By Bill Parry
A community leader in Astoria is strongly opposing construction safety legislation that is currently enjoying wide support in the City Council.
Intro 1447 is making its way through the legislative process and is already co-sponsored by 47 of the 51 Council members. Bishop Mitchell Taylor, the co-founder and CEO of Urban Upbound, is warning the measure could have an averse effect on minority hiring, however, particularly at the Hallets Point construction site at 26-01 1st St., right next door to the Astoria Houses.
The bill is part of a larger package of legislation called the Construction Safety Act, which critics say would result in the exclusion of non-union workers from employment opportunities.
Urban Upbound is a non-profit organization that serves public housing residents and other low-income New Yorkers in order to break the cycle of poverty by providing residents with the tools and resources they need to achieve economic mobility and self-sufficiency.
“One way we achieve that is by helping residents gain employment on new construction projects,” Taylor wrote in a letter to City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “These jobs are a lifeline that can enable the people we serve to better provide for their families or even avoid becoming homeless.”
Taylor fears Intro 1447, originally called the apprenticeship mandate, would require that all workers on a construction site must complete at least 59 hours of safety training.
Workers currently need just 10 hours of safety training from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Urban Upbound has been able to connect residents with jobs at the Hallets Point site as well as projects underway in Jamaica and Far Rockaway, but it believes Intro 1447 would have a negative impact on the organization’s ability to secure construction jobs.
“Implementing this legislation would also mean that residents we have placed in jobs may no longer be qualified for employment, even if they have already received safety training,” Taylor wrote. “As a result, it could become virtually impossible for our organization to continue working with developers on local hiring for new construction projects.”
Van Bramer has been out front on the issue after recent construction collapses injured workers in Long Island City and Astoria. Last week, he demanded greater workforce training at a rally with members of Build Up NYC.
“I fundamentally disagree with the Bishop on this issue,” Van Bramer said. “I believe he presents a false choice that you can either have safety for workers or you increase diversity among workers. I support Intro 1447 because it does both. It makes all workers safer while also increasing paths and opportunities for a more diverse workforce.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr