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Hotel Workers' Union Earmarks $1 million to
 Block The Plaza's Makeover to Condos
By Lore Croghan, Daily News, New York
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Mar. 1, 2005 - The owner of The Plaza has offered to build a new hotel -- with enough jobs for every worker who gets canned when most of the rooms in the storied landmark go condo.

"I feel I'm being portrayed as the greedy developer," owner Miki Naftali said yesterday.

Naftali's proposal, revealed yesterday in a Daily News editorial, calls for a joint $135 million venture with the union to construct a luxury hotel with up to 550 rooms and 750 jobs.

He says he's found three possible sites in Manhattan where a hotel could be built from scratch.

"I'm trying to answer the propaganda of 'Save the Plaza,' " Naftali said, referring to the union's campaign to preserve the historic building as a hotel.

He said he first pitched the idea to hotel union President Peter Ward at a Thursday meeting at City Hall. "The union would make a nice return on its investment, and the jobs there would be secure forever," Naftali said.

Ward isn't convinced.

He called Naftali's proposal a "public relations ploy."

"I don't want to replace The Plaza with a modern hotel that has no history," said Ward, whose union has earmarked $1 million to block Naftali's Plaza makeover.

Naftali, who bought the hotel last year for $675 million, plans to employ 150 hotel workers when The Plaza reopens as a 150-room operation at the end of 2006. He'll convert the rest of the 805 rooms into 200 pricey condo apartments and put an upscale retailer in the Grand Ballroom.

Ward believes Naftali's firm, Elad Properties, could make a big profit -- and retain most of the union jobs -- if it converted only a quarter of The Plaza's rooms to condos.

"I hope at the end of the day Elad will realize they are part of the community -- and need to be responsible to the community," Ward said.

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