By Bill Parry
A Corona father of five children died last week when he fell 29 floors at a construction site in Lower Manhattan. Juan Chonillo, 44, was pronounced dead at the scene last week.
The Ecuadorian-born carpenter was installing molds in which to pour concrete when he lost his balance and fell, according to fire officials. He was wearing a safety harness that was not properly fastened, authorities said.
The Department of Buildings said Chonillo’s death was the seventh at a New York City construction site this year. In 2015 and 2016, there were 12 deaths at construction sites in each year, according to the DOB.
“As the construction death epidemic predictably claims another worker’s life, I am furious that nothing has changed since the last time, or the time before that,” state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said. “My workers safety legislation, ‘Carlos’ Law,’ is named after yet another Ecuadorian immigrant in my district who lost his life on a construction site, and today reminds us that we’ve learned nothing from Carlos’ tragic story.”
Moya’s bill was named for Carlos Moncayo, who died in 2015. It was approved in the Assembly, but failed to pass in the GOP-contolled Senate.
On the same day Chonillo died, two other electrical workers fell Sept. 21 from their boom lift in a separate incident, killing one and sending another to the hospital with head trauma.
“It’s beyond overdue for us to change the system that has so far failed to bring justice to these workers’ families, and it is unconscionable not to act as the cycle continues,” Moya said. “Juan Chonillo was like so many hard- working immigrants from my district. He worked tirelessly to put food on the table for his family and, whether he knew it or not, put his life at risk just by stepping on a non-union work site where most of these accidents occur. Although Juan Chonillo wore a harness, that harness wasn’t tethered to anything. It wasn’t enough that Juan was certified, it didn’t matter that he had always been a careful and deliberate worker. What cost him his life was careless management that decided to move a crane without ensuring their workers were properly fastened.”
Carlos’ Law would make managers or developers liable to a class E or D felony if responsible for the severe injury or death of their worker. In addition, a conviction would include a $500,000 fine.
“We can no longer go on calling these accidents when we know for sure they occur like clockwork,” Moya said. “There is no more debate left. To my colleagues in Albany: Either you support Carlos’ Law and convicting careless developers who put their workers in harm’s way, or you condone letting them get away with murder.”
Moya will run unopposed Nov. 7 to replace the retiring City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) in District 21, which covers Corona, East Elmhurst and parts of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. Moya defeated Hiram Monserrate in last month’s primary.
Meanwhile, the City Council unanimously passed a controversial bill Wednesday that will require construction workers to undergo at least 40 hours of safety training. The legislation known as 1447, has its critics among developers and the real estate industry who argued the bill would favor union labor and stall construction across the city.
“This vote means that New York City hard hats will get the safety training they need for one of our city’s most dangerous jobs and that will help get them home to their families at night and keep construction sites safer for everyone,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr