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'No hable Español' at London Terrace Gardens :  Published January 2007 All Rights Reserved


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'No hable Español' at London Terrace Gardens

In 1929 real estate developer Henry Mandel owned one city block between Ninth and Tenth streets in Manhattan between 23rd and 24th and intended to build the world's largest apartment building under the name London Terrace Gardens. In the building's heyday it had all the luxury amenities -- some of which are still in use including the 75-foot by 35-foot swimming pool, roof deck, and gardens.

In 1934 however after the developer went broke and was forced into foreclosure -- Mandel leaped from the top of the building to his death.

Times have indeed changed in the New York City neighborhood known as Chelsea from what some called 'millionaire's row' back then to a mix of tenements, high rises, night clubs, and the city's gay ghetto.

London Terrace Gardens is only part of what the original building complex once was and now consists of two corner towers that turned co-op (owner occupied) in 1987. And now, according to a memo released to the press by an anonymous source, London Terrace Gardens management requires all employees to speak only in English.

In a memo dated 11 January 2007 all employees were ordered to "speak English in all public areas as well as on two-way radios." As with most servile jobs in the United States - many employees are no longer native-born citizens, as was the case in Mandel's day, but the Spanish workers identify themselves as Hispanic.

One of the building's doormen George Guzman told the New York Post that he felt the English only speech requirement was poor policy..."I can't work without Spanish," Guzman said. "How do we talk to delivery boys who only speak Spanish? I have to speak Spanish."

A resident of London Terrace, and long-time friend of Think & Ask's publisher, said of the policy, "It is the right decision. If they (Spanish-speaking people) come to New York, how do they expect to communicate and participate if they do not speak the lingo -- English?"

Meanwhile, the union representing some workers at London Terrace disagrees with the decision. SEIU Local 32BJ determined that such policy was in violation of federal civil rights.

Building management contends the memo was taken out of context and does not preclude employees from speaking other languages in private conversations.


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