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2 Hurt, Yet 16th St. Demolition Continued

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The Department of Buildings (DOB) is under fire again after a demolition company allegedly continued to pull down a structure in South Park Slope for nearly a week after a stop work order was issued following a wall collapse that injured two workers. The contractor had received multiple violations and multiple complaints prior to the accident. The two workers were demolishing a 10-foot brick wall at a construction site on the morning of February 15 at 226-230 16th St., when the wall collapsed and debris fell on top of them. One worker was cut above the eye, while the other had cuts to his hands, according to a Fire Department spokesperson. The workers were taken by ambulance to New York Methodist Hospital. The DOB issued a stop work order that day, following the injury. The order read, “demolition ongoing in unsafe manner…causing two workers to be injured.” Aaron Brashear, co-founder of the Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights, said that the next day at 2.p.m. he saw workers continuing to demolish a wall with sledgehammers and removing debris in a wheelbarrow. He reported the complaint to the DOB. “They were not in the process of sweeping up, they were actively doing demolition,” said Brashear. Two more reports were made that afternoon because the work was allegedly continuing. Brashear checked the DOB Web site several minutes later, and found that the complaints had been closed out, stating that no action was necessary. “No action necessary based upon a search of department records,” the record states. A further complaint was called into the DOB the following day, stating that work was continuing. When asked why the complaints had been resolved without further inspections, a DOB spokesperson, Jennifer Givner, said that an Environmental Control Board violation had been issued at the property. She said the inspectors are too busy to follow up on each individual complaint. “Our inspectors are doing 12 inspections a day and they are running around,” Givner said. Givner also said that stop work orders are filed with the local NYPD precinct, which has responsibility for enforcing them. The order was officially lifted on February 21, after an inspection showed that the site had no further safety violations, Givner said. A neighboring business owner, Marie Ciccone, who was witness to the accident, said that she had been away between the Wednesday when the stop work order was issued and Tuesday when it was lifted, and that a significant amount of work had clearly been done at the site in the interim. “On Tuesday it was extremely apparent that work had been going on at the site,” Ciccone said. “There was a bulldozer there.” Pictures of the site show that debris had been cleared and a structure had been removed. Ciccone said, however, that her own unrelated complaints concerning property damage were efficiently and effectively attended to by the DOB. This is not the first time that Staten Island-based demolition contractor, MMG Design, owned by Marie Grasso, has been cited by the DOB for unsafe work practices or injuries that have occurred. In November 2004, Grasso was cited for a demolition at 162 16th St. for “failure to carry out demolition operations in a safe and proper manner.” The stop work order further noted “no fall restraint system in place for workers demolishing roof slabs — worker fell during demolition.” Bo Samajopoulos, who has spoken on several occasions at public meetings of lax safety standards at multiple building sites in the South Park Slope and Greenwood Heights area, said the lack of adequate enforcement is widespread. “It sends a terrible message to the community, when an inspector issued a ticket and ten minutes later they are working again as though there is nothing they can do,” Samajopoulos said. Samajopoulos. recently joined the Carpenter Union Local 926 and other unions, to demonstrate outside 162 16th St. to call for the contractor to use unionized labor. During this time he witnessed trucks obstructing the sidewalk without a permit, he charged. A building inspector who was there had been reluctant to enforce the regulations, he said. Sal Zarzana, president and business manager of Local 926, said that unionized building contractors are obliged to follow strict safety procedures and provide proper training to workers. Zarzana alleged that workers at the building sites are working without proper training, equipment and protective gear such as hard hats. He also alleged that many are working for cash without basic benefits, Social Security, pensions, or proper compensation. “I am tired of these un-unionized developers coming into our neighborhood,” said Zarzana. Attempts to contact Grasso in time for publication were unsuccessful.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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