After rash of construction worker deaths, NYC council member promises to finally implement safety law

Construction death at 570 Broome is the third in the last week

By Erin Hudson | April 13, 2019 02:33PM

The latest death is prompting politicians to accelerate the implementation of a construction safety law passed in 2017.

Gregory Echevarria, 34, was killed after a crane counterweight fell on him around 3:15 a.m. at the site of 570 Broome Street. At least one other worker was injured in the accident and taken to hospital, according to the city’s Department of Buildings.

“Our preliminary investigation has determined that workers were erecting a crane at the scene when the counterweight for the crane fell and fatally struck one of the workers,” DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky said. The DOB has ordered work on the crane to stop and for it to be dismantled and removed. The DOB has halted all other work on the site due to its “ongoing investigation.”

Records show there were at least two complaints filed with the DOB regarding safety concerns on the job site prior to Echevarria’s death. A partial stop work order was rescinded on April 8 after a DOB inspector visited the site.

This is the third fatality on a construction site this week: a 23-year-old worker fell to his death while laying bricks at a co-op in Brooklyn Heights on Wednesday and a 51-year-old worker was killed by falling debris on Monday while repairing masonry at a Turtle Bay rental.

NYC Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., chair of the city’s Committee on Housing & Buildings, issued a statement hours later calling the Saturday incident “a chilling reminder of the danger the men and women who build our city are subjected to day in and day out.”

“It is also a reminder of the importance of implementing the construction site safety training mandates of Local Law 196 of 2017, which will be a vitally important way to prevent future fatalities like these,” Cornegy’s statement continued.

He promised to work to ensure Local Law 196, which requires all construction workers to complete an approved 100-hour safety training program, is put into effect. In November, the first phase of implementation, which entailed 30 hours of training, was pushed backsix months due to “insufficient” resources. (The law was criticized as favoring unionized workers as it’s standard for union members to undergo an eligible 100-hour training program, often as part of apprentice programs.)

The 54-unit condo project at 570 Broome is owned by Turkish-American developer Murat Agirnasli and partners, according to the New York State Attorney General’s office records. According to the condominium’s most recent offering plan, the developers have a target sellout of about $146.6 million.

Requests for comment from the building owner, engineers and contractors listed on DOB work permits were not immediately answered. Rudansky confirmed the general contractor for the project was KSK Construction Group.

NYC Passes Bold New Legislation Requiring Green Roofs on New Buildings – and Much More

New York City recently passed a trailblazing new piece of legislation that is set to propel the Big Apple towards the forefront of America’s fight against climate change.

The new Climate Mobilization Act, which was passed on April 18th, contains six climate measures intended to help the city reach carbon neutrality and 100% clean energy by 2050.

One of the notable provisions in the bill requires all new residential and commercial buildings to cover their rooftops with plants or renewable energy sources such as solar panels.

Since plants absorb light that would otherwise become heat, legislators have been pushing for greener rooftops in order to reduce the “urban heat island effect.” By mitigating this heat gain, there is a reduction in energy costs for cooling systems inside buildings.

The bill also outlines the establishment of a renewable energy loan program to assist with “greening” buildings and details new changes to the city’s building codes in order to promote construction of wind turbines.

“Today, we are passing a bill that won’t just make our skyline prettier—it will also improve the quality of life for New Yorkers for generations to come,” said Rafael Espinal, the New York City Council member who sponsored the bill.

NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson


BREAKING: The @NYCCouncil, with the leadership of @Costa4NY, just passed the most aggressive municipal greenhouse gas emissions reduction legislation of any major US city.

We are on the precipice of climate disaster, and New York City is acting. I hope other cities follow suit.

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According to research published by the National Research Council of Canada, a green roof can cut a building’s daily energy demand for air conditioning by up to 75%. This is particularly significant because the bulk of New York City’s CO2 emissions come from its buildings.

That is why it is now mandated that a building’s greenhouse gas emissions cannot exceed the levels that are set by the legislation, which makes New York City the first in the world to require large existing buildings to reduce their CO2 emissions.

The limits are set based on the occupancy group of the building. The bill requires large and medium-sized buildings, which account for nearly a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city, to reduce their emissions by 40% before 2030 and 80% by 2050. The very worst performing buildings will have to act by 2024 to curb their emissions.

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“Retrofitting for efficiency and sustainability will reduce our city’s carbon footprint and create thousands of much-needed, good-paying jobs,” said Councilor Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.

Additionally, the bill calls upon the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the Water Quality Certification permit for the construction of the Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline through New York Harbor. Mayor de Blasio said that due to the fact there is no federal leadership to address climate change, “we have to do it ourselves, in this city and cities all over the country.”

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Legislators now hope that the bill will inspire other American municipalities to take similar action against climate change.

“We hope that if we can make it here, we can make it anywhere,” says Samantha Wilt, senior policy analyst for Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Energy Program.

De Blasio’s ‘Ban’ on Glass and Steel Skyscrapers Isn’t a Ban at All

New York City may require more eco-friendly building materials, but neither glass nor steel would be prohibited.

By Jeffery C. Mays

As he stood on the Queens shoreline on Earth Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a stern warning that the familiar Manhattan skyline behind him was about to change.

“We are going to introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming,” he said on Monday. “They have no place in our city or on our Earth anymore.”

But as far as an actual prohibition against glass and steel skyscrapers? Not exactly.

