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Construction Worker Fatalities Result in Task Force Formation

An alarming increase in New York City construction worker deaths and injuries this year has resulted in the formation of the Construction Fraud Task Force. This is an interagency effort to investigate and correct unsafe practices in the construction industry in New York. The precipitating event in forming the task force was the death of a worker and subsequent filing of criminal charges against the managers and companies operating a construction site at 9-19 Ninth Avenue.

Construction companies have reacted predictably, with representatives of the construction industry saying that the new group will only make a difficult job even harder and that construction companies are being unfairly targeted.

However, city statistics show that construction-related deaths increased in the first half of 2015. If current trends continue, the number of construction fatalities in 2015 could be double the number for 2014. There have been eight deaths so far this year; there were eight construction deaths in all of 2014.

The mandate of the group, which will meet monthly, is to investigate fraud, bribery, extortion, money laundering, bid rigging and safety violations. The construction companies that the task force will oversee have been operating at unprecedented levels in 2015. The number of building permits issued this year promises to be greater than any year in recent memory.

The city recently filed criminal charges against Sky Materials and HARCO Construction and two supervisors. The city also suspended HARCO's contractor's license and issued a stop work order for a construction site where Sky Materials was a subcontractor.

"There are human consequences to New York City's historic building boom," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said. "A rush to develop can often result in hazardous lapses in safety practices. Unfortunately, many of these dangers are only exposed after the lives of workers and residents are jeopardized, which is why my office and our partners have formed the Construction Fraud Task Force to investigate proactively construction-related crimes that threaten the integrity of the industry and safety of the city."

Whether the new task force will be able to halt the tragic loss of life that appears linked to the current construction boom remains to be seen.

Source: Real Estate Weekly