A Long Island-based biotech company’s move to Westchester has been stopped in progress in the wake of its purchase this month by a Japanese pharmaceutical giant. County and union officials were confident the halt in construction for the relocation project is temporary.
OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc., maker of the cancer drug Tarceva, already has moved some employees and has planted its corporate sign at its new headquarters and consolidated laboratory and research space at Ardsley Park Science and Technology Center on Saw Mill River Road in the town of Greenburgh. But a shutdown in construction this month has resulted in layoffs for hundreds of building trades workers, many of whom have filed new unemployment benefit claims.
Paul Ryan, assistant business manager at Local 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in White Plains, said another scheduled round of layoffs last week on the 43-acre Ardsley campus left 10 electricians on the job, down from 140 previously employed by the electrical contractor on the estimated $50 million construction and renovations project. The partial shutdown also affects union carpenters, steamfitters and sheet metal workers, he said.
One union electrician, for whom the Ardsley project brought a paycheck after 10 months of unemployment, said his electrical crew suddenly was laid off during a lunch break.
Town of Greenburgh Building Inspector John Lucido said some work at the six-building site is continuing, including landscaping and sidewalk paving. “They fully plan on continuing the job as soon as they can revive it,” he said of OSI officials and contractors.
OSI in 2009 paid $27 million to Purdue Pharma Inc. for the Ardsley center, which includes six buildings and approximately 400,000 square feet of office and lab space. The company planned to bring 350 jobs to Westchester by consolidating operations currently spread among its Long Island locations in Melville and Farmingdale and Boulder, Colo., and Cedar Knolls, N.J.
Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc. recently paid $4 billion in cash to acquire OSI and strengthen its position as a global leader in oncology therapeutics. Marketing Tarceva, a leading cancer drug, OSI reported $428 million in total annual revenues in 2009 and operating income of $153 million.
An official in Westchester familiar with the Astellas deal called it a hostile takeover.
Regarding the construction shutdown in Ardsley, “Astellas has not given us many details,” said OSI spokeswoman Kathy Galante in Melville. “They’re still looking to go through integration of the two companies” and plan to review the relocation to Westchester, she said.
Elected officials on Long Island and the Long Island Association Inc., the state’s largest business organization, recently sent Astellas officials a letter urging them to reconsider the OSI move from Long Island. “We have not heard back from them,” said Daniel R. Perkins, Long Island Association vice president for government affairs.
Westchester County Economic Development Director Laurence Gottlieb said OSI’s new owner likely is reviewing all contracts. “My expectation is that it’s not going to change the outcome” of the relocation to Westchester, he said. “They’ve already invested a lot of money.”
Changing the course of a project on the scale of OSI’s “is like doing wheelies with a cruise ship,” said Gottlieb. “It’s not that easy to do that. Once these things start, it’s pretty difficult to stop.”
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