Doris Diether still keeps, appear the handwritten words “start of my civic career.”

Soon, Mrs. Diether joined Manhattan’s Community Board 2, a platform she used to become kind of a one-woman shame squad against crooked landlords, reckless renovators and haughty developers all over the city.

In the Village, she called Jane Jacobs to tip her off about preservation battles. She helped extract from Mayor Robert Wagner a promise that E. E. Cummings would not be evicted from his low-rent apartment on Patchin Place. She convinced a young lawyer named Ed Koch to represent six women who were facing illegal eviction and marched into a gentleman’s club with the women to confront the landlord, she said.

Mrs. Diether, still on the community board at age 84, has grown frail. But late in late February, for the first time in perhaps 10 years, she paid a visit to a meeting of the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city’s high court of zoning issues. Once again, her opponent was a powerhouse: the empire of the celebrity chef Mario Batali. Mrs. Diether did not have to look far for this battle. Mr. Batali’s ever-jammed restaurant Babbo sits directly across from her basement apartment on Waverly Place.

Mrs. Diether fought Babbo from its very arrival in 1998, when it opened at 110 Waverly in violation of historic district code at the site of the Coach House restaurant. (Coach House had closed five years before, and according to code, the property lost the right to operate a restaurant after two years lapsed.) In 2002, Babbo obtained a 10-year variance. The variance expired in December, and as Babbo moves to renew it during a grace period, Mrs. Diether is seizing the moment to try and block it.

Mrs. Diether is trying to block Babbo from having its special permit to operate renewed.Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times Mrs. Diether is trying to block Babbo from having its special permit to operate renewed.

“Chefs pay attention to detail,” Mrs. Diether said hoarsely on two weeks ago (she has been battling laryngitis for weeks). “You can say this chef was inattentive when he lied about when Coach House closed, but I think he was very, very attentive.”

Mrs. Diether has been lobbying her fellow community board members in advance of Babbo’s next date there April 10. She has also been helping her neighbor and friend Nuri Akgul, a retired oil businessman who lives next to Babbo in a collegiate gothic townhouse at 108 Waverly and has been its most ardent opponent.

Mr. Akgul, 57, has compiled a list of offenses that would score well on any 311 bingo card. It includes idling limousines; an increase of noisy commercial-grade air conditioners to eight from the Coach House’s two; the moving of a loud vent to right beside Mr. Akgul’s property after neighbors behind the restaurant complained; a smelly chemical that sprays onto Mr. Akgul’s property when Babbo’s vents are hosed down to dislodge grease; Babbo’s noise-exacerbating failure to break up empty wine bottles before throwing them out; and a breach in the wall of his 1826 home that he attributes to a beam Babbo installed to hold up all those air conditioners. “For starters,” quipped Mr. Akgul.

“The front of Babbo is Greenwich Village,” Mr. Akgul said recently at his home. “This,” he said, gesturing out his kitchen window, from which the restaurant building resembles a Rube Goldberg machine stitched together by lengths of duct tape and sound-damping blankets — “is the Potemkin village.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Batali did not respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for the firm representing Babbo in its application said in a statement, regarding Mr. Akgul, that the restaurant “has made many changes in its physical plant and its operations, at considerable expense, to address his concerns” and would “continue to work with him to find even better solutions.”

Mrs. Diether and her community board colleagues are expected to vote April 23 on whether to recommend Babbo’s variance be renewed, after which the matter goes to the appeals board for a final decision.

This is not Mrs. Diether’s last battle — she has amassed reams of documents on the Bowery and the old Domino sugar factory in Brooklyn — but it may be her most personal since the time the landlord of her rent-controlled apartment removed the town house’s roof in an attempt to force her out, she said. She won that fight, too.

At the appeals board meeting Feb. 26, Mrs. Diether, despite her long absence, was recognized by several people who worked at or served on the board. They said they had missed her and were glad to see her.

“It’s because I’m memorable,” Mrs. Diether explained.

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Week in Pictures for March 29

Here is a slide show of photographs from the past week in New York City and the region. Subjects include the opening of amusement parks in Coney Island, a dodgeball marathon and the Bloomberg administration “bullpen” at City Hall.

This weekend on “The New York Times Close Up,” an inside look at the most compelling articles in the Sunday newspaper, Sam Roberts will speak with The Times’s Nate Silver, Lincoln Caplan, Constance Rosenblum, Michael M. Grynbaum and Michael Barbaro. Also, the authors Anthony Robins and Tony Hiss on Grand Central Terminal.

A sampling from the City Room blog is featured daily in the main print news section of The Times. You may also browse highlights from the blog and reader comments, read current New York headlines, like New York Metro | The New York Times on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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New Police Chief Confident He Can Handle Job

Philip Banks III, who has been appointed the chief of the New York Police Department, said he wants to establish positive ties between the police and the city. Robert Wright for The New York Times Philip Banks III, who has been appointed the chief of the New York Police Department, said he wants to establish positive ties between the police and the city.

The first question was simple: What made you want to become a police officer?

The reply from Philip Banks III, the newly minted chief of the Police Department, was unexpected, if only for its own simplicity. “I don’t know. Not sure,” he said.

During a 30-minute interview at Police Headquarters on Friday, Chief Banks came off as a no-nonsense and self-assured leader.

“It’s a big seat. It’s a big chair,” Chief Banks said. “I’m 100 percent confident that I can handle the assignment.”

Over the next few days, the four-star chief will move his belongings from his street-level office inside the Community Affairs Bureau to his new office on the 13th Floor. Chief Banks, who will earn a $201,096 yearly salary, takes the helm as the force’s highest-ranking uniformed officer – top among roughly 34,500 peers – at a time when the Police Department has come under scrutiny for its aggressive use of the stop, question and frisk tactic.

As the father of three children – sons, 24 and 15, and a daughter, 20 – Chief Banks said he has talked to them about what to do if stopped by an officer.

“I tell them to always be very cautious about what you are doing out on a particular street, carry yourself like you were raised correctly,” he said. “They know specifically to listen to what the officer is telling them and to be very respectful.” None of his children have been stopped by the police, he added.

Chief Banks, 50, who lives in the St. Albans section of Queens, said a mutual respect between officers and residents is integral to fighting crime. In fact, when he served as a precinct commander in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, his officers were well aware of a “pet peeve”: failing to immediately address someone who had walked into the station house, he said.

“The one thing I’m most proud of is, when a person walked into a particular precinct, the amount of time and the amount of respect that they were shown,” Chief Banks said. “So we had a thing – everybody stop, and we are going to take five minutes to make sure that person feels as though they’re the most special person in the world.”

In his new role, Chief Banks said he would strive to empower people in the community and work with them to further reduce crime.

“You can’t be a crime fighter without being able to listen to people in the community,” he said.

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In Relocating, a Bar Will Lose No Claim to Celluloid Fame

The Emerald Inn, an Irish pub on the Upper West Side, will move to a new location in the neighborhood.Karsten Moran for The New York Times The Emerald Inn, an Irish pub on the Upper West Side, will move to a new location in the neighborhood.

The Emerald Inn, the Upper West Side bar that was the setting for a scene in the movie “The Apartment,” is moving to the site of a bar that figured in another, much darker, movie, “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.”

The Emerald, as regulars call it, had announced its closing last month. Charlie Campbell, whose grandfather opened the bar during World War II, said the landlord had asked for double the current rent of $17,500 a month. Mr. Campbell said he could not afford that.

He said on Wednesday that he had gotten a deal to move to the ground-floor space at 250 West 72nd Street, between Broadway and West End Avenue, that was once occupied by a bar called W.M. Tweeds.

It was there, on New Year’s Day in 1973, that a schoolteacher who was a regular customer walked in for a drink and walked out with another customer. They went to her apartment, where he raped and killed her. The incident served as the basis for a novel by Judith Rossner that was published in 1975 and for a film that was released in 1977. It starred Diane Keaton and Richard Gere.

Tweeds — a play on the name of the Tammany Hall boss, William M. Tweed — closed after the murder and reopened as the All State Café. But the All State Café closed in 2007, itself a victim of a rent increase. Another bar, P.D. O’Hurley’s, took over the space last fall, promising moderately priced “comfort food and good drinks” and live music on Saturday nights, according to its Facebook page. It closed by mid-February.

Mr. Campbell said he would pay “relatively the same rent but have much more space” in the new location. “My plan is making it a sports bar,” he said. “I’m going to put TVs up in the back room.”

He said it would open on June 1. The Emerald on Columbus Avenue will close by April 30, he said.

The old Emerald was a longtime haunt for ABC News personalities — the network’s headquarters are a few blocks away — and was the backdrop for the Christmas Eve scene in “The Apartment.” Jack Lemmon, drowning his sorrows at the bar, was oblivious as Hope Holiday shot straw-paper wrappers at him. Finally she took the seat next to him and offered a deal: She would put some music in the jukebox if he would buy her a drink. The song was “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The drink was a rum Collins.

Although the Web site West Side Rag reported on Thursday night that the Emerald was moving, it was about an hour after Mr. Campbell had said his new landlord had yet to receive the $100,000 deposit that would clinch the deal.

Mr. Campbell said on Friday morning that the check still had not been delivered. When he was asked whether the deal was still on, he said, “I believe so, yes.”

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Fast-Food Union Organizers Get Some Historical Perspective

Baxter Leach, center, and Alvin Turner, right, during a meeting of fast-food workers on Thursday in New York. Mr. Leach and Mr. Turner were sanitation workers who went on strike in 1968 in Memphis. They came to New York to encourage fast-food workers in their efforts to unionize.Tina Fineberg for The New York Times Baxter Leach, center, and Alvin Turner, right, during a meeting of fast-food workers on Thursday in New York. Mr. Leach and Mr. Turner were sanitation workers who went on strike in 1968 in Memphis. They came to New York to encourage fast-food workers in their efforts to unionize.

When Alvin Turner and Baxter Leach joined a strike in Memphis in 1968, they were two sanitation workers protesting the abuse of black employees and demanding higher wages and the recognition of their union. They recalled being beaten and assaulted with tear gas by the police during marches. But after more than 60 days, the strike ended with the city granting many of their demands.

More than four decades later, in November 2012, New York City’s fast-food workers started their own campaign to improve conditions, calling for the creation of a union and a wage of $15 an hour. Workplace experts called it the largest organized effort ever by fast-food workers. But after a one-day strike in which 200 employees walked out, little has changed for workers at the thousands of hamburger, sandwich and taco restaurants that fill the city.

Which is why Mr. Turner, 78, and Mr. Leach, 73, traveled to Manhattan this week to give a series of pep talks to fast-food servers facing an uphill unionization campaign. “The same fight that we fought in 1968, we are fighting today,” Mr. Turner said Thursday, during an appearance at City University of New York.

Mr. Turner made 65 cents an hour when he began working for the Memphis Sanitation Department in 1951, a pittance even for that era. He and Mr. Baxter worked as garbage collectors, running behind homes, dumping trash into large tubs and hoisting those tubs onto their heads.

They especially remember the maggots, they said. And the fact that the color of their skin restricted them from higher-paying jobs. “I had gotten tired of saying ‘yes,’” to abuse,” Mr. Turner said, “when I knew I should be saying ‘no.’”

During the strike, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis to support the 1,300 striking workers. And, of course, it was in Memphis where he was assassinated.

Striking sanitation workers and their supporters are flanked by bayonet-wielding National Guard troops and armored vehicles during a march on City Hall in Memphis on March 29, 1968.Charlie Kelly/Associated Press Striking sanitation workers and their supporters are flanked by bayonet-wielding National Guard troops and armored vehicles during a march on City Hall in Memphis on March 29, 1968.

The strike ended less than two weeks later with the city agreeing to raise wages and recognize the union. Mr. Turner explained how this changed his life: “After the strike, one of those machines that they didn’t allow me to hardly look at” — it was called a sweeper — “I started operating it. This is how I could get my kids through school. And I put four kids through school.”

New York’s fast-food unionization campaign, called Fast Food Forward, is organized by New York Communities for Change, and has the support of several other organizations, including the Service Employees International Union. But organizers have struggled to convince food servers that improved conditions are possible.

While workers have plenty to lament — average wages hover just above $8 an hour, or $18,000 a year for a full-time employee — heavy worker turnover and a general apprehension of unions has made organizing a challenge.

Chad Tall, 20, a Taco Bell employee who wants to unionize, said the campaign is stuck in its awareness phase. “There isn’t a next step right now,” he said.

Mr. Tall, who lives in the Bronx, is his family’s primary wage earner. He makes $7.50 an hour and works about 30 hours a week. He dropped out of college because he could not afford to pay for courses. “I’m not trying to be a millionaire working at Taco Bell,” he said. “But I do want the basics. I don’t want to have to sacrifice breakfast to buy a Metro Card.”

On Mr. Tall’s block, nearly everyone he knows works in fast-food restaurants, he said. So do at least six of his friends. He joined the campaign because he does not want to continue a situation in which, he said, “we’re treated like workhorses and paid like slaves” and “the only babysitter you can afford is the crackhead on the corner.”

At CUNY, Mr. Leach and Mr. Turner sat in a circle with Mr. Tall and about a dozen other workers and clergy members. “For all of you to win anything, you’re going to have to stand up,” Mr. Turner said .

“If you don’t stand up, you’re going to stay with what you got,” he continued. “And if you do stand up, you’re opening the door for someone else.”

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A Date’s Awkward End on the Subway

Dear Diary:

Last fall, I had been out to a concert with a man I had been dating. After an evening of fun, we headed toward the subway to go to our respective homes. My date was moving to a new apartment, so there was some question about which stop we’d be choosing to say goodbye, adding to the inevitable awkwardness that comes with the early stages of getting to know someone.

When we got to the 14th Street stop, he quickly realized he had to be at the apartment nearest there to receive a furniture delivery in the morning. With barely any warning, he left the crowded train, giving me a clumsy hug and a quick kiss on his way out.

I sat down to continue on to Brooklyn, no doubt looking a little downtrodden about dating in New York, and noticed a lovely older couple sitting across from me. The woman, who thought I couldn’t hear her, said to her husband, “It must be so hard to have to say good night like that on the subway!” Her husband saw that I had heard her and smiled politely at me. The woman repeated herself two or three times to her blushing husband until she finally realized I could hear her.

“It’s true!” I exclaimed from across the aisle. “It’s totally awkward! You’re exactly right. Thank you for saying so!”

She smiled sheepishly at me, as her sweet husband flashed me a knowing smile and said, “There’s always tomorrow, dear.”

How did he know exactly what I needed to hear?


Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via e-mail diary@nytimes.com or follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

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Weak Job Market Leaves City’s Unemployment Rate Flat

A strike by school bus drivers and layoffs on Wall Street contributed to a weak job market in New York City last month and kept the city’s unemployment rate well above the nation’s, the State Labor Department reported on Thursday.

The city’s unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in February, unchanged from January. The national rate fell in February to a four-year low, 7.7 percent.

The city’s private sector usually swells by thousands of jobs in February, but last month added a total of just 700, said James P. Brown, principal economist for the State Labor Department. After adjustments for the usual seasonal gain, that increase will look like a substantial decline.

The statewide figures, which are already seasonally adjusted, showed a loss of 7,700 private-sector jobs last month. The February report was so weak that state officials chose to focus again on what happened in January, when the state’s private-sector tally reached a revised high of almost 7.42 million jobs.

The state’s unemployment rate remained at 8.4 percent in February. More than 800,000 state residents were unemployed, but fewer than half of them collected unemployment insurance payments.

Benefits for the long-term unemployed have been shrinking. Some state residents stand to collect a maximum of 63 weeks of payments, down from a high of 99 at the depths of the last recession.

New York City had led the state back from the recession, adding jobs at a significantly faster pace than that of the rest of the nation. But that trend has flipped: In the past 12 months, the number of private-sector jobs in the city has risen by 1.5 percent, compared with a national growth rate of 1.9 percent.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other city officials have emphasized the job-growth numbers while dismissing the high unemployment rate as a flawed measure of the city’s health. They also have taken credit for making the city less dependent on Wall Street.

But the jobs that Wall Street is shedding pay much more, on average, than the jobs that are being added in health care, education and tourism-dependent businesses like hotels and restaurants.

Education and health services added about 5,900 jobs in February, while Wall Street lost about 1,300 jobs. A monthlong strike by school bus drivers contributed to a loss of about 6,600 jobs in the transportation and warehousing industries. One of the biggest increases last month came in the local government sector, which added 7,600 jobs, according to the Labor Department.

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A Career Bringing Natural History to Life

“I’m in my work clothes,” Stephen Christopher Quinn said as he smoothed a dark blue apron splotched with paint. “I’ve got to finish two murals by Friday.”

