Construction Costs

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

WNYC reporters Matthew Schuerman and Cindy Rodriguez talk about their recent investigation into building related deaths in NYC. Also Aaron Brashear, Chair of Brooklyn Community Board 7's Buildings & Construction Committee, on safety issues and oversight at construction sites. How you can help investigate building safety in your neighborhood.
The DOB has an online database of building permits. Here's how you can look up whether a construction site is properly permited:
1) Go to this website.
2) In the first field, enter the address of the building you want to look up.
3) Scroll down and click on "Jobs/Filings." This is where you will find open permits for the building.
4) Search through the permits - they are listed chronologically - and check for the relevant permit, such as scaffolding or installations. You can click on the permit number itself to get more details.

If you notice a missing permit or discrepancy, dial 311 to report it, and you can post your finding to the comments page below, which the WNYC newsroom will be checking regularly.


Aaron Brashear

Comments [20]

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Nov. 21 2008 03:39 PM
Liam from Manhattan

I am a Certified Industrial Hygienest with 20 years experiance in the construction and environmental field.
Everyone seems to be focused on the physical hazards (falling scaffolds & crains)associated with construction.
I think a much more serious matter is exposure to Silica dust from all the facade work going on in Manhattan.
If 24 hours after washing the car, I have a 1/8 inch of dust on it, then the levels must be significant.
OSHA specifically regulates exposure to Silica, but every contractor I have talked to looks at me as if I am making it up.
In addition, there are no requirements for monitoring the environment while such work is being done, as there is with asbestos.I do not know of any study to evaluate the publics exposure and belive this is an issue which really needs to be addressed.

Nov. 20 2008 03:54 PM
George from East Village

The problem of safety to tenants living in buildings where construction from alterations and renovations occur has been left out of the discussion. 311 is useless to address the immediate action needed when an occupied apartment building is consumed for days by dust from the gutting of an apartment. 311 complaints give the victims of construction negligence the false impression that something will be done. Construction negligence on small jobs does not have the sensationalism of falling cranes but they affect hundreds of tenants daily by creating health hazards. This is especially dangerous where children are present
Lead dust contamination occurred in my building where a low bid contractor employed untrained laborers for demolition of an interior and dry sanding of a painted brick wall. No vent fans, dust masks, door covers were in use. And no concern for anyone in the building. The construction alterations obviously exceeded the Type 2 permit displayed. A complaint filed in May was inspected in August, after the renovation was completed, and found to be in compliance with Self certified plans.

Nov. 19 2008 01:48 PM
Leonardo from Queens

#13 - Celia from Flatbush - ANswer to your question: ABSOLUTELY yes. - THe DOB will not address any issues with poor or substandard construction or structural damages to adjacent buildings. THe DOB will only step in to issue violations (CYA)ONLY when there is an accident involing the Fire Department, Police, Ambulances and or the media OR when somebody is killed or Injured. If buildings do not meet code or are damaged to make them vulnerable later on, that is not something they are concerned with as they have 'SELF CERTIFICATION'. If there is a problem later on, they can always issue violations as a form of 'CYA' for the City.

Nov. 19 2008 12:20 PM
F.Minichiello from Brooklyn

After having attended many meeting re;construction in the sheepshead bay area-it is not understaffing but pure corruption that plagues the buildings dept. and construction industry.

fines shoudl be a % of the value of the project and all work should be stopped until the fine is paid.

Nov. 19 2008 11:58 AM
Richard from Downtown, NYC

If you ever have dealt with the DOB you would know it's not an agency looking for change. Actually, I've seen supervisors and inspectors laugh at the idea.

Nov. 19 2008 11:36 AM
Leonardo from Queens

Can Matthew Schuerman and Cindy Rodriguez look at the DOB database or ask the DOB to look at what percentage of complaints files by adjacent property owners or tenants against illegal or unsafe working conditions were closed with the following: "Upon visual observation no violations were found" and are summarily closed by DOB with no action. I'm willing to bet that it's close to 100% of complaints where no real inspection and no action takes place

Nov. 19 2008 10:59 AM
Celia from Flatbush

In addition to the unconsciounable danger to the construction workers lives, are the buildings' structures being compromised by developers who use untrained or under-trained workers?

