By Carol Tannenhauser
A 36-year-old construction worker fell to his death from a fourth-floor scaffolding to a first-floor sidewalk shed on Monday morning at around 11:25 am, while working on a residential project at 263 West End Avenue, near 72nd Street, an NYPD spokesperson told WSR. The worker was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Update, Tuesday, 10:13am: The information given to us by the NYPD stating that a worker fell from the fourth floor is incorrect, according to Ryan J. Degan, deputy press secretary, NYC Department of Buildings (DOB). “Our preliminary investigation at the scene has determined that a worker was installing netting around a supported scaffold at the 15th-floor level, when they fell to the sidewalk shed below.”
Degan said the owners of the 23-story building did “have active work permits for facade repair,” however, “our investigation has also shown that the worker did not receive site safety orientation prior to the incident.”
“Construction workers in our City deserve a safe working environment, and incidents like today’s fatal fall are completely unacceptable,” Degan added. “We are conducting a thorough investigation, along with our partners in law enforcement, into exactly how this could have happened, and to determine whether any corners were cut on the job which may have been contributing factors. As a result of today’s fatal fall, DOB has issued a Full Stop Work Order at the work site.”
We will keep you posted.
This is terribly sad. The workers who do this work are vital to keeping our old buildings standing.
I’ve seen more and more buildings being completely ensheathed during facade work. I don’t have a sense of why some buildings do this and others don’t. Some have lots of ornamentation and others (like this one) don’t. Some have lots of setbacks and other’s don’t.
There’s no obvious safety benefit that I can tell; per the Gothamist/NPR writeup it sounds like the unfortunate worker was installing netting when they fell from the 15th floor to the first floor shed.
Regardless, a terrible and unfortunate loss of a human being.
It’s also worth considering if constantly keeping our buildings behind scaffolding is really necessary – I’m not aware of other cities that have this requirement.
True both of the US and most of the world. I was recently in France and saw little scaffolding despite being in a country with much older city housing than we have here. Certainly their buildings also require repair and upkeep.
Local law 11 (Facade Inspection Safety Program) requires buildings over 6 stories to be inspected every 5 years
Yes but interesting if you go outside Manhattan you will not see scaffolding on every block in neighborboods filled with buildings over 6 feet tall. And since there is almost no penalty for taking too long to point the facade, Manhattan landlords often choose to leave the scaffolding up for years rather than do the repairs, saving loads of money. And the rest of us live in a permanent construction site.
My question was not about FISP — we know that is the work they were doing. The question is why more LL11 projects seem to involve totally covering the building in scaffolding (not just sheds and baskets)
I think it is a factor of how they are doing the work. My building had to replace a handful of bricks here and a handful of bricks there. So we had a sidewalk shed and the workers used a mobile platform, similar to if they were washing windows. At work, they replaced all of the bricks, so the workers needed a full on platform for each floor and therefore the entire building was covered in scaffolding and then shrouded.
It was a windy day. Is that taken into consideration when these workers ascend on scaffolding? These accidents happen too often.
The main thing is that the worker wasn’t tied into something; no one should work at 15 stories without a safety harness.
I just observed workers working on a 4th floor sloping roof several days in a row. 80% of the time they did not wear safety harnesses. I am guessing his is the case here. Completely preventable.
A clear protocol exists for riggers that dictates all facets of fall arrest. It is complex, requires safe installation of the system itself and takes time. It takes time too, to utilize the system, clipping onto it with one clip (they must wear two) before transferring to another. In other words, it is installed so that no worker is ever ‘not clipped’ onto the system.
It is common—in fact required—in show business rigging.
Can you imagine how eager employers are to utilize that, police it, and require it for use by all its workers, especially on lower budget jobs, with (perhaps) non unionized workers?
I’d be shocked if any facade repair jobs were union.
Hopefully the DOB and OSHA will rigorously inspect job sites for safety issues.
Gothamist’s story says the worker fell while “installing netting around a supported scaffold at the 15th floor level,” but WSR says it was from the fourth floor level. Which version is correct?
An awful tragedy either way.
How many people lost their lives to falling bricks in the Upper West Side in the 40 years before Local Law 11 was enacted? How many construction workers have lost their lives in the 40 years since Local Law 11 came into effect? Clearly some form of facade inspection is warranted, but is there any evidence that it needs to be done every five years versus seven years or eight or even ten? I for one wonder if the “cure” isn’t more costly than the problem.