Standing in front of the buffalo diorama that he had restored, he meant to sound apologetic, but he sounded busy. He is the da Vinci of dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History, its Botticelli of birds, its Renoir of rhinoceroses. As the museum’s senior diorama artist, he has masterminded the scenes that make the crowds ooh and ahhh: the big blue whale, the huge coral reef, the gorillas beating their chests, the archaeopteryx, the acanthostega.

Those last two are in one of the fourth-floor dinosaur halls. You cannot mention the museum’s dioramas without mentioning its dinosaurs — in this case the archaeopteryx, a bird that bridged the evolutionary gap between dinosaurs that had feathers and latter-day birds. Or the acanthostega, an extinct creature that must have looked like a small alligator. It was one of the first to have distinct, recognizable limbs and hands with eight digits, if you counted them. Mr. Quinn, who is nothing if not precise, did.

Now, at 62, Mr. Quinn has decided to retire after nearly 40 years of creating the museum’s behind-glass environments (and many that were out in the open). His last day at work is Friday. He will become an “exhibition associate,” having a first-of-its-kind title conferred by the museum’s scientific staff, but retirement will give him time to do limited-edition paintings and to work on an urban nature center adjacent to his home in New Jersey.

So the pressure was on to finish background paintings for an exhibition on poison — a tropical rain forest like one in Colombia.

“What people don’t realize is these aren’t just generalized scenes,” he said on Monday. “It’s not just an artist getting together with a curator at the museum. The museum has a set protocol of actually going to a place and replicating that place.”

It is a boots-on-the-ground approach that sent him off to see polar bears on the frozen Chukchi Sea off Alaska and killer whales in what he calls the “rosy sunset waters” off the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia.

Mr. Quinn, who arrived at the museum as an intern artist in 1974, went on to write the book on the museum’s dioramas — literally. “Windows on Nature” is a full-color volume that says dioramas are relics. They are not as old as their subjects, perhaps, but they are an art form that predates television and movies. “They were powerful forms of virtual reality” before 3-D glasses and DVRs, Mr. Quinn said.

It turns out that the term “diorama” was coined by Louis Daguerre, who used his name as the basis for another coinage, the daguerreotype, an early commercial photographic process. Daguerre created the first dioramas, in 1822, as theater sets in Europe.

In the book, Mr. Quinn wrote that the most frequently asked question of a diorama artist is, “Is it real?” The second-most frequently asked is, “How do you get in to water the plants?”

The answers are, “Not necessarily” (some plant specimens are in there, but not every leaf that you see is real, and the animals have been stuffed) and “You don’t” (the dioramas are sealed).

To open a diorama and redo it is a once-in-a-lifetime project. He relished those, starting with his very first assignment, working on the foreground of the wood stork diorama in the Hall of North American Birds.

He was good at birds, thanks to what he called a “Tom Sawyerlike childhood in the New Jersey Meadowlands” in the 1950s and 1960s, before the world knew it just for a sports complex. It helped that his older brother, John R. Quinn, had raised mallards, wood ducks, wigeon and bobwhite quail in the backyard. Together they learned to paint them. John went on to paint a mural of Alexander the Great on their bedroom wall.

“On his horse, marching to the Mediterranean,” Mr. Quinn said. (John grew up to become a museum exhibit artist for the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and later a naturalist with the Hackensack Meadowlands Commission. He died last year.)

Stephen Quinn’s travels have taken him far from home in Ridgefield Park, N.J., where he still lives in the same house — and where the Alexander the Great mural is still on the same wall. In 2010, he went to the Democratic Republic of Congo, retracing the steps of Carl Akeley, a pioneering taxidermist who did many of the museum’s dioramas in the early 20th century.

Mr. Quinn camped on Mount Mikeno, where Akeley had camped on his first gorilla expedition in 1921.

“You’re up 11,000 feet,” he said. “The volcanoes are still active, so at night there’s this brilliant vermilion color. But the first night we were there, we had snow flurries as we were pitching our tent and starting our fire, which was remarkable for equatorial Africa. You just assume you’re in the steaming rain forest, but it got cold.”

But the prize for an artist — a glimpse of his subject — eluded him: “The gorillas are wary of people.”

