Legislative package will enhance work-site safety and strengthen oversight at Construction, Demolition, and Abatement sites throughput the City
City Hall – City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler today announced a comprehensive legislative package designed to improve safety protocols, increase City oversight, and enhance inter-agency communication at construction, demolition, and abatement sites in New York City.
Following the tragic fire at the former Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty Street that took the lives of New York City Firefighters Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered a comprehensive review of oversight and operations at construction, demolition, and abatement sites. Today’s package is the result of a collaborative process between the Administration and the Council that combined the findings of the task force with legislative proposals put forth by members of the Council in the wake of the accident.
“Taken together, these measures represent a significant overhaul of the City’s demolition and asbestos abatement procedures,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “And once they are implemented, they will take us a major step forward in making sure that conditions in this industry never lead to another event like the one that took the lives of Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia. Our thoughts and prayer go out to their families today. I want to thank the Council Members, especially Council Members Vacca, Dilan, Gerson and Martinez, who have worked and will continue to work on this legislation. I also want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Skyler and all of the agency leaders and personnel involved in identifying, recommending and developing these bills.”
“After the tragic fire at 130 Liberty Street, Mayor Bloomberg asked for a review of similar construction sites to answer the questions raised by the fire,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler. “We convened a comprehensive working group and developed a series of reforms to improve safety protocols, increase the City’s oversight and ensure the agency’s overseeing the work sites are talking to each other and sharing information. I want to thank Speaker Quinn for bringing this legislation forward to make the reforms permanent. I also would to thank Commissioners Scoppetta, LiMandri, Lawitts, and their staffs for working with the Council and the construction industry to develop the overhaul.”
Speaker Quinn and Deputy Mayor Skyler were joined by Joseph Graffagnino Sr., the father of FDNY firefighter Graffagnino. They were also joined by Building Trades Employer’s Association president Louis J. Coletti and Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera, and by Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri, Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Steven Lawitts, Fire Department Chief of Department Salvatore Cassano, Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee Erik Martin-Dilan, Chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee James Vacca, Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee James Gennarro, and Council Members Miguel Martinez, Alