Billionaire Developers Not Blamed For Construction Worker’s DeathDocumented
On February 15, 2021, a worker fell from the 17th to 16th floors while working on an ambitious project called Aman Hotel and Residences on 5th Avenue in Midtown.
The man, who was in his 60s, according to city documents obtained by Documented through a Freedom of Information Law request, was cleaning the area where a laundry chute was installed. Ian Waldy, the site’s general superintendent, spoke to the deceased worker before he was taken by ambulance to hospital. He had suffered “moderate injuries”, according to the report of the Ministry of Buildings.
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How we covered it: No one knows a construction worker died in this $1.4 billion apartment project
Three days later, the worker — whose precise identity could not be confirmed by Documented — died of his injuries.
Documented exposed this incident last year in an article about the renovation carried out by general contractor Gilbane Building Company in partnership with Turkish company Ant Yapi. The story was part of a three-part series that looked at how construction companies face little liability after workers die on their sites. More than a year after this construction death, neither Gilbane Building – with a Record $6.5 billion revenues in 2020 – neither Gilbane/Ant Yapi Joint Venture suffered any financial or legal repercussions for the build’s death.
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For the February 2021 construction fatality, the Department of Buildings (DOB) inspector issued a subpoena to Gilbane Building Company for failing to institute adequate safety measures and slapped it with a $12,500 fine . At the same time, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency, imposed three penalties, totaling $28,671, to the Gilbane/Ant Yapi joint venture. Contractor Labor Innovations, which directly recruited the worker, was fined $38,228 for the construction accident.
This wasn’t the only construction accident in which Gilbane was involved.
Gilbane Inc. has been named in at least seven court cases and 34 other construction-related injury incidents in New York and across the United States in 2021. Yet the three companies associated with Gilbane Inc. have largely managed to escape the consequences of their failures.
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The summons from the Department of Buildings was addressed to Gilbane Building, omitting Ant Yapi. For this error, the summons was dismissed during a telephone hearing on September 9 before the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) in New York. The DOB’s appeal after the ruling was also denied. OATH’s Appeals Unit determined that Gilbane/Ant Yapi is separate from Gilbane Building Company, even though the two entities share the same address in Rhode Island.
Global security goes down during 730 5 refurbishmentand The construction of Avenue triggered 34 Department of Buildings summonses for safety violations to Gilbane/Ant Yapi, who paid $8,125 in fines. The joint venture did not pay any fines for the death.
All of the fines OSHA imposed on Gilbane in 2021, which total $49,492, have been disputed, and none have been lowered to March 23. For the February 2021 accident, a lawsuit before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Board is planned for July 6, 2022.
The company represented an active risk for the workers. According to public records, Gilbane Inc Companies were responsible for at least 13 accidents while working on projects in New York in 2021. That made it the construction company with the fourth highest number of accidents in the city last year. Tishman Construction – part of engineering firm AECOM, with $13.2 billion in 2020 revenue – recorded 34 accidents in 2021. However, while Tishman underwent four OSHA inspections in 2021, Gilbane registered 21 OSHA inspections for safety violations the same year.
Gilbane businesses operate as open contractors, meaning they hire non-union labor. Workers are less safe without the protection of a union-backed contract, whose representatives ensure official safety rules are followed on site, advocates say. Open contractors also rely on undocumented immigrant workers, who are vulnerable to abuse and intimidation through the threat of deportation, advocates say.
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A Department of Buildings spokesperson told Documented that the agency will be issuing a new summons for the Feb. 15, 2021 accident “in the coming days,” now addressed to Gilbane/Ant Yapi Joint Venture.
Avoiding payment of fines reduces incentives for businesses to follow safety rules and protect workers, advocates say. Last year, Gilbane was named a defendant in at least seven lawsuits filed by workers injured at his New York projects, according to court documents.
In a case decided by the New York Supreme Court on November 5, a worker named Rodney Whitted claimed he was injured while working on a 38-story suspended scaffold in a building in the Hudson Yards complex. Unsecured and pushed by gusts of wind, the scaffolding crashed into the building three times, spun 360 degrees and shattered a window pane. The scaffolding tipped over for 20-25 minutes before Whitted was rescued.
Gilbane’s lawyers have argued that the accident, which happened in October 2018, was due to an unforeseeable “act of God”.
The judge ruled in favor of Whitted.