City Council introduces new set of bills to improve construction site safety

Posted at 9:50 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 21:50:00-05

It's a question that was echoing from the steps of City Hall Wednesday morning as City Council introduced a new set of bills to improve construction site safety.

"How many more must die? How many more must die?"

"What other industry, with 30 people over two years that have been allowed to die, and no action be taken?" asked Pat Purcell, Executive Director of the Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust.

Outside the walls of City Hall construction workers shutdown the street. Thirty-one men and women were arrested for civil disobedience, each one representing a person who died on the job.

"I want to remind those in power in the City Council, the state, and the federal government that these should buildings," said David Gallarsa. "They should be commercial, they should be residential, they shouldn't be tombstones."

Back in October, PIX11 was there just minutes after Paul Kenedy was hit and killed by a crane while working on a construction site in downtown Brooklyn.

The 43-year-old is one of the many who lost their lives on the job over the past two years. Recently, The Department of Buildings has cracked down on construction violations.

According to a report from SiteCompli the number of violations year-to-date rose almost 50 percent between March 2015 and 2016.

But developers have already barked at part of the proposed legislation requiring state-approved apprenticeship programs, which they see as a tool to target non-union labor.

"Some people might want to present it as a there's a dichotomy taking place between non-union and union. There's death taking place. Let's count that," said Justice Favor of Laborers Local 79.

While City Council has introduced the new legislation, the battle over construction site safety is being fought at the state level as well.

Assembly member Francisco Moya plans to introduce a bill that would raise the maximum fines for the construction industry from $10,000 to $50,000.

That price tag could prevent developers from viewing the fines as a normal cost of doing business.