Mr. de Blasio’s plan involves legislation that would institute new energy code requirements as a prerequisite for a building permit. “The kind of the glass and steel buildings of the past, and some bluntly were being built very recently, are just not going to be allowed any more,” the mayor said.

City officials said that they did not know the specifics of Mr. de Blasio’s proposal, and that any such change would require City Council approval.

“The Council supports the construction of glass and steel structures that are more energy-efficient, but there is no particular ban on these materials,” Juan Soto, a spokesman for Council Speaker Corey Johnson, said.

The lack of details troubled many real estate industry leaders and architects.

“Everyone is trying to figure out what the mayor meant,” said Adam Roberts, director of policy for the American Institute of Architects New York. “We just hope that the mayor misspoke.”

But one thing seemed clear: Neither glass nor steel would be banned.

Even the mayor allowed that recent buildings would likely meet whatever new standards he was envisioning.

Mr. de Blasio mentioned the American Copper Buildings in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood and some buildings on the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island as examples of how glass-wrapped structures can be made energy efficient: using triple glazing and high-tech heating and cooling systems.

To underscore that point, Mark Chambers, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, was quick to add, “I want to call out that it doesn’t mean that buildings can’t use glass anymore.”

Mr. de Blasio’s words nonetheless sent a chill through the real estate and construction industries, especially given the timing: Days earlier, the City Council passed legislation that would force buildings to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, or face fines that could reach into the millions of dollars per year.

The new requirements were part of Mr. de Blasio’s Green New Deal, a $14 billion plan to help the city reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Mr. de Blasio is mulling a run for president, and he has unveiled proposals on such topics as paid time off and climate change as examples of how policies in New York City could be adopted nationwide.Big Buildings Hurt the Climate. New York City Hopes to Change That.April 17, 2019

But his proposal to potentially remake the city’s skyline has raised concerns among developers and architects, who question whether the mayor’s ambitions can coexist with the demands of clients and commercial tenants. There have been 129 buildings with glass curtain walls constructed in the city since 2015, according to the Department of Buildings.

“It was sort of a naïve statement,” Mitch Simpler, the chairman-elect of the American Council of Engineering Companies, said about the mayor’s remarks on banning glass towers.

From improvements in glass and shading to new types of interior lighting that reduce energy consumption, “every year these buildings perform better and better,” Mr. Simpler, who is also a managing partner emeritus of Jaros, Baum & Bolles, said.

The real challenge, he said, would be retrofitting older buildings to meet the requirements in the recent City Council legislation; Mr. Chambers had estimated that the cumulative cost to building owners to make necessary upgrades would exceed $4 billion. Demolishing those buildings would contribute greatly to greenhouse gas emissions.

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“This is a huge lift. In some cases, we will have to redo the skin of the building,” Mr. Simpler said. “Our real challenge is to go back in time and take these 75-, 100-year-old charming and architecturally unique buildings and make them perform like a Ferrari.”

City officials maintain that those changes are overdue. A city study found that close to 70 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions came from buildings, and those with glass exteriors were among the worst offenders.

Mr. de Blasio cited buildings at Hudson Yards “as examples of the wrong way to do things,” although he did not specify which ones.

Officials at Related Companies, developer of the main site at Hudson Yards, took offense at that characterization. They cited 10 Hudson Yards, a 52-story office tower with an angled roof and gas-powered microturbines that heat and cool water with twice the efficiency of standard systems. A storm water retention system collects rainwater, which is then recycled and used in the building’s cooling towers and to water the landscaping.

The efficiencies have earned the structure a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating from the United States Green Building Council. The building, like many in the new development, is sheathed in high-tech, energy-efficient glass.

“Hudson Yards was planned as the largest LEED neighborhood in New York City,” Joanna Rose, a spokeswoman for Related, said in a statement.

While Mr. Chambers acknowledged that some glass buildings were energy efficient, “all glass buildings perform against themselves,” he said.

“The conventional floor-to-ceiling glass box needs to come to an end,” Mr. Chambers added.

It is that kind of language that has the real estate industry concerned.

“We haven’t seen any law drafted or any policy drafted,” said Carl Hum, a senior vice president and general counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York. “We are curious, if the mayor is banning glass and steel, what the alternative will be?”

City officials acknowledged reaching out to the real estate industry after the news conference to explain what the mayor meant by the word “ban.”

“There was a little bit of qualification,” one industry official said he was told. “Perhaps the mayor was overenthusiastic.” Another industry official said he was told that “there’s no new legislation” and that Mr. de Blasio was referring to the City Council legislation. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of damaging their relationship with City Hall.

But the mayor and Mr. Chambers made clear that the city intended to introduce new legislation by year’s end, and that they had begun discussions with Council leaders. The mayor said he hoped that the more stringent energy codes could be in place by early next year.

“Developers will have to meet our new standards,” Mr. Chambers said. “Business as usual won’t cut it.”

But in a city where rezoning efforts have brought developers to lower-income neighborhoods, Mr. Roberts, the policy director for the American Institute of Architects New York, cautioned that those areas might be deprived of the type of structures seen elsewhere in the city.

“Part of what makes New York so interesting in terms of our architecture and compared to other cities is our diversity,” he said. “We have everything here going back hundreds of years.”

Costa Constantinides, a councilman who represents Queens and is chairman of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, said he hoped to have a robust discussion with the real estate industry after the proposed additional adjustments to the energy code.

“We have to come up with policies that reflect the seriousness of climate change,” Mr. Constantinides said. “I don’t think anyone will stop building in New York. They will just be in line with our goals.”