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Manhattan Prosecutors Go After Builders for Construction Site Safety Concerns

construction siteApproximately 35% of on-site injuries are caused by construction machine accidents annually, and as the rate of those accidents has surged in New York City, prosecutors are looking to go up against builders who they say have sacrificed safety for progress.

In late August, prosecutor Diana Florence gathered a group of worker advocates and foreign-consulate representatives and proceeded to express the importance of photographing unsafe construction sites, truthfully reporting injuries and speaking to investigators, who they said wouldn’t turn in undocumented workers.

“Our workers are our witnesses and our victims,” said Hildalyn Colon-Hernandez, an immigrant-affairs coordinator in the district attorney’s office.

A construction boom in New York City has incentivized builders to cut corners in multiple areas, safety being one of them.

In light of these circumstances, the city’s Department of Investigation and other agencies formed a task force to investigate worker deaths, fraudulent safety inspections, and other crimes that could play a role in creating unsafe conditions for workers.

There were 92 million square feet of new construction in 2015, a major increase from 2011. In that same time frame, the rate of construction-related accidents nearly tripled from 128 in 2011 to 435 in 2015.

However, safety issues aren’t the only things builders have been accused of in New York City recently.

Real estate developers Jeshayahu Boymelgreen, Itzhak Katan, and Domenick Tonacchio have just agreed to settle allegations of Martin Act Violations.

The developers allegedly committed violations such as failure to complete construction of projects after selling units and failure to remedy the alleged construction defects that remained as a result.

“Today’s settlement should serve as a lesson to other developers who choose to ignore and break the rules,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

“We will not hesitate to take tough action against unscrupulous individuals who violate the rights of purchasers and tenants,” he added.

While Schneiderman succeeded in his lawsuit, other prosecutors in New York City still have a long journey ahead of them if they want to hold builders accountable.

Past attempts to bring manslaughter charges to construction accidents have been futile, but they aren’t giving up just yet.

Florence said she is choosing carefully where to place charges for the time being.