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Assemblyman Explains Opposition to Hospital Measure

A push by the Cuomo administration to allow private investment in two New York State hospitals met an impasse during state budget negotiations last week, with strong opposition from Richard N. Gottfried, the chairman of the State Assembly’s health committee.

In a letter to the editor submitted on Thursday to The New York Times, Assemblyman Gottfried, a Democrat from Manhattan, provided his reasons:

“New York’s laws barring large business corporations from owning hospitals are important. It’s bad enough that distant stockholders control most of our health coverage. They shouldn’t also control health care delivery.

“The proposal in this year’s budget legislation to allow for-profit corporate ownership of two hospitals (one to be in Brooklyn) had no plan for how it might be implemented. Corporate ownership can mean cutting ‘unprofitable’ services and shipping ‘profitable’ services to powerful hospitals in other communities. This is especially true for underserved communities like much of Brooklyn.

“Brooklyn’s hospitals need help. The Health Department should sit down with the Legislature and the affected communities to work out solutions, including ways to bring in capital that do not involve corporate control.”

In an e-mail, Mr. Gottfried added, “I do hope the executive branch will pull people together on this topic so we can do something this session.”

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City Has Financial Ties to Carwashes Under Investigation, Report Says

Workers protested outside the Sixth Avenue Car Wash in February. Yana Paskova for The New York Times Workers protested outside the Sixth Avenue Car Wash in February.

The owners of a string of carwashes with a history of labor law violations and who are under investigation by the state attorney general’s office are paid by the city to clean city-owned cars, according to a new report.

Using publicly available documents, the report shows that the city has paid more than $400,000 to businesses operated by the carwash owners, John Lage and Fernando Magalhaes, since 2007. That amount includes money to wash Police Department vehicles.

In 2005, the federal Department of Labor sued a company owned by Mr. Lage, Lage Management Corporation, accusing the company of violating labor law by failing to pay minimum wage and overtime. The corporation eventually agreed to pay $4.7 million in back wages and damages to more than 1,300 employees.

In March 2012, the state attorney general’s office announced that it had started a separate investigation into labor law violations at 23 carwashes in the New York City area owned or operated by Mr. Lage and Mr. Magalhaes. The investigation is continuing.

Carwash workers across the country have long complained about unlawful abuse, including nonpayment, underpayment, insufficient safety training and unsafe conditions. In March 2012, city carwash workers began a campaign to unionize the approximately 200 carwashes in the five boroughs. Since then, employees at five carwashes have voted to unionize.

Three groups have led the unionization campaign and produced the report: Make the Road New York; New York Communities for Change; and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The report has not been publicly released.

Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and a Democratic candidate for mayor, said that the city should “immediately take action and reconsider doing business with them.”

Dennis Lalli, a lawyer for Mr. Lage, defended his client’s practices, noting that Mr. Lage recently raised workers’ wages, and “now pays well in excess of the state minimum wage for tipped employees,” which is $5.50 an hour.

“The city does business with Mr. Lage’s carwashes because he does a good job,” said Mr. Lalli, who also represents Mr. Magalhaes. “Those who say that the city should stop doing business with Mr. Lage do not have evidence of labor law violations. They aren’t out to advance the workers’ interests. Rather, they are a front for a labor union that seeks to advance its own interest in collecting dues from the employees’ hard-earned pay.”

Other agencies that have paid for services from businesses owned by Mr. Lage and Mr. Magalhaes include the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development; the Department of Sanitation; the Department of Homeless Services; and the Department of Transportation. The information is available on checkbooknyc.com, a city Web site that lists some, but not all, transactions that the city makes with outside vendors.

Hector Gomez, 24, began working at the Sixth Avenue Car Wash in Greenwich Village, which was owned by Mr. Lage and Mr. Magalhaes, five years ago. He was paid $5.50 an hour, never received safety training and was never offered protections like gloves or masks, he said. “We washed 50 or 40 police cars each day,” he said. “The white ones, the black ones, every kind. Of course it didn’t feel good, the cars come in, many cars, and we’re not even earning minimum wage.” After workers at his carwash voted to form a union, his salary was raised to $6.03 an hour.

When the Sixth Avenue Car Wash shut down earlier this year, he was transferred to another carwash in Queens. “All I want is for them to pay us the minimum wage,” he said, “for them to give us regular days to rest.”

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