Nov. 19 2008 10:58 AM
Leonardo from Queens

Based on the comments here and on the fine reporting done by Matthew Schuerman and Cindy Rodriguez it seems that we are only looking at one the results of the construction boom - The unfortunate death of construction workers.
In the investigative report there is no mention of 'Self-certification' which is a program instituted by the Bloomberg administration to allow developers and contractors to self certify their work - The DOB has refused to really inspect any sites as a result of 311 complaints. There is no mention of the 100's if not thousands of existing housing structures that have been damaged or whose structure has been compromised due to unsafe and illegal work done by contractors with the tacit approval of the DOB.

Nov. 19 2008 10:56 AM
Robert from New York

I've tried to report unsafe conditions and found it absolutely onerous -- there's construction going on on 14th Street, Manhattan, just west of Fifth avenue. They were lifting huge steel I-beams off trucks up and over the sidewalk, people walking underneath, no protection. I called 311 one weekend as I walked by. "Have to wait until Monday" they said. I called back on Monday -- after five minutes trying to simply ask someone to send someone around I gave up -- I was late for work. Simply got the long runaround. Now they have some rudimentary cover over the sidewalk, but the entire thing looks very iffy.

Nov. 19 2008 10:46 AM
John from clifton, nj

I have 30 years in construction, 15 in NYC Union construction; The unions have alot of problems, but they are very focused on safe work procedures & training; anyone, jobsite worker, or passerby, with any concerns can call OSHA'S 800 number; And OSHA's fines are BRUTAL, and contracters fear them; they do a great job.

Nov. 19 2008 10:46 AM
Norman from NYC

File a Freedom of Information request and you can get federal OSHA data for as far back as you want. If you have any trouble getting the information call Jerrold Nadler's office and ask them to contact OSHA.

Nov. 19 2008 10:41 AM
Robert from NYC

Not very many are going to "lament" the slowdown in construction, Brian. Not many want 20 story unaffordable housing in their 6 story structure neighborhoods.

Nov. 19 2008 10:40 AM
Norman from NYC

I disagree that there's a necessary rate of death in construction.

OSHA and others have safety researchers who have been studying construction accidents for over 50 years. They've established standard workplace safety rules, for electrical devices, falls, trench collapses, etc.

It's hard to find a workplace death that didn't violate one of the rules.

Nov. 19 2008 10:40 AM
Christina from Brooklyn

This has been an ongoing problem for years. Non-union construction workers are at greater risk. Almost 10 yrs ago Jimmy Breslin wrote about Eduardo Guttierez, and we are still talking about the safety risks. Unfortunately, greed trumps safety.

Nov. 19 2008 10:38 AM
nick from manhattan

Im an architect working in manhattan on mostly union jobs. they have their share of accidents, but are far safer. the only reason that the number would level is that union jobs tend to be more complex, bigger and more dangerous.

my biggest issue with DOB is that when i call in unsafe construction practices, work without permit, etc. DOB doesn't show for several days.

RE: fines. if the fine isn't greater than the cost of loosing a day's work... it wont be followed.

Nov. 19 2008 10:37 AM
Norman from NYC

John Hess, the NYT investigative reporter, said some stories are perennials. He would start on a new expose, look in the NYT morgue, and find that the NYT had written a story about it every 10 years. That's how long it takes for a new generation of newspaper readers to come along.

Nov. 19 2008 10:35 AM
Norman from NYC

How many people die every year in workplace accidents in NYC? OSHA collects good statistics on that.

Nov. 19 2008 10:33 AM
bob from huntington

no one disputes that there are safety issues at NYC construction sites as builders try to hold down the cost of business by cutting corners and hiring illegal immigrant labor. but, as you examined in an earlier show, there is also the problem of workers putting themselves in harms way by showing up on sites unable to read or speak english--which is the cost of circumventing the legal immigration process.

Nov. 19 2008 10:07 AM
Joe Denaro from Manhattan

Please discuss the "lack of oversight" during these past eight years of Bush, and its impact on the emasculation of OSHA as it relates to the construction fatalities here in NYC.
Thank You!

Nov. 19 2008 08:28 AM

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