Worker death on Meserole brings renewed city scrutiny

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A construction company with a raft of violations for unsafe building practices is again under scrutiny after a construction worker died last week.

Franklin Velazquez, 49, was helping to remove the façade on the building at the corner of Meserole and Manhattan avenues on May 11 when the scaffold platform failed and he fell two stories. He was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The next day, the city ordered all work on the four-story building halted, after an inspector met with an engineer on the site.

“There were a lot of safety issues at the site,” said a city spokeswoman. “The company did not properly build scaffolding and the work should not have been done.”

City officials are investigating the building’s contractor, Queens-based Beacon Building Group, which was renovating the Greenpoint building and making it larger. The building had amassed seven violations this year for hazardous working conditions and erecting scaffolding without the proper permits. Four of the violations remain open.

In April, 2009, the agency cited the building’s owner, Gail Hazelwood, for failing to maintain the structure while also having exposed ceiling joists, rafters that were broken and unsecured, and a sagging roof.

The building was also leaning inward eight inches, so the city vacated the tenants and temporarily halted work on the site.

The city issued violations and the owner corrected conditions at the building. This March, the owner renewed permits for a sidewalk shed, a standard procedure according to a city spokeswoman. However, the building’s contractor did not apply for a scaffolding permit and went ahead conducting work on the building.

A Department of Buildings spokeswoman said that the agency did not give the company permission to build the scaffolding that failed in the accident and that a stop work order is still in effect.

Calls to the Beacon Building Group were not returned.

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to remove some confusion about Councilman Levin's position.
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Reasonable discourse

Sidewalk Shed from Park Slope says:
A permit is required prior to erecting a sidewalk shed or supported scaffold over 40 feet in height. If a scaffold is on top of a sidewalk shed, the height of the scaffold must include the height of the shed and be taken from the top of the sidewalk. If the supported scaffold is located on a setback or roof of a building, and if the outer leg of the scaffold is located a distance less than half the height of the scaffold (from the top of roof or floor slab), the height of the scaffold for permitting purposes shall include the height of the building below.

Prior to erecting a sidewalk shed, an owner must obtain a permit from DOB. The applicant for a sidewalk shed permit must state the reason such sidewalk shed is needed. These permits are good for one year. Sidewalk sheds must be dismantled within thirty days of permit expiration. Should a renewal of the shed permit be required, other than a new building under construction, an architect or engineer must conduct a thorough examination and report to the commissioner on the work that has been performed and an estimate of the time needed to complete the work. Additionally, in New York City, Local Law No. 33 also mandated that the permit holder post a twenty-five square foot sign on the sidewalk shed with the permit holder’s name, address, telephone number and permit number and expiration date. Adequate lighting must be maintained under the shed. The Construction Division within each borough office of the Department of Buildings (DOB) has jurisdiction over sidewalk sheds.

Thank You
May 18, 2010, 9:17 pm

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