NEW YORK, N.Y.—The under-construction Brooklyn building where a crane partially collapsed February 11, is part of a nonunion job with a history of wage theft, according to building-trades unions — and the crane contractor was the same one involved in an accident in Manhattan last October.
The crane’s boom fell forward about 3:45 PM at 25 Commercial St. in Greenpoint, ending up dangling parallel to the 31-story building. Named One Bell Slip, it’s part of Greenpoint Landing, a 10-building complex that will cover half a mile of the East River waterfront near Brooklyn’s northern tip.
No injuries have been reported, city Buildings Department press secretary Andrew Rudansky said, and the department’s preliminary investigation has determined that the boom fell while technicians were performing maintenance work on the tower crane.
“No part of the crane fell to the ground, and the tower construction project was not damaged in the incident,” he added. “We are currently working with the developer’s engineers and crane company to assess the damage to the tower crane, and determine what measures might need to be taken to make the site safe.”
“Earlier today, a crane at One Bell Slip — an unoccupied building under construction — malfunctioned and the boom came down into the crane itself,” a spokesperson for Brookfield Properties, the developer, told LaborPress. “Thankfully, no one was injured. Local authorities arrived quickly to the site, and we are following their lead. Safety is our number one priority, and we take the matter very seriously.”
The crane contractor, however, is U.S. Crane and Rigging, a company with a long record of wage theft and safety violations, according to building-trades unions. In 2014, three former workers told LaborPress that they had been regularly paid for fewer hours than they worked and had to buy their own safety equipment. Eddie Jorge, an organizer with the New York Community Alliance for Workers Justice, said he’d been hearing similar stories for ten years.
In 2016, Edgar Joshua Melendez, a U.S. Crane rigger at 111 West 57th St. in Manhattan, publicly walked off the job to join the Ironworkers union at a protest outside the building, saying he was paid only $15 an hour. He told LaborPress then that he’d seen “holes in the walls from the crane operator slamming loads into the side of the building” and “guys working with their harnesses on — but they’re not tied off to anything.”
Last October, a company tower crane at 111 W. 57th St. began spinning like a weathervane in high winds, and a ball at the end of a cable slammed into the building’s upper floors, sending pieces of aluminum and glass as big as 20 feet long plummeting to the ground as far as a block away. The Buildings Department issued a stop-work order to U.S. Crane, along with a violation for “failure to safeguard all persons and property affected by construction operations.” It said that because of that failure, “the ball & hook struck the building several times,” and fined the company $10,000.
A partial stop-work order is still in effect at the site, according to Buildings Department records online. Last month, U.S. Crane filed a certificate that it had corrected the violations, but the department disapproved it on Feb. 10. A hearing is scheduled for April 29.
“Our Potain MR 295 is flying high at 1 Bell Slip,” U.S. Crane & Rigging CEO Thomas Auringer exulted on Facebook in January.
The general contractor at One Bell Slip is Consigli, Jorge told LaborPress, and the concrete contractor is RNC, another nonunion shop.
Brookfield has a project labor agreement to use union workers in Manhattan, Joe Scopo, organizing director for the Laborers Union’s Cement and Concrete Workers District Council, told LaborPress last fall, but is using nonunion contractors at Greenpoint Landing.
“They’re hiring bad actors with a history of wage fraud,” Scopo said. Workers at 45 Commercial St., another building in the Greenpoint Landing development, have told union organizers, “some weeks I don’t get my pay, some weeks I don’t get overtime,” he added.