Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I received the following postcard in today's mail...

Dear Brothers & Sisters,
Due to improvements and the efficiencies that are apparent at your local union, as promised by me and your General President Douglas McCarron to minimize the duration of supervision of your local, I am pleased to invite all members of Local 157 to an informational meeting outlining the path to restoration of your locals independence from supervision.

This meeting will take place on Wednesday May 7, 2008 at 5:00 PM at the NYCDC Labor Technical College 2nd fl, common Room, 395 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014

Summary of Business
  • UBC Eastern District Vice President/Local 157 supervisior Frank Spencer addresses membership on local supervision status.
  • Nominations from the floor shall be held for position of election committe member from the local for the upcoming local delegate and Executive Office elections to be held Fall 2008

Also as an early notice that shall be repeated, pleses be aware the nominations for the ten (10) local officer positions and local delegate positions to the District Council shall take place in July, further notice to follow.

The term for the local delegates to the District council shall be36 months (3yrs.) and the term for local union officers shall be for thirth three months (2yrs. 9 mos.), so that these terms shall revert to their respective usual regular terms as per UBC Constitution Section 31 and District council By-Laws.

Frank Spencer
UBC Vice President Eastern District/Supervisor Local 157

Steel Worker Falls 25 Feet From Building


Just one day after thousands of workers gathered to mourn the loss of the 13 people killed in construction accidents in New York City this year, a steel worker was critically injured on Tuesday when he fell 25 feet from a building under construction on East 29th Street in Manhattan.

The authorities said the worker, Christopher Gunn, 28, was trying to maneuver a 20-foot steel I-beam being hoisted into place by a crane about 8:30 a.m. when he slipped and fell from the second story of the building, which is under construction between First Avenue and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.

What caused him to fall was unclear, but workers said that an early morning drizzle might have made the steel slippery, and that Mr. Gunn was seen grabbing for the I-beam to steady himself.

Mr. Gunn fell to a concrete slab, fracturing his safety helmet and losing consciousness, according to witnesses.

He underwent three hours of surgery at Bellevue Hospital Center, where he was in critical condition late Tuesday afternoon, said Minerva Joubert, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

The accident occurred during Construction Safety Week and the day after the ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral honoring those killed in construction accidents this year. It is unclear how many were killed at building sites during the first three months of 2007, but the total of 13 so far this year is one more than died in all of 2007.

The city and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are looking into the cause of several fatal accidents. The most recent occurred April 14, when Kevin Kelly, a 25-year-old worker who was installing windows at a condominium under construction on East 67th Street, fell to his death from the 23rd floor, apparently because a strap failed.

The series of construction accidents has caused an upheaval at the Department of Buildings, which has oversight over building safety and code violations. Patricia J. Lancaster resigned as buildings commissioner last week amid city and state hearings on construction safety.

Robert D. LiMandri, the acting buildings commissioner, who visited the 29th Street construction site less than an hour after Mr. Gunn was taken to Bellevue, said the department would take a hard line if violations of building codes or work rules were found to be a factor in his fall.

“We are going to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “Development must not take place at the expense of the workers building our city.”

The city issued a stop-work order at the site, temporarily halting the operations of steel workers. It also issued several building code violations against the general contractor, Turner Construction, but none appeared to be directly related to Mr. Gunn’s fall.

Chris McFadden, a spokesman for Turner, said Tuesday evening that Mr. Gunn was “in full compliance with safety regulations” set by the federal government, and that the company was “continuing to cooperate with the New York City Department of Buildings and their ongoing investigation.”

Mr. Gunn was working for a subcontractor, Falcon Steel Company, a unit of Helmark Steel Inc. of Wilmington, Del. Helmark officials did not respond to a telephone inquiry.

City buildings inspectors said that Mr. Gunn was wearing a safety harness, as required under federal safety rules, but that the harness was not tied to a steel girder or any other object that would have stopped him from falling. The Buildings Department said it was investigating whether “this particular step in the steel operation required the worker’s safety harness to be tied off.”

John Chavez, a spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said Mr. Gunn would not have been required to be secured by a safety strap if he was working no higher than 30 feet.

Carlos Nazario, 38, another worker, said Mr. Gunn was standing on a sheet of corrugated steel that had been installed as temporary flooring on the second story of the building’s framework. Mr. Gunn “was trying to hold the beam, and he slipped sideways,” Mr. Nazario said.

“They weren’t doing anything wrong,” Mr. Nazario said. He said that since workers moving around the framework of a project in its early stages of construction needed to move frequently, they would be constrained or even tripped up if they were tied to safety straps.

The East 29th Street building is to be 15 stories high and is part of a complex known as the East River Science Park. The project has received financial backing from the Partnership for New York City, a business group, and is intended to attract research operations from the pharmaceutical and medical industries.

In another serious construction accident on Monday, a 48-year-old worker was critically injured when he was run over by a front-end loader as he was working on a sewer pipe project on Staten Island, the authorities said. The man, whose identity was not disclosed, was in critical condition late Tuesday at Richmond University Medical Center.

The project is being carried out by the city’s Department of Design and Construction, and the worker was employed by Halcyon Construction Corporation of Pleasantville, N.Y. Officials of both the city department and Halcyon said the cause remained under investigation and declined to comment further.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mass pays tribute to construction workers who 'did not die in vain'

By Michael Daly -- Daily News

Just before 2 p.m. Monday, the hands that built New York began filling St. Patrick's Cathedral for a Mass in memory of the 26 construction workers who died in this city in the past 12 months.

At the head of the procession were the union banners for the ironworkers and the cement workers and the electricians and the carpenters and the steam fitters and all the other building trades that comprise what the presiding priest likes to call "the blue-collar symphony."

The banner for Local 14-14B of the International Union of Operating Engineers was borne with the help of 10-year-old Robert Bleidner, proud in a white hardhat.

"His father was operating the crane," the boy's uncle explained.

He meant the crane that suddenly collapsed on March 15, killing Wayne Bleidner and five other construction workers.

A brown hardhat belonging to one of the others who died that day sat on a row of empty chairs that stood in symbolic tribute before the altar.

This hat looked like it had been worn to hundreds of jobs and seemed all the more sacred for having been cracked by the force of the accident. The name stenciled on the back seemed a silent prayer.

"Tony Mazza."

Thousands more hardhats were worn by the construction workers who followed the banners in from the rain. Msgr. Robert Richie, the rector and the son of a union electrician, warmly welcomed them to the cathedral the Pope had visited nine days before.

"We had one very important visitor just about a week ago," Richie said. "Now we have 3,000 important visitors."

The chief celebrant of the Mass was Father Brian Jordan, who had forged a bond with the construction workers while serving as chaplain at Ground Zero. He called out something not often heard in the cathedral after the opening prayer.

"Please remove your hardhats."

The words repeated during the responsorial psalm at this Mass had a particular poignancy.

"Lord, give success to the work of our hands."

In the homily, Jordan called everyone's attention to the hardhats set on the empty chairs.

"They did not die in vain," Jordan said. "They upheld the dignity of human labor. As many raindrops came out today, they couldn't match the tears we have cried."

An FDNY memorial bell was rung once after each of the 26 names was read. Then came a moment of silence and the consecration and the ritual line, "Do this in memory of me."

The words seemed to hang in the air, for so little has been done in memory of all the construction workers who perished over the years building the skyline and the subways and the bridges and the water tunnels and everything else.

The forgotten include marble worker Andrew Brown, who once wowed a crowd by climbing up to make a repair within two feet of the cross atop one of the cathedral's spires only to die in a fall in April 1905 while installing a turret in the northeast transept.

Over a century later in the cathedral that Brown gave his life helping to build, thousands of construction workers raised their hardhats overhead in a sign of respect for their comrades who had been killed or injured.

A measure of how little respect the workers have felt from the rest of the city came when Jordan uttered what proved to be the most rousing words of the memorial.

"No more negativity, no more stereotypes. We stick together as sisters and brothers!"

The assembled workers applauded and cheered not just each other, but all who had come before them and all who will come after.

"Hardhats on!" Jordan then said.

Their heads nobly covered again, they trooped back into the rain with their proud banners.

Young Robert Bleidner was with the banner for Local 14-14B, both his hands on the pole, his eyes steady under the brim of a hardhat that we should not have needed a tragedy to honor.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Buildings Department Boss Undone by Her Lack of Savvy

By Kirsten Danis

She didn't see it coming.

Things had not been going well for Patricia Lancaster for weeks - even months - but when the city's first female buildings commissioner walked into a meeting with Mayor Bloomberg on Tuesday morning, she was not ready to resign.

Instead, Lancaster prepared for the fateful meeting by pulling together an update for her bosses on last month's deadly crane accident.

After all, Bloomberg had never ousted a high-ranking commissioner, not when the 2003 Staten Island ferry accident killed 11 people, not when 11 abused children died on the city's watch in 2005 and 2006 and not when two firefighters perished in August after the FDNY neglected to inspect the former Deutsche Bank building.

That morning, Lancaster, 54, would be the first.

Lancaster knew City Hall was growing cool, friends said. "She was starting to get a sense that she wasn't seen as a solution," said one friend.

Still, the commissioner - who has said she resigned and was not fired - did not start last week knowing she would end it without a job, sources said.

Bloomberg markets himself as a manager, not a politician, which makes it all the more ironic that Lancaster, a competent manager, was done in because she couldn't finesse the politics.

"She's never been part of the inner circle, ever," said one former city official who admires Lancaster. "She was never really confident with the folks at City Hall."

Most insiders agree that the beginning of the end for Lancaster came in January, when her department became the responsibility of Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler after six years under departing Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff.

Skyler, who also oversees the NYPD and FDNY, had a tougher eye for safety and operations.

Lancaster's biggest accomplishments - overhauling the building code and transforming the agency's paper-jammed files into an online, searchable system - will help build Bloomberg's legacy.

But they didn't help Lancaster when construction workers started falling from the sky. Thirteen people have died in building accidents so far this year, just one less than died in all of 2007.

Skyler was keenly aware of the department's public image, having been Bloomberg's spokesman for four years.

By all accounts smart, honest and dedicated, Lancaster wasn't savvy with the media (she told the Daily News last year she was afraid of walking under scaffolding) and didn't always grasp that in a crisis, just looking like you're in charge is half the battle.

"She was never really good at getting that persona out there," said the former official.

Recently, City Hall started pushing Lancaster into the spotlight, coming up with programs to show the department was working to prevent - and not just responding to - scaffolding and high rise accidents.

Even when the crane collapsed on March 15, killing seven people, Lancaster's fate wasn't necessarily sealed.

That moment came at a City Council hearing two weeks ago, when Lancaster conceded the tower under construction at the crane site did not conform with zoning codes and was wrongly given permits.

The testimony left the impression that the tower never would have been built if not for the continuing incompetence of the Buildings Department. In fact, it almost certainly would have gone up with some tweaks.

Another public relations misstep by Lancaster, but this time, it was fatal.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Construction Worker Hurt in Scaffold Fall at NYC Arts Center

NEW YORK (AP) — Only hours after the city announced plans to ratchet up scrutiny of construction dangers, a construction worker was seriously hurt in a 25-foot plunge off a scaffold at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, authorities said.

The worker fell off a platform in the famed arts complex Wednesday night and was taken to a hospital in serious condition, the Fire Department said. No update on his condition was immediately available early Thursday.

Authorities and construction managers were investigating what caused the fall. The worker had been certified to work on a scaffold and was wearing a safety harness, and the site's safety experts had followed their standard practice of meeting to discuss the work before it began, said Chris McFadden, a spokesman for construction manager Turner Construction Co.

It wasn't immediately clear what the worker was doing when he fell. The complex — home to the New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic and the Juilliard School, among other arts organizations — is in the midst of a major overhaul involving several of its buildings.

"Those of us at Lincoln Center are sending him our thoughts and prayers tonight," Lincoln Center spokeswoman Betsy Vorce said of the worker, who she said was conscious when taken for treatment.

The man's fall came amid heightened attention to construction accidents, which have killed 13 people in the city so far this year — one more victim than in all of 2007. Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster resigned Tuesday after Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't satisfied with her agency.

Acting Commissioner Robert LiMandri on Wednesday ordered engineering experts to inspect construction sites and recommend changes he said would swiftly be put into effect.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Memorial Day Mass

Dear friends of the BCTC and the BTEA,

Greetings, April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day and in light of the terrible tragedy of March 15 in the East Side of Manhattan, members both from construction worker unions and construction company management have come together to sponsor a special Construction Workers’ Memorial Mass on that same day. The Mass will begin sharply at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 28th in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st.

All construction workers, union members and construction management personnel are most welcome to attend. Not only will we solemnly remember the six construction workers who were called home to God on March 15 but also the other Workers who died on the worksite since last year’s April Workers’ Memorial Day.

We respectfully request that all construction workers who are attending the Mass as a Sign of solidarity among construction workers in New York City, be by St Patrick’s Cathedral by no later than 1:30 p.m. We will have the New York Police Department coordinate a procession route on 5th Avenue and adjoining streets in which participating construction workers WEARING HARDHATS will process into St. Patrick’s Cathedral where you will be seated by the ushers.

Please bring your hardhats for this procession. You will take them off after the opening prayer! Management is encouraged to join in the procession wearing hardhats as well. Those not wearing hardhats should not process but just enter through the side doors of the church.


All family members of our deceased brethren will be up in the front of the church previously seated. All family members should be in the Cathedral by no later than 1:45 p.m. Please identify yourselves to both the ushers and the union representatives who will greet you and escort you to the front of the church of your assigned seating.

The Memorial Mass will include appropriate music performed by the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Music Ministry, readings and the general intercessions to be read by family members. There will be a special ritual of remembrance in which family members, select union officials and management officials will participate to honor our loved ones. Along with the homily, there will be some brief reflections about the solemnity of Workers’ Memorial Day. The Memorial Mass should conclude between 3:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Besides the deceased, we will also remember those injured on the worksite this past year.

This Memorial Mass will also serves as a spiritual sign of solidarity among construction workers in our city. This noble profession of construction work poses greater risks than the NYPD or FDNY. Construction workers are more liable to death and injury than most other professions in this great city, THEREFORE, WE RESPECTFULLY REQUEST THAT ALL UNION CONSTRUCTION WORKERS MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO BE PRESENT AND PRAY FOR OUR CO-WORKERS AND SHO SOLOIDARITY!

Thank you ---The planning Committee for the Construction Workers’ Memorial Day Mass

New York Buildings Commissioner Resigns


Facing a loss of support at City Hall and growing criticism for an increase in construction accidents, Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster resigned on Tuesday.

In accepting her resignation, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said she had moved the Buildings Department “a long way forward by fighting corruption, strengthening inspections and oversight, increasing the public’s access to information, and bringing increased levels of professionalism and integrity to all levels of her agency.”

For more than six years, Ms. Lancaster, a 54-year-old architect, has labored to overhaul an antiquated agency with a history of corruption, inefficiency and missing records, while coping with a building boom that stretched the department to the limits of its resources.

In her own statement, Ms. Lancaster said she had been honored to serve in the Bloomberg administration, urging her “talented and capable” agency of 1,286 workers to “keep up the hard work: you’ve made so much important progress.”

Ms. Lancaster, the first woman to lead the troubled agency and one of the only commissioners to leave the administration under a cloud, is leaving after a series of bureaucratic snafus and high-profile accidents cast a shadow over her achievements.

Those achievements included rewriting the city’s much-maligned Building Code.

The Bloomberg administration had made it a priority to reform the Buildings Department, making it more efficient and streamlining its procedures to make development easier. But that task clashed with the enforcement of safety procedures in a city where construction cranes were everywhere on the skyline.

“She did a terrific job in getting the department back on track,” said the developer Douglas Durst.

But clearly, Mayor Bloomberg was unhappy. This week, after Ms. Lancaster revealed that the East Side building — the scene of a fatal crane accident last month — should not have received building permits, Mr. Bloomberg expressed dismay. “I don’t think anybody should be fully satisfied with the Department of Buildings’ performance,” he said.

In January, after the departure of Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, Mr. Bloomberg moved the department to the group of public safety and infrastructure agencies like police, fire, sanitation, transportation and emergency management that report to Edward Skyler, the deputy mayor for operations to redefine the agencies’ missions.

“Your job is to save lives,” he told staff members at an agencywide meeting in February. “That means that it’s your duty to make sure that anyone reporting to any construction job, anywhere in the five boroughs, shouldn’t have to worry about going home safely that night. And let me make it as clear as I can: Simply shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘Well, after all, construction work is a dangerous occupation,’ is behavior that will not be tolerated from anyone.”

Nominations and Election of Officers Scheduled for Local 157

Updated May 8th, 4:10 PM...

Finally the Official Local 157 website has some useful information. After being dark since March, the site now reports that the Internationals supervision team has announced a “tentative” meeting schedule for Local 157, which includes nomination and election of officers.

We are informed the following is the 2008 tentative Local 157 meeting schedule:

  • May 7, informational meeting
  • July 21, nominations of executive board and delegates to the district council
  • August 18, candidates will be given an opportunity to address the membership
  • September 17, elections of officers
  • October 8, Local 157 delegated sworn in, attend their first District Council delegate meeting
  • October 20 local 157 Executive Officers sworn in and assume their positions

Nominations for Local 157 officers include: President, Vice-President, Recording Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, Conductor, Warden and Three Trustees, also Thirteen Delegate Body positions to the District Council of New York City and Vicinity of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

Members will be notified by mail, will update as more information becomes available.

Bloomberg Criticizes Department of Buildings


A big upswing in deadly construction accidents - including a terrifying Midtown crane collapse - has Mayor Bloomberg taking a new hard look at the problem-plagued Department of Buildings.

In an unusual public admission, Bloomberg said today he is not happy with the department.

"I don't think anybody should be fully satisfied with the Department of Buildings performance," the mayor said during an appearance at the city's 311 call center in lower Manhattan.

"Whether they've done everything they can or not is something that I'm looking at," the mayor continued.

There have been a dozen fatal construction accidents in the first half of the year, compared to the same number last year, the mayor said.

A citywide building boom may be leading to more accidents, but "that's not an excuse," Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg, who prides himself on loyalty, generally defends agencies and their commissioners even after major mishaps.

Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster stunned the City Council last week when she conceded that a 43-story tower where a crane collapse killed seven people last month should never have gone up.

That news came on the heels of the revelation that a crane inspector allegedly signed off on the crane without ever looking at it. The inspector was arrested five says after the March 15 accident.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Local Union 157 Club Meeting

Important Update...

To All Local 157 Brothers and Sisters:

The scheduled April 21, Local 157 Club Meeting is a GO!

Kindly attend a Special Call Meeting of Local Union 157, which will be held on Monday April 21, 2008 at 4:00 pm at 375 Third Avenue at 27th Street, New York NY 10010.

Topics to be discussed: The Supervision of Local 157 and The UBC Constitution

I strongly urge you to attend this special meeting and to encourage your fellow Brothers and Sisters to attend this meeting.

Also please post notice of this meeting at your job site, click here for Meeting Notice Flyer.

Any question that you would like to have addressed at the meeting use the comment link below and please posts them.

What's Up With The Local 157 Website?

Who's running things? After almost 2 months of being dark there is no information and still more weird things going on with the Official Local 157 website. The site as of April 21st, now says "Being Updated Please Check Back." That was before it said "Being Updated Please Check Back Tomorrow" which was posted on April 14, and that was before this "New Redesigned Official Website" that union officials tout, has “All The Facts and The Union Information You Need” has been a blank screen since the beginning of March.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Precaution On High Offers No Guarantee

A construction crewBy THOMAS J. LUECK

In the decades since steelworkers balanced at dizzying heights over Manhattan with little to prevent them from falling, high-rise construction has been layered in safety regulations and equipment. From straps and harnesses to guardrails and nets, safety devices have reduced the risk that a slip-up will lead to a death.

But the limits of construction safety are being tested in the city. Amid a building boom, 10 people have been killed since January in high-rise job site accidents, some because a simple piece of safety equipment failed.

That was the case on Monday, when Kevin Kelly, 25, a worker who was installing windows on the 23rd floor of a condominium tower on East 67th Street, fell to his death. An initial investigation by the city found that Mr. Kelly did nothing wrong, but that a nylon safety strap that was intended to secure him to the building pulled loose from its mooring.

Inspectors believe that other nylon devices, slings valued at about $50 apiece, played a crucial role in the most deadly construction accident in years. Seven people were killed on March 15 when a 200-foot crane toppled at another high-rise project on the Upper East Side. The nylon slings, which appeared to have torn, were being used to install a six-ton collar that would fasten the crane to the building.

With developers and contractors under pressure to maintain tight schedules, people in the construction industry fear more accidents, if not fatalities.

“There is no question that building quickly creates risks,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, which represents construction trade unions. He said the risks include inadequate training of workers in procedures and equipment, and the hurried installation of some required safety devices, including hooks, guardrails and cables.

In many cases, experts say, safety precautions are no match for human error. A 2000 study of fatal falls at construction sites around the country had numerous examples of workers dying for lack of a simple piece of equipment.

“They think, ‘It can’t happen to me,’ ” said Michael Gianatasio, an engineer and site safety consultant for large developers. “A guy will say he is not going to put on a harness because he is only going out on the edge for a minute,” he said. “How long does it take to fall? Less than a second.”

In one instance cited in the report, written by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a 37-year-old worker carrying metal decking material was blown off a roof by a gust of wind. He might have been saved by a safety harness, the federal agency said. In another, a 29-year-old ironworker steadied himself by placing one hand on a steel girder, and attempted to loosen a bolt from another girder using a wrench in his other hand. When his wrench slipped on the bolt, he lost his balance and fell 35 feet. In that case, as in several others, the report found that a safety cable and a harness could have stopped the fall.

But not all the deaths could be blamed on human error. The report described the fatal fall of a 29-year-old woman working as a cement finisher on the 13th floor of a high-rise. Intending to go to lunch, she was waiting for an electric lift, put her hands in her pockets, leaned on the lift’s safety gate, and fell through. Why the gate failed was not determined, the report said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides detailed specifications for an arsenal of required construction safety equipment, like straps, cables and hooks, some of which can be bought for less than $20 at a hardware store.

The regulations say that body harnesses, which are used by workers installing windows or working close to the edge of a high-rise floor, must be capable of stopping the fall of an object weighing 1,800 pounds, and be rigged so that they would not allow workers to fall more than six feet or hit the floor below. The harnesses, looped over workers’ shoulders and between their legs, are attached to a variety of hooks, cables and clips, which have their own federal specifications.

The attachments include steel D-rings, snap hooks and lifelines attached to the back of the safety harnesses, all with at least 5,000 pounds of tensile strength.

Guardrails can sometimes be used in place of safety harnesses. They must include three rails, one 39 inches to 45 inches high, one at least 21 inches high and another along the floor to prevent tools or small objects from sliding over the edge.

In New York, the death of Mr. Kelly, who was strapped properly into a harness and secured by a nylon cord to the building, has puzzled safety experts and prompted a broad investigation by the Department of Buildings at the East Side construction site.

Mr. Kelly, who fell from the 23rd floor to a balcony on the 14th floor of a 30-story condominium known as the Laurel, at 400 East 67th Street, had his entire safety system — the harness, a D-ring attached to his nylon strap, and the entire length of the safety strap — on his body when he fell. That came as a shock because the strap was supposed to have been tied off on a metal girder and set in concrete, making it all but impossible to pull from its mooring.

Mr. Kelly’s death immediately cast doubt on the way more than 100 safety straps had been implanted to protect window installers and other workers. Work was ordered halted by the city, and Patricia J. Lancaster, the city’s commissioner of buildings, said on Monday that “the method the crews used to install safety straps throughout the building” would be investigated.

Workers at several building sites said the fatal accidents had made them more vigilant about safety, and about checking the condition of their most basic equipment. “That’s the No. 1 rule: we’ve got to check everything,” said Isaiah Israel, a plumber working on a building on North Eighth Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “Every morning we come in, we check everything, we make sure it is lined up and secure, and then we start working.”

Friday, April 18, 2008



For all the economic doom and gloom we've been hearing, private-sector construction has been going gangbusters. But with several big-ticket public construction projects teetering, the question is: Will New York City's infrastructure keep pace?

Certainly, headlines on major city, state, Port Authority and MTA construction jobs haven't been pretty lately.

Financing has become an issue at the massive Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project. Madison Square Garden indicates that it's backing out of the $14 billion Moynihan Station project. Cost overruns are stretching the budgets for such major transit projects as the Fulton Transit Center and the No. 7 line extension

But these disappointing signals don't spell the end for the city's unprecedented building boom. The city set a record for construction spending in 2007 - an eye-popping $24.6 billion. The New York Building Congress forecasts that spending will top $25 billion this year and next year, too, despite announced cutbacks.

While the public megaprojects generally serve as a building boom's face, its strength rests in the breadth of construction activity, which continues to stretch across all five boroughs and throughout every category of building - including robust activity in the residential, commercial, hospitality, infrastructure, cultural, educational and health-care sectors.

Many factors that led to the record activity are still at play:

* New York needs to produce 20,000 housing units a year to keep up with population growth and replace aging units. Despite the well-documented housing boom of recent years, demand remains intense because we're still playing catch-up from the '90s, a decade in which new-housing production routinely fell below 10,000 units a year.

* The office sector - though heavily affected by economic trends - has some of the lowest vacancy rates and highest prices recorded. New York City lost some 13 million square feet of office space on 9/11; little was built in the following years. Yes, there'll be some drop-off in office-building activity, but with the World Trade Center, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America projects under construction, the pace will remain strong at least through 2009.

* The Bloomberg administration has adeptly overseen 79 rezonings, which have unlocked tremendous development potential in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs and will facilitate construction of more than 45,000 housing units and 40 million square feet of commercial space.

* Even the institutional sector, which includes entertainment, culture, education and health care, will demonstrate strength based on the ongoing construction of major new sports venues, the sustained influx of record numbers of tourists and major expansion programs, such as the one at Columbia University.

* Of all categories, again, the one most imperiled during lean times is government-construction spending, which accounts for half of all New York construction. Even here, a number of major infrastructure and transportation projects are already funded through the next few years.

Yet building for the city's future requires steady, multi-year investment in transportation, schools and other infrastructure needs. The state and local governments must continue to fund these projects even during difficult times. That's why such mechanisms as Mayor Bloomberg's now-dead congestion-pricing plan are so important: They provide a steady and dedicated flow of revenue for public projects.

It's possible and highly probable that megadevelopment projects and some infrastructure work will take longer to build out and that some plans might not be realized. But given all the positive indicators, it's hard - even in this economic climate - to envision a significant deterioration in building activity anytime soon.

The city's private sector will keep moving forward, if at a somewhat less breathless pace.

Let's hope the government does its part, too.

8 NYC Tower Cranes Fail Inspection

AP--A citywide inspection of construction cranes like the one that killed seven people when it toppled last month found that eight of the 29 were not in compliance with safety regulations, the city Department of Buildings said Thursday.

The Buildings commissioner also said that a review found the construction site where the collapse occured was in violation of zoning laws.

Of the eight so-called tower cranes that failed inspection, six had safety-related violations including broken decelerators and missing pins, while two had administrative violations such as not having the proper paperwork.

Seven of the cranes were back in operation after contractors corrected the violations. But a stop-work order remains in effect for a crane at the new Goldman Sachs building in lower Manhattan.

That building, across from ground zero, was the scene of a serious accident in December when a crane's nylon sling ruptured and dropped seven tons of steel onto a construction trailer, injuring an architect.

The Department of Buildings said Thursday that one of three tower cranes at the Goldman Sachs site failed inspection after it was "jumped," or lengthened with a new section, on April 10. Inspectors determined that the collar and tie-ins connecting the crane to the 42nd and 43rd floors had not been installed according to plans.

Tishman Construction Corp. said in a statement that the crane was jumped in accordance with Building Department regulations. It said the stop work order for the crane occurred because of a mix-up with engineering drawings.

The department's safety sweep of tower cranes in the five boroughs was prompted by the March 15 accident that killed seven on Manhattan's East Side. In that incident, a steel collar used to secure the crane to the building came loose as the crane was being jumped, the buildings department said.

"The public can rest assured that the majority of the tower cranes did pass inspection, but our inspectors uncovered eight tower cranes with unacceptable violations," Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster said. "The Buildings Department shut down these cranes and required the individuals responsible to immediately address the violating conditions."

One of the cranes that initially failed inspection was at the Trump SoHo hotel-condominium project, where a construction worker plunged 40 stories to his death while helping to pour concrete in January.

When the Trump SoHo crane was inspected on March 21, its beacon light was inoperable and there were hairline cracks in the concrete slab on the 32nd floor near where the crane was secured to the building.

The buildings department had an independent engineering firm test the structural integrity of the concrete slab, and the crane was permitted to return to operation this week.

A spokeswoman for Bovis Lend Lease, the contractor at the Trump SoHo site, said she had no comment.

At a City Coucil hearing on crane safety earlier Thursday, Lancaster said the construction site had been reviewed at various stages of development before the collapse. Earlier this year, the Buildings Department reviewed the zoning code, and found that the building configuration would need to be changed, the department said.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tentative, Breaking News?

Weird things going on at Local 157. The Official Local 157 website says "Breaking News Next Local 157 Union Meeting Schedule For June 2008". Officials at the local would only confirm that "a meeting is tentatively planed but the details have not been worked out".

The site also says "Being Updated Please Check Back Tomorrow", that was 3 days ago.

Stay Informed Union News and Notices at our Redesigned Website

More weird things, before being update with the "Breaking News" about the union meeting, the New Redesigned Official Local 157 website that union officials tout has “All The Facts and The Union Information You Need” has been dark for the past 32 Days.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Construction Worker Falls to His Death on East Side of Manhattan

A construction worker fell to his death from an East Side building on Monday when a safety strap system intended to secure him to the building failed, the authorities said.

The worker, Kevin Kelly, 25, of Bayside, Queens, was installing windows at a condominium tower under construction when he fell from the 23rd floor to a 14th floor balcony at about 10:30 a.m. Contractors at the site of the 30 story tower, the Laurel, 400 East 67th Street at First Avenue, had been cited by city inspectors for 25 code violations during the last year, city officials said.

Patricia J. Lancaster, the city’s commissioner of buildings, said that Mr. Kelly’s fall remained under investigation, but that “a failure of the safety strap connecting the worker to the concrete ceiling played a role.” Late Monday, the Buildings Department said the entire strap had pulled out of its steel and concrete mooring, and remained attached to his harness when he fell.

The Buildings Department, which halted all work at the site, will investigate “the method the crews used to install safety straps throughout the building,” Ms. Lancaster said.

“We will be holding the individuals responsible for this terrible tragedy accountable,” Ms. Lancaster said during a visit to the site. “Construction companies, owners, architects and engineers have to obey the law.” Read more...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stand with 500,000 New Yorker's, Teamsters and Housing Authority Workers on May 1, 2008, Rally at City Hall!

From Joe's Union Review

Local 237/NYCHA members are stretched to the point of collapse, and residents of public housing – 500,000 citizens of NYC – are threatened with destruction of core services.

From Central Labor Council e-update
Teamsters Local 237 Rally at City Hall to Stop NYCHA Cuts – Thursday, May 1st, 12:00pm at City Hall. During the last eight years, the Bush administration has slashed the budget for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) by $611 million. As a result of the latest cuts announced by Bush, NYCHA has now announced it may be forced to lay off 190 more employees. Local 237/NYCHA members are stretched to the point of collapse, and residents of public housing – 500,000 citizens of NYC – are threatened with destruction of core services. Teamsters Local 237, representing 8,000 employees of NYCHA, has called a rally to spotlight the Bush destruction of public housing in NYC. Show your solidarity by supporting our Local 237 brothers and sisters at this rally!

From Teamster Local 237's website: The layoffs, scheduled for mid-April, include only one of the 8,000 Local 237 members who work for NYCHA, but lacking support staff, “Members will have to work even harder,” President Gregory Floyd was quoted in The Chief Leader as saying. About 1,500 of our members both live and work at HA facilities. “I hope the residents of public housing who have been silent and who need these services desperately begin to speak out.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Has NYC’s Ambitious Development Agenda Stalled?

By Alec Appelbaum

For New York City, April is the cruelest month. Just one year ago it was poised to embark on $12 billion worth of eye-catching new development centered on mass transit hubs, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a 127-point plan to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent while adding a million new residents by 2030. A lot has happened since then.

Autumn jitters over the sub-prime mortgage market snowballed during the winter into a talk of a full-blown recession, making it difficult for private developers—which the city and state rely on to help make its massive developments possible—to secure financing. Then, in March, political momentum for many of the projects faltered after New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign amid a prostitution scandal.

And, just this week, the state legislature refused to vote on creating a congestion charge for drivers entering Manhattan, passing up more than $350 million in federal funds for transportation improvements—a significant part of Bloomberg’s environmental agenda. The Yankees and Mets just took to the field, but New York City’s urban design agenda seems stuck in a rain delay. Here’s a look at the status of some of the largest projects.

Atlantic Yards: Developer Bruce Ratner hired Frank Gehry, in 2003, to masterplan a basketball arena and 17-tower district of retail, offices, and residences on 22 acres surrounding Brooklyn’s transit hub. It convinced the city and state to use eminent-domain, while neighbors sued—unsuccessfully, so far—to scale back plans. But Ratner’s inability to find an anchor office tenant for the development’s signature tower, which Gehry dubbed “Miss Brooklyn,” now threatens to delay construction by years. “We are committed to building the whole thing, it just might take a little longer than anticipated,” says spokesperson Lorin Riegelhaupt, projecting an arena and residential tower by late 2010, and another residential building soon after. To help Ratner find an anchor tenant for Miss Brooklyn, which had once targeted a 2010 opening, Gehry has sent a signed letter and sketch to a dozen or so CEOs, hoping to persuade them to relocate headquarters there.

5 World Trade Center: JPMorgan Chase promised, in 2007, to build a Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed headquarters for its investment-banking division on the site of 130 Liberty Street, an asbestos-laden building that was heavily damaged on September 11th, 2001. JPMorgan’s investment bankers are now set to move into Bear Stearns’s tower in midtown—JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns, the first victim of the credit crisis, in March—leaving the fate of 5 World Trade Center uncertain. In the meantime, crews are continuing to clear 130 Liberty Street. “We’re days away from full abatement,” says Lower Manhattan Development Corporation spokesman Mike Murphy, predicting that demolition of the building will finish by January 2009. Elsewhere at the World Trade Center site, developer Larry Silverstein began foundation work on several office towers this winter.

Fulton Street Transit Hub: According to Mysore Nagaraja, who until recently headed capital construction for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), just one contractor bid on the job to construct a Grimshaw-designed hub for nine subway lines underneath the Financial District. The offer was for $1 billion, well over the original estimated cost of $750 million. That experience, he said last year, would lead the MTA to redesign future bids in order to get better prices. The MTA has since recalibrated the Fulton Street bid. While it still promises an attractive new station, it refuses to say whether or not the facility will include a glazed oculus that had been the signature element of earlier designs. “Daylight has been an absolute driver,” Sir Nicholas Grimshaw told RECORD in March, “getting daylight down to the lower level and then just having decent finishes and clarity of where you’re going.” The MTA promises to release details about the project this year.

Hudson Yards: Five months after five different teams of developers and architects unveiled their schemes for developing Hudson Yards, to be located over a 26-acre rail yard fronting the Hudson River, in March the MTA chose developer Tishman Speyer’s $1 billion bid for a 99-year-lease (with several options to buy and sell). The site, known as Hudson Yards, represents Manhattan’s largest and last remaining undeveloped area. Tishman Speyer’s master plan, by Murphy/Jahn and Peter Walker Landscape Architects, had been widely panned by the press since it was unveiled. During the March 29 announcement that his bid had won, company chairman Jerry Speyer said that the design could end up changing as the site evolves. The developer has committed $2 billion to build a platform over the rail yards’ eastern portion, but everything else—including the timely expansion of subway service to the area—depends on an unstable economy. Tishman Speyer must also persuade the city to rezone portions of the site to allow taller, denser towers.

Jacob K. Javits Center: Lord Richard Rogers signed on with the state in 2005 to expand the city’s riverfront convention center, originally designed by I.M. Pei, located north of Hudson Yards. The project stalled during the last years of George Pataki’s governorship, as the original $1.4 billion cost projection proved unrealistic. Spitzer, Pataki’s successor, declared that the budget was at least $1 billion short and scrapped the expansion in favor of an onsite renovation that would cost under $200 million. His replacement, David Paterson, has not yet signaled his intentions. Mayor Bloomberg, meanwhile, mentioned in February that exploration of other sites closer to the city’s airports could make better sense for the state.

Moynihan Station: During the 1990s, New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan proposed that federal, state, and local authorities make a joint effort to replace Pennsylvania Station, a subterranean hub dating to the 1960s, with a soaring new station inside a Beaux Arts post office across the street, designed by McKim, Meade & White, who created the original, oft-mourned demolished station. Since then, the project has taken on the late statesman’s name but none of his enthusiasm. Its most recent iteration would have partially financed infrastructure improvements by allowing private developers Vornado and The Related Companies to construct 7 million square feet of office space nearby, and by moving Madison Square Garden into the post office along with the new rail hub. Spitzer had started cramming to shore up $2 billion in crucial funding—but when he departed, momentum did, too. The Garden’s owners announced on March 28 that they were breaking off talks to join the plan and would instead renovate the current arena. New York Senator Charles Schumer is now urging the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which holds $2 billion in assets for an unspecified regional project, to take the lead in negotiations.

World Trade Center PATH Station: Santiago Calatrava earned acclaim in 2004 for imagining an avian form for the lower Manhattan station of a commuter rail line that connects the city to New Jersey. After costs threatened to exceed a budgeted $2.2 billion, in February 2007 the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began a value-engineering study. Agency spokesperson Steve Coleman says it will be finished “soon” and that it will recommend to hold costs as close to the budget as the design allows—which might mean the station gets smaller. The project should open in 2011, Coleman adds, close to its original schedule.

Steel Rises at 11 Times Square: Largest Speculative Development in Midtown Manhattan is Ahead of Schedule

SJP Properties today announced the beginning of the steel erection at 11 Times Square, the 1.1 million square foot commercial and retail tower that is the largest speculative development under construction in Midtown Manhattan. Approximately 7,000 tons of superstructure structural steel will be utilized in the construction of the 40-story tower rising on the corner of 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue.

'The introduction of structural steel on site and the completion of the foundation are significant milestones for 11 Times Square,' said SJP Properties Chief Financial Officer David Welch. 'The arrival and implementation of the steel phase will allow interior core and floor framing for the structure to take shape. We remain ahead of schedule and will deliver the building for tenant occupancy by late 2009. Although we are still early in the construction process, there has already been tremendous tenant interest because the tower will be one of the most environmentally friendly buildings ever built in New York City and will offer the state-of-the-art, new generation space with highly efficient floors that is in such short supply in midtown.'

The location could not be more ideal for transportation. 11 Times Square will provide tenants with immediate access to 12 subway lines, with Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station just one subway stop away.

The development includes 53,000 square feet of retail on three levels and offers 14,000 square feet of commercial signage opportunities, including at the top of the building.

Monday, April 7, 2008

UBC Carpenters Video Release: Globalization, Who's Next?

From Joe's Union Review

"It's not Mexican, or Chinese, or Indian workers who are causing American workers problems, it's the wealthy and political elites who are using Globalization to reap more profits by driving down wages and benefits"- from video

Released by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Part 1 of 2

This is a must view for anyone in the construction industry who believes that they aren't affected by the wave of Globalization.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Prevailing Wages Yield Beneficial Results

Studies indicate that higher wages have minimal impact on construction cost

The issue of paying prevailing wages to construction workers on publicly funded projects was the center point of public dialogue recently as a result of a Feb. 7 article in the Star-Gazette. I feel that equally pertinent information regarding prevailing wages was not reflected in the article.

As defined by the New York State Department of Labor, "Public Work Prevailing Wage is the pay rate that is required to be paid to all private workers (non government) on all public work projects." Also, as a point of reference for this guest view, many if not all publicly funded work projects come through the facilitation of a local Industrial Development Agency. Tax abatements and other incentives are provided to a business entering the local economy with assistance from an IDA.

Those who oppose paying workers prevailing wages on publicly funded projects point to a recent report produced for the New York State Economic Development Council by the Center for Governmental Research from Rochester. This report indicates that paying prevailing wages significantly drives up project costs.

In order to better understand this important issue, we should take into consideration what other studies conducted across the United States have determined. It is never beneficial to have one-sided information presented on any issue, particularly on this important issue of wages and jobs.

In 2001, a study that spanned 14 years conducted jointly by the Construction Labor Research Council and the Federal Highway Administration provided the following conclusive summary: "Skills and productivity, not differences in wage rates, are the critical determiner of bottom line labor costs. There is no basis to the claim that lower wage rates result in lower construction costs".

Another study from 2001 by the University of Utah assessed 391 public school construction projects across three states. The study concluded that implementing prevailing wages raised school construction costs by less than 1 percent, a statistically insignificant result. This study also determined that young, less-trained workers have an injury rate 15 percent higher than highly trained, experienced workers.

Paying prevailing wages assures that those construction workers selected for publicly funded projects have participated in trade apprenticeships, continuous safety training programs and ongoing skill development coursework. An emphasis on career education and self-improvement is beneficial for the individual worker, the trade she/he works in and the community.

Solid and consistent training also means that highly skilled workers are more productive and in many instances complete projects under budget and ahead of schedule. This is a plus for taxpayers, as waste is minimized and quality end-products are constructed.

This debate will certainly continue, but I believe paying prevailing wages can bring positive results for individuals and our community.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Crane Inspections Reveal Problems at 3 Downtown Sites

Tourists aren’t the only ones in Lower Manhattan tilting their heads back and looking skyward. In the aftermath of the tower crane collapse on E. 51st St. which killed seven people, cranes citywide are receiving renewed scrutiny, not just from the city but also from residents.

“One can’t help but think about what just happened,” said Esther Regelson, who lives at 109 Washington St.

Beside her building, the W New York-Downtown, a 57-story hotel and condo tower, is rising at 123 Washington St. Last week, the Department of Buildings stopped work on the project and issued a violation to subcontractor Century Maxim Construction Corporation for a pin missing from the tower crane’s base.

“I do look up and worry,” Regelson said. “Who’s overseeing this? If that crane fell, it would fall on our building.”

The missing cotter pin, a steel peg that is inserted into a hole in the crane’s I-beam, serves to stop larger pins from rolling out, said Carly Sullivan, D.O.B. spokesperson. The Buildings Department inspector stayed on site until the pin was replaced. Read Full Story