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Construction Workers’ Deaths in New York City

New York City has been experiencing a historic building boom since 2003, with development not being this high for 30 years.  On a daily basis, workers perform construction related tasks, such as pouring concrete thousands of feet in the air.  Cranes now dominate the skies and take away the views in which New Yorkers have become accustomed. 

New construction projects can be profitable for the developer.  For example, a 13-story tower at 525 Clinton Avenue is nearly finished.  The developer, Karnusa Equities, is selling the condominiums for $650,000 to $3 million.  However, this construction boom has come at a significant cost.  Since the beginning of this year, 27 construction workers have lost their lives while working on private and public jobs in New York City, despite the city and federal government’s attempts to find new avenues to improve safety. 

For the past nine months, WNYC reporters, Cindy Rodriguez and Matthew Schuerman have investigated the negative side of New York City’s building boom.  Some of the details behind their reporting can be found at the Cost of Doing Business website.  In the “Cost of Doing Business,” WNYC examines one construction accident that occurred earlier this year and analyzes why this new attention to construction safety came up short. 

In January 2008, Jose Palacios, a Mexican immigrant, died after he fell from the collapsing scaffold underneath him. He was standing on a scaffold on top of the roof of the condo complex under construction at 525 Clinton Avenue, in Brooklyn.  The wind began to blow, as high as 30 miles per hour, which caused the scaffold to collapse while he was on it.   Palacios fell more than 10 stories and fractured his skull.  According to Richard Mendelson of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the scaffold was secured with thin wire, even though the bolts that workers were supposed to use lay nearby.