The strike has now been going on for over a week, and the union’s approach is two-fold. On the one hand, they are trying to drive away enough customers that the Boathouse suffers and caves. (Business, according to Mr. Poll, is holding steady.) On the other, they are attempting to pressure the Parks Department—or the Bloomberg administration—to rip up Mr. Poll’s contract and find someone more union-friendly to operate the restaurant. So far, the city has maintained that the dispute is a private matter, but all of the top 2013 mayoral contenders have marched in support of the strikers, and the union hopes that Mr. Poll realizes that the jig will be up in two years.
Asked about the dossier disparaging his management, Mr. Poll categorically denied all of the union’s charges. No one complained to him of any sexual harassment. (“If these are true, we never knew about it. Our employee handbook clearly states that if you have an issue, bring it up.”) The audit from the comptroller’s office, which alleged that Mr. Poll owed the city over half a million dollars, was “typical of what goes on in the comptroller’s office. The Parks Department had no issue with the way we conducted ourselves.” The pols piling on are behaving like typical pols in a union town. The waiters who didn’t receive tips were overpaid. Mr. Poll conceded that some workers walked off the job in 2008 after he screamed at them for not washing up properly. “I was premature and abrupt, O.K.?” he said. “I said, ‘You know what? This won’t look good. This could be perceived as being wrong.’ So we invited everybody back. The two people I fired, they’re still here!”
He walked through the kitchen area.
“Laura, how long have you been working here?” he asked one cashier.
“Jennifer,” she said.
“Jennifer, how long have you been working here?”
“Do you enjoy working here?”
“You see? That’s why she’s here.”
Twice during an hour-long conversation, a police officer and an assistant walked in to update Mr. Poll on the situation outside. Not much appeared to be changing. A young woman stood in front of the entrance holding her 2-year-old son and debated going inside.
“It’s kind of embarrassing to walk in here and hear this,” said the young woman, Lee Theobald. “You don’t want to not support people who are being treated unfairly. But then I don’t know where to go. There is the knish place—that’s crap. Pain Quotidien is overpriced and their bread is stale. It disheartens me.”
No solution appears to be in sight.
“Yeah. Go away,” Mr. Poll said when asked how the dispute can be resolved. “I can’t tell you what this place means to me. I am not the tyrant they say I am.”
“We intend to fight this until the end,” Mr. Ward said. “We are not going to walk away. We are not going to back down. It is up to Dean to come to his senses and find a reasonable solution. He is not dealing with maniacs. We are rational actors.”
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