Most of the buildings that are similar to 263 WEA are approaching the centenaries or have passed them. If you are going to keep these buildings standing you have to have maintenance on them. If I’m not mistaken it’s recommended that such buildings get inspections after the 60-year mark. How much more so if the building is 80, 90, or 100 years old.
I agree, Local Law 11 has turned into major drag on the the city, but a staple boom for the construction repair industry. I have been subjected to building wide vibrational drilling for weeks now and this isn’t first time since I have lived here. Scaffolding everywhere is the norm wherever there are brick buildings. Our building roof has been off limits for what feels like years. I wish someone could invent something that would keep these bricks in place for decades (I’m sorry if this offends those who gain financially from this never ending state of repair, but maybe you could go build some new buildings somewhere that don’t need this much constant repair).
That’s a logical question about the reasonable frequency of these inspections. When Local Law 11 was enacted, it was after many years of buildings’ neglecting their facades. Forty years later, it doesn’t seem that all buildings have to be inspected so frequently because so many longtime defects have already been taken care of.
It’s very sad that this worker lost his life, fulfilling th over-the-top safety law.
I would say we need to re-examine this regulation but not sure there is appetite to do this since it has become such a money-making racket. My board and I are in the middle of a L11 inspection. Our neighbors will get thousands every month, so that we can install the sheds on their property, as required. The scaffolding company rents us the sheds for thousands each month. The company who will actually do the inspections get thousands each month for all 6 mths of the inspection, and, of course, even more if they find things to repair. The city is getting thousands each month since we are late because negotiating access with the neighbor took 8 mths. And finally, this has to all be done through our lawyers who get the biggest piece of the pie. This is a racket.
“This is a racket” .. Ya don’t say! It’s been a huge rip off for the last 20 years! Unbearable. and meanwhile the UWS especially looks like a third world country. Pathetic. Scaffolding forever on every block… Be good to know where all that money ends up… Exactly.
Why did it take you 8 months? The neighbor has no right to refuse access to scaffolding for required work. If the work your building was doing was voluntary, that is a different story. You could have put up the scaffolding without paying them anything.
Hi Josh, I wish. An access agreement has to be negotiated and signed. We are a building with more than 6 stories and he is a brownstone, which doesn’t have to do L11 inspections, so there is little incentive for him to play nice. And we have to do this every 5 years.
The only recourse we had was to sue…which would extend the time it takes to get the work done, incurring more fees and lawyer costs.
First off condolences to the worker and his family — this is tragic.
However, sidewalk sheds, scaffolding and the like is a racket that impacts our lives — at this time my building is sheathed in scaffolding and green curtains. It blocks sunlight and impairs my quiet enjoyment of my apartment.
I understand that we need to do maintenance on aging buildings but this kind of safety apparatus has gone too far. We need to ramp down the time periods for these kinds of procedures.
And not to be petty but sidewalk sheds cover the sidewalk and dog owners seem to love having their dogs do their business under the sheds — their waste will remain their unless the building staff hose down the sidewalk! I would urge dog owners to “curb their dogs” Sheds also provide cover for nefarious homeless and other similar types.
Also – any coincidence that NYC Building Commissioner just resigned due to gambling and mob ties – any connnection here ? Obviously I don’t have any solid information on this but those are the facts.
Could someone more knowledgeable in the fine details than I am explain to many of WSR’s readers that the inspection and maintenance law is to protect people on the ground from being struck by falling bricks and other building parts which come loose. These are very good reasons for having scaffolding and, if necessary, netting, when the building does not come up to code even if it is not currently under maintenance.
The workers are required to wear safety gear and have sufficient training to do these jobs. Something that seems lacking here.
On a personal note, I damn well want plenty of protection from anything (even a tool or garbage) falling from a building. A “lightweight” object falling 6 stories is no longer lightweight and is dangerous.
Like most government regulation, it was started by the failure of the private sector to take care of what they should. In this case, Local Law 11, (and Law 10 prior) was enacted because Grace Gold, a 17-year-old freshman student at Barnard College was killed in 1979 when a loose piece of masonry fell from a building on Broadway and 115th Street. You may remember, that more recently, a child was killed by falling masonry on West End Avenue. In fact our very own WSR reported on it.
There are some risks we take every time we walk outside. Wrapping our buildings in scaffolding so that we can inspect every brick every 5 years is ridiculous. And it’s another reason why builders prefer glass and concrete…which makes our city doubly ugly…because of all the scaffolding and less ornate, brick buildings because no one wants to deal with this crap.
It’s always difficult to consider a cost/benefit analysis when human lives are in the balance. However, the endless amount of scaffolding and huge costs required to satisfy Local Law 11 suggest that we’ve gone to obscenely extreme lengths to strive for the construction equivalent of Vision Zero. We can afford to live a little more dangerously and make intelligent tradeoffs. As another person wrote, there is nothing like this in other geographical locations and their societies seem to function well.
Agreed . The endless costs every 5 years are driving up maintenance fees. Like someone said – it’s turned into a money making racket for whole industries. A sensible compromise is needed but we keeping paying the bills
If the facades were maintained, the costs wouldn’t be huge, would they?If landlords had actually cared about stuff falling from their buildings, we wouldn’t have these laws. In. the case of 305 WEA, the LL was able to get an engineer to sign off on inspections that never happened, and he was arrested. Meanwhile a baby died. So, property owners now have to pay the price for the few who caused death and mayhem by not caring. Seems like a good trade to me.
I’m grateful for all the scaffolding. Years ago I had a close call with a 2×4 falling from 10 stories up in midtown— missed me and my young kids by maybe an inch— grace of god, etc, but once you go through that, you appreciate even “unnecessary “ scaffolding…
There’s a big difference between requiring scaffolding for construction projects and creating perhaps unnecessary construction projects that require scaffolding. We should try to minimize the latter.
I often interpret at medical examinations for people suing for damages. I’ve done dozens of these, and 9 times out of 10 they are Hispanic construction workers with no health insurance or training who were hired for the day to do the jobs no American would risk their safety for. Usually they have fallen off a rooftop, a beam or a scaffolding, and are crippled for life. For the comment from the city to be “The contractor had a permit” is ghoulish, to say the least. The city gives carte blanche to contractors to throw completely unqualified people into these jobs to save a buck, with an hour’s “safety training.”
Yes this is tragic. The DOB and yo me and the NYC Scaffold & Riggers Association have very strict rules to promote safety – probably more than any other city, but not all regulations are followed and it is tragic to see this result.
I am President of my Condominium and spent two years involved with our building’s FISP project. I got so involved and learned so much which I wanted to share with the community that I wrote a manual “A Step by Step Guide to Navigating the Facade Inspection Safety Program.” It is designed for Board members and building owners to learn about the complexity of compliance – and that includes SAFETY. I hope you find and read it – a free copy can be obtained for Board Members/Property Managers by emailing. facades101@gmail. com An educated Board can help participate in SAFETY.
This is so sad.
Workers climbing a ladder could slip and fall. Are there pads placed around that ladder to protect the workers should a fall take place? They certainly are when we visit a training location for firefighters for example. But in real-life work sites just about never have such well placed crash pads. As scaffolding is installed and deployed around a building, the safety netting deployed to catch those workers who might fall from heights beyond the protection capabilites provided hy crash pads needs to be there at the very beginning. We want our work force to he as safe as possible. If such measures as these are not required and properly deployed the dangers are simply too great. The equipment is available. It needs to be called out as a requirement before such terrible falls as the one the other day occure.
For those who complain about LL 11 and scaffolding, I’d suggest they think this through. The UWS is full of masonry buildings. A typical 20 story brick building has something like a quarter-million linear feet of mortar joints holding the bricks in place. Multiple that by how many such buildings we have, and you can see that we have literally millions upon millions of feet of mortar joints holding our buildings together. Those joints are not invulnerable: they eventually fail under weathering and vibration, two things we have in abundance in NYC.
We have two choices regarding those joints: let them weather until they fail (and have bricks falling on our heads from 10 and 20 stories up) ) or periodically inspect them. NYC has opted for the latter. Does that really seem unreasonable?
I think that’s a false choice. Folks are questioning if the inspection regime is too rigorous and puts too many workers into danger. No one is saying there should be no inspection and repair of old tall buildings.