EST Geiger Blasts Mayor de Blasio Over Nonunion Construction Deaths

Posted On by
Crains New York Business
Rosa Goldensohn
September 16, 2016


A chorus of construction industry union leaders blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday for what they called his inappropriate response to a Crain’s report that the city’s count of construction deaths excluded a third of fatalities last year.

Crain’s learned that six of the 17 construction deaths in New York last year escaped the city’s official count. “If any other industry experienced 17 deaths in one year, there would be swift and meaningful action taken to protect life,” Joseph Azzopardi, secretary treasurer of District Council 9 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, said in a statement.

“Once again, this administration picks the statistics that fit their false narrative of being a progressive leader,” said Bobby Bonanza, business manager of the Mason Tenders District Council. “Deaths are deaths — count them.”

Joseph Geiger, executive secretary-treasurer of the local District Council of Carpenters, demanded an apology from the mayor.

“To cavalierly dismiss the under-reporting of workplace fatalities on construction projects as an ‘accounting distinction’ is an insult to every employee who sets foot on a construction project in this city, and particularly to every family member of those workers whose lives were lost but not deemed worthy of being counted by the Department of Buildings,” said Geiger, referring to a statement by the mayor’s spokesman.

De Blasio has enjoyed a tight relationship with many city unions, including SEIU 32BJ and 1199 and the retail workers’ union. But he has been at odds with city construction unions, who wanted a piece of his affordable housing plan but largely did not get it.

In 2015, the federal count of construction deaths in the city exceeded the city’s by six. The Department of Buildings, which issues statistics on construction deaths for the city, does not include fatalities that involve workplace safety issues. Only deaths that trigger a violation of the city’s construction code make the cut.

Meanwhile on Thursday, an architect fell to his death at a midtown condominium conversion project.

The death is considered within the Department of Building’s jurisdiction, and will make the city count because the man created an immediate hazard to the public by being 48 stories up near a ledge and he was not properly secured, an agency spokesman said. It is the threat the architect posed to the public that puts the death in the agency’s purview. DOB issued a full stop-work order on the project.

“No building is worth a person’s life,” said the spokesman in a statement. “We’re determined to change the mindset among some in the construction industry that accidents are just the cost of doing business.”