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“Merit” Shop: Death in Brooklyn Brings Non-Union NYC Fatality Total to 26 Over Two Years


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A tragic accident has claimed the life of yet another New York City construction worker. Wilfredo Enrique, 59, fell to his death while installing a facade at 325 Kent Avenue. He was working a development at the site of the former Domino Sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn.

New York has seen a sharp increase in construction deaths and construction-relates injuries in recent years. Many of the victims have been immigrants:

The number of people killed and injured in construction accidents has risen as real estate building has boomed in New York City. According to statistics from the city’s Buildings Department, there were 12 construction-related fatalities in 2015, up from eight the year before, while the number of injuries rose to 472 in 2015 from 237 the prior year.

[…] A review of two years of construction accidents by The New York Times in 2015 found that the workers who died were mostly undocumented immigrants, many of whom were working in needlessly perilous conditions. This year, 447 injuries were recorded as of September, the most recent data available.

But the real estate boom isn’t the only reason for the uptick in construction-related fatalities. Construction unions, who track construction deaths differently than the city, say that 29 workers have died on-site in the last two years, and only three of those deaths have been on union projects. New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO President Vincent Alvarez released a statement:

“This morning’s construction fatality at the old Domino Sugar Factory marks the city’s twenty-ninth construction death in the last two years – twenty-six of which have occurred on non-union construction sites. Let me be clear: these senseless deaths must stop, and the city must act to help protect working people. Worker training and safety must become a priority for our elected leaders in New York City. This cannot be another instance where the city steps in, closes down the site for a day or two, and then allows business to continue as usual.

“We cannot allow development in New York City to come at the cost of human lives.  There are numerous worker training and safety bills awaiting action by the City Council.  What exactly will it take for common sense action to be taken on this issue?  If the loss of twenty-nine lives does not constitute an emergency, I don’t know what does.”

New York City Building Trades President Gary LaBarbera echoed Alvarez’s sentiment:

Our elected and public leaders must do everything in their power to reverse this alarming epidemic. Construction workers’ lives do matter, and we can no longer tolerate irresponsible developers and contractors putting profits ahead of safety. This must end now.

The developer, Two Trees Management Co., stopped work on the site. Through a spokesman, Two Trees said they were “overwhelmed with grief” and expressed their “deepest condolences.”

The injury rates and safety concerns on non-union NYC work sites are, unfortunately, not an aberration.


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