July 14, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – On this week’s episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airing Sunday night at 9 p.m. on AM970 The Answer, we’re talking with James Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and Brian Brown, partner in the law firm of Zaremba Brown. Lemonda discusses ongoing efforts to diversify the ranks of the FDNY, while also meeting the challenges of an ever-changing city — and Brown tackles the importance of New York’s Scaffold Law and why it must be protected.
Many developers and other big money interests would love nothing better than to scrap New York’s Scaffold Law — forget the $61 billion that the New York Building Congress says the construction industry generated in 2015 — the fat cats say the 100-year-old measure is suddenly driving up insurance costs and making building prohibitive.
Also, forget that construction is by far one of the most dangerous occupations you can think of, and that last year alone, 471 deaths and injuries were recorded on New York construction sites.
While opponents of New York’s Scaffold Law talk about “reforming” the century-old legislation, Brown calls those efforts for what they are — efforts to “gut the law" and leave workers unprotected.
“This is one of the few protections people have in this industry,” Brown says. And contrary to the myth opponents like to spout about New York’s Scaffold Law, Brown explains that the measure does not shield workers who might be responsible for their own injuries.
That hasn’t stopped many money-hungry developers from beating the drum for Scaffold Law “reform,” however. According to Brown, the whole thing has become something like a “rite of passage” in Albany. Last time around, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he, too, would back efforts to “reform” New York’s Scaffold Law if it ever got to his desk.
Assembly Member Francisco Moya’s D-39th District] “Construction Insurance Transparency Act, however, stopped those efforts cold after the measure sought to compel developers to open up their books and demonstrate exactly where and how New York’s Scaffold Law is driving up insurance costs.
“They weren’t able to do that,” Brown says.
Although efforts to scrap New York’s Scaffold law have cooled as of late — largely because of Assembly Member Moya’s “sunshine bill” — Brown is under no illusion that “reform” lobbyists have thrown in the towel and that New York’s Scaffold Law is unassailable.
“I’m sure they will be back again,” Brown says.
Although the FDNY successfully secured a new contract with the City of New York and spearheaded renewal of the all-important Zadroga Act, safeguarding 9/11 survivors — many challenges remain for New York’s brave smoke eaters. The venerable department, for instance, still needs to diversify its ranks, as well as figure out how to cut down on response times in a city growing ever more dense and ever more congested.
The current building boom’s effect on the financial district is just one example where new challenges have arisen, according to Lemonda. Once strictly a workplace environment, the UFOA chief points out that the area has now become a round-the-clock “community” that demands greater vigilance and resources.
That said, Lemonda is optimistic that the FDNY will rise to the occasion once more — just as it did in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 when, although profoundly hurt, the valiant FDNY managed to rebuild from the ashes to become “the best fire department in the world.”
LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. This week’s episode, as well as every other episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” is also available on demand at www.am970theanswer.com.