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Former Queens councilwoman takes over as leader of the Building Trades Employers Association

Apr. 17, 2023 By Bill Parry

After falling short in her last three political campaigns, former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has shifted gears, allowing her to win her first election in nearly a decade. The Glendale resident will succeed Lou Coletti as president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers Association (BTEA), the largest construction trade association in New York.

Crowley became the first woman to lead the BTEA in its nearly 120-year history.

“I look forward to working with BTEA membership companies to advance the construction industry as it addresses the pressing needs of people in our communities, drives innovation and adds to a more sustainable and resilient skyline that is built by a diverse and inclusive union workforce,” Crowley said.

With politics in her rearview mirror, former Queens councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley is now the leader of the Building Trades Employers Association. (QNS/File)

Under her leadership of the contractor organization that represents 1,200 member companies across New York, Crowley said BTEA will continue to promote safety, bring more women and diversity to the construction industry, increase resilience in the built environment and lead in the fight against climate change. During her two terms on the City Council, Crowley fought for a record amount of funding for school construction in her district and passed resolutions that strengthened construction safety standards, expanded opportunities for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises and funded programs that provided industry training including Nontraditional Employment for Women.

“This is the first time I won an election unanimously,” Crowley told QNS. “I went into politics in the first place to do good and make a difference and affect positive change and as an advocate for the building construction industry in New York, we do just the same.”

Astoria’s Lorraine Grillo, who served as first deputy mayor during the de Blasio administration before she was named the city’s “pandemic recovery czar” after leading the city’s School Construction Authority and the Department of Design and Construction, worked with Crowley in the past.

“Elizabeth brings unique experience and a wonderful perspective to this role,” Grillo said. “She understands that it is so important to provide opportunities to diverse members of the community while building the physical infrastructure of the communities we serve.”

Gary LaBarbera, president of the powerful Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York which represents more than 100,000 tradesmen and tradeswomen across the five boroughs, concurred.

“BTEA member companies are the most diverse and inclusive companies and organizations in the industry,” LaBarbera said. “I am excited to work with Elizabeth on our common goals for inclusion and expanding opportunities for union labor in every corner of the city.”

Crowley was a card-carrying union member working as a restorative painter on prized landmarks before she ran for the City Council with support from her cousin Joe Crowley, the longtime congressman and chair of the Queens County Democratic Party. She was a two-term incumbent when she was upset by longtime civic leader Robert Holden during an incendiary campaign in 2017. After Crowley defeated Holden in the Democratic primary, Holden took the Republican party line in the general election and managed to win by 137 votes in a district where registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans two to one.

Since then, Crowley fell short in her 2021 candidacy for Queens borough president and again in her campaign against eventual state Senator Kirsten Gonzalez in western Queens.

Now, with her political career in her rear view mirror, Crowley said she will bring a wealth of experience to her new role.

“It’s an honor to be entrusted as president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers Association,” Crowley said, adding that one of her top priorities will be increasing union construction jobs as the city works its way out of its chronic affordable housing crisis.

“I am an advocate for good well-paying jobs and when you look at union versus non-union there’s a big difference,” she said. “But it’s also jobs versus careers. The building trades give you a skill that no one can take away from you from apprentice to the trained workforce, which is run in partnership with the contractors. And what we need to be doing for our environment is building more sustainable buildings and making changes to our existing buildings that make less of a footprint environmentally and more inviting for people to live in and work in.”

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