Safety First. It’s a phrase that we teach our kids in grammar school, it’s something every parent tells their teenager when they learn how to drive, and it’s a topic that every employer emphasizes with its employees. It’s a lesson that the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) needs to review.
Over the past three months there have been two fatal crane accidents in Manhattan that killed nine people, eight of them being construction workers. Supposedly the DOB performed inspections on both cranes just prior to their crashing onto our city streets. The questions many New Yorkers have on their minds is, how safe is it to walk or drive near a construction site in our city?
On March 25th, the then Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster announced interim changes to the inspection protocols that the city performs on all cranes throughout the city. These changes (including requiring an inspector to be present whenever a crane is lifted) are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. The city needs to review how it issues licenses to crane operators, how it certifies its crane inspectors, and whether the men and women who actually operate these highly complex pieces of equipment have the appropriate training and certification.
Also, the city needs to follow-up on calls to 311 from residents who have serious concerns about safety issues at construction sites in their neighborhoods. Several news stations and newspapers have mentioned how people repeatedly called 311 to complain about the two cranes that collapsed in the past three months. Clearly these concerns weren’t addressed quickly enough. The DOB and the city need to have clear procedures on how to deal with resident complaints and how their findings are communicated to the people.
As construction at the WTC and Atlantic Yards increases over the next several years we absolutely must ensure that public safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It is the responsibility of our city and state leaders to put in place regulations and protocols that ensure that all aspects of building construction are done safely. The DOB can start with making Safety First its primary and most important priority.
John Chromczak is the Republican candidate for the 25th District NY State Senate seat this September. John was born in 1970 in upstate Utica, New York. He attended local schools and graduated from the State University of New York College at Potsdam where he studied music performance and biology. He currently works at New York University Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital Center as a medical technologist specializing in red cell and bleeding disorders. He’s a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier parish in Chelsea. John lives in lower Manhattan with his partner Andre and their dog Bono.