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Why Do Non-Union Buildings Want Their Tenants to Sign a Non-Disclosure?


Because they’re non-union buildings, perhaps?

It’s quite impressive that stories about faulty non-union buildings have reached the general press when you consider that the management companies at many of these buildings require tenants to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) when they ink their lease or mortgage.

An NDA is an agreement in contract law that certain information will remain confidential. As such, an NDA binds a person who has signed it and prevents them from discussing any information included in the contract with any non-authorized party.

It’s a gag-order.

If you’re asked to sign an NDA as part of moving into a residence, ask why the building management wants you to sign a gag order.


A typical NDA requires that one party not reveal certain information. Many people signing leases don't have lawyers look over such documentation - they just sign the papers - and they may be agreeing to rules they will regret later.

Which makes it difficult for tenants who are frustrated with their building’s shoddy construction, leaky pipes, glitchy elevators and worse, to have a public outlet for their complaints. In fact, people going on record is so news-worthy that the New York Times wrote an entire story about how they were able to work around the NDAs and get some residents of one particularly faulty building to talk to them.

Union-Built Matters has learned of NDAs in place at buildings including 11 Greene Street in Manhattan, the Hero building in Jackson Heights, 20 Exchange Place in the financial district, and 2 Blue Slip on the Brooklyn waterfront. All of these are considered luxury lifestyle buildings in New York City. And in all of them tenants have been asked to agree to stay mum when things go wrong.

Why do building managers insist on tenants signing an NDA when they move in?

Perhaps they anticipate problems. The recent history of non-union projects is riddled with citations from the Department of Buildings, finger pointing and lawsuits between contractors and developers, and complaints from residents.


Nurse Erin Campbell ended a long shift to find she would have to climb 48 stories at 20 Exchange Place to get to her apartment because the elevator was down again. Unbound by an NDA, she felt free to talk with the press.

Amir Hamja for The New York Times

Stories about bad construction and resident hardships have been reported about each of the buildings listed above, and all of them can be verified as being built or managed by non-union.

At Hero, burst pipes have forced tenants out of the building twice to accommodate repairs. At Blue Slip, shoddy materials and leaking ceilings have caused inhabitants to move out. At Greene Street and Exchange Place the elevators are so frequently out of service – forcing some to climb up to 50 stories to get home – people have stopped paying rent. One 48th floor renter said when she got to her building after a long shift at work and was told the elevator was out, “I just started crying. I’m a young, in-shape person, so I can do it. But it’s miserable."

Though each of these stories reached the mainstream press, most residents in these buildings held back from talking on the record because of NDAs, which follow them even after they’ve left the building.

One must wonder, without gag orders put on tenants, how many people living in non-union construction would be talking publicly about the big problems in their buildings?

Here’s a Union-Built Matters tip for New York City apartment shoppers: If you’re asked to sign an NDA as part of moving into a residence, ask why the building management wants you to sign a gag order. We suspect that building was probably built by non-unions, which could be a sign of many headaches to come.

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