New York, NY – A chilling partial building collapse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side last Wednesday night, in which one man narrowly escaped with his life, once again demonstrates the inherent dangers of building large-scale construction projects in this town nonunion, critics say — and the city needs to pay attention.
According to published reports, E. 63rd Street resident Steve Jones, 34, was in the shower when a concrete slab from the condo being erected at 1059 Third Avenue came smashing through his ceiling just before 9 p.m.
The New York City Department of Buildings is investigating the possibility high winds might have contributed to a wall being erected on the condo’s 26th floor to fail and rain concrete blocks onto the neighboring six-story residential building.
Jones escaped disaster, but this is actually the second time in as many months where dangerous debris from the 1059 Third Avenue development threatened the safety of surrounding residents. A Stop Work Order, issued after last week’s incident, remains in effect at the time of this writing.
Rubén Colón, an Area Standards Dept. representative for the New York City District Council of Carpenters sees too many red flags, however, and argues that some of the principals involved in the 1059 Third Avenue condo development have a history of shady building practices — and potentially deserve a lot more scrutiny than they’re getting.
In 2014, an early morning wall collapse — similar to the one that occurred at 1059 Third Avenue — narrowly missed sending deadly projectiles 10 stories onto Boston Road in the Bronx.
A crew of nonunion employees working for Advanced Contracting Solutions (ACS) was busy erecting part of a 12-story, 154-unit supportive residence for senior citizens, when the cinderblock structure crumbled. No injuries were reported.
ACS ultimately went bankrupt, and last year, reemerged as Trident General Contracting (Trident GC). Trident GC is one of the principals now involved in the highly problematic 1059 Third Avenue development.
“As an Area Standards Representative for the NYCDC it is my responsibility to track companies known for undermining standards in the construction industry,” Colón told LaborPress. “Companies such as Advanced Contracting Solutions currently doing business as Trident General Contracting is one of these. Back in 2014 at a project on Boston Road in the Bronx, the very same thing happened as it has here; the difference there was that the collapsing wall fell “into the job site” as opposed to “onto an adjoining building.”
Colón has even more reason to be wary. ACS an extremely shady building history. In 2017, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Colleen McMahon found that an outfit known as Navillus Tile actually created ACS as a sham “alter-ego” company, so that it could avoid collective bargaining agreements with organized labor.
In reaching her decision, Judge McMahon awarded a record-setting $76M in back wages and contributions to health, pension and general welfare funds, to Metallic Lathers & Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 46, Cement and Concrete Workers District Council, Cement Masons Local 780, Teamsters Local 282 and the District Council of Carpenters.
Thus far, those unions have collected about $10 million each in restitution.
Given the potential lethalness of what happened at 1059 Third Avenue, along with ACS’ dubious track record of trying to build on the cheap — Colón says that the City of New York needs to be on guard.
“In this day & age it is ridiculous to think that Public Safety is allowed to hinge on which direction the wind blows,” he said. “It is unconceivable that this be the metric by which safety standards are set. One cannot simply chalk up such a potentially disastrous incident to “high winds” and somehow “blow off” one’s responsibility to protect the public (pun intended). This isn’t rocket science; if it is found that Trident GC is responsible for the collapse the city must then review Trident GC’s entire public record throughout the 5 Boroughs to get a handle on the enormity of the threat they pose to the general public as well as their on site employees.”