By Bill Parry
Hoping to assuage the fears of residents and business owners in high-density construction zones such as Long Island City, Flushing and Jamaica, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that the city will quadruple the penalties for serious construction-safety lapses, conduct a wave of more than 1,500 enforcement sweeps and require new supervision at construction sites citywide to protect workers and the public amid the record building boom.
Construction has surged more than 300 percent since 2009, according to the de Blasio administration, contributing more jobs and housing but leading to an increase in preventable construction-related injuries and fatalities.
The city is launching a proactive enforcement sweep that will target 1,500 sites over the next 90 days and 100 more inspectors will be hired by the summer, according to officials.
To make sure builders cannot profit by skirting safety rules, the city is raising the penalties for serious safety lapses from $2,400 to $10,000, and the penalty for lacking a construction superintendent will increase from $5,000 to a maximum of $25,000. The announcement came a week after a crane, owned and operated by two Queens companies, collapsed in Tribeca, killing one pedestrian and injuring three other people.
“No building is worth a person’s life,” de Blasio said. “We have a responsibility to keep the men and women who are building New York City safe. We are ramping up inspections and oversight to make sure that our workers have added protections. We do not accept any loss of life in this business as inevitable or acceptable.”
The actions are part of a $120 million modernization underway at the Department of Buildings that will increase oversight of high-risk sites. Sweeps conducted by the DOB last fall shut down more than 500 construction sites citywide.
“We don’t tolerate contractors who cut corners and recklessly increase the risks of construction work,” DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler said. “Our investigations routinely reveal that accidents could have been prevented if contractors simply followed existing safety rules. We’re determined to change the mindset that safety violations are simply the cost of doing business.”
Construction superintendents will be required on all new construction and renovations of buildings under 10 stories which historically have had less oversight. Smaller job sites were responsible for 70 percent of construction-related accidents last year.
“With a record amount of construction in New York City, it is important that the department and the construction industry work together to make certain that all projects are built using the best practices the industry has to offer,” General Contractors Association Executive Director Denise Richardson said. “We support the city’s efforts to make certain that all regulations are appropriate to the work being performed and are known, understood and followed by all involved in the project.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr