Second worker injury at Edgemere Commons construction site leads to new calls for removal of general contractor

NY: Laborers Local 79 Rally Against Joy Construction
A worker was injured while working on the Joy Construction site.
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

South Queens elected officials, and the leader of the union that represents 10,000 construction workers, are renewing their call for the city to remove the general contractor on the Edgemere Commons mega-project in Far Rockaway after a worker was injured on the site in early February.

The incident took place about two weeks after elected officials and union leaders held a rally at the site on Jan. 25 in opposition to the general contractor, Joy Construction, after a worker was struck in the knee on Dec. 23 by splintered wood.

In the latest incident, the city’s Department of Buildings issued a stop work order at the 51-19 Beach Channel Dr. site after a construction worker fell from the seventh floor injuring his back. While investigating the incident, DOB Inspectors discovered the safety coordinator was working with an expired license. Work resumed on-site four days later after Joy Construction brought in a new project safety coordinator, although workers allegedly still faced hazardous work conditions.

“This is a company whose history appears to bring more pain and suffering than joy,” Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson said. “With a disturbing pattern of exploitative and unsafe construction practices resulting in multiple worker deaths and criminal lawsuits, we must stand against Joy Construction in solidarity with laborers and the community.”

Since 2004, six workers have died on construction sites tied to Joy Construction and the firm’s principal, Eli Weiss, according to published reports.

“Far Rockaway deserves better than to do business with a bad-faith actor whose business practices violate our community’s core values of workers’ rights, dignity and safety,” Anderson said. “My elected colleagues and I demand that HPD recognize the urgency of this situation to take Joy Construction off the Edgemere Commons affordable housing project. I wish the injured worker a full and speedy recovery and will continue to demand accountability.”

After the second worker was injured, DOB issued a summons for the violation to the site safety coordinator, noting that “A construction site cannot be active with an unlicensed safety person acting on their behalf, this is an illegal act.”

State Sen. James Sanders demanded greater accountability from Joy Construction.

“This latest construction worker injury at Edgemere Commons adds to Joy Construction’s alarming record of worker injuries,” Sanders said. “It’s a stark reminder that some workers, especially immigrants and formerly incarcerated individuals, are often voiceless and exploited.”

State Senator James Sander and Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson are calling on the city to remove Joy Construction from the affordable housing project. Courtesy of Laborers’ Local 79

Sanders is also pushing for the passage of Carlos’ Law, named after Carlos Moncayo, a 22-year-old Ecuadorian laborer from Corona who was buried alive at a Manhattan construction site in 2015.

“My fight doesn’t stop with Carlos’ Law. We encourage HPD to remove Joy Construction from the Edgemere Commons development in Far Rockaway,” Sanders said. “At the same time, we need the Construction Justice Act (CJA) to ensure fair wages, benefits, and most importantly, a level playing field where every worker can speak up without fear. We’ve lost too many lives like Carlos Moncayo to preventable workplace tragedies.”

QNS reached out to Joy Construction and HPD and is awaiting responses.

“We can never minimalize the safety procedures that must be in place at construction sites,” Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato said.  “Last year I started calling for Joy Construction to be removed from this project because they are non-union and had a record that was questionable. I’m disappointed to see that my suspicions came to fruition and there were injuries. The City must remove Joy Construction from this project – I will not tolerate workers being in danger at their job”

Laborers’ Local 79 organized the January rally amid concerns that HPD didn’t vet Joy Construction properly when it was brought on to build the second phase of the project that is expected to bring more than 11 buildings and 2,000 affordable apartments over the next decade. After the second worker was injured, the union is urging HPD to bring in a more responsible contractor before anyone else gets hurt.

“Two construction workers have been injured on Joy Construction’s watch at Edgemere Commons. These incidents are part of an unacceptable pattern of behavior,” Laborers’ Local 79 Business Manager Mike Prohaska said. “For too long, Joy Construction and other low-road contractors have gotten away with endangering and underpaying construction workers, because no clear standards exist for the treatment and payment of construction workers on city-subsidized affordable housing developments.”

Prohaska added that a large coalition of labor unions, worker advocates, and community-based organizations are campaigning for the Construction Justice Act (CJA) that would require construction employers to meet wage and hiring standards of at least $40 an hour and local hiring from communities where workers build new affordable housing.

“That’s why we’re fighting for the Construction Justice Act – city legislation to help fix this broken system,” Prohaska said. “If the CJA were already law, contractors like Joy Construction would have to meet clear standards for how they treat and pay construction workers who build Edgemere Commons and other city-subsidized affordable housing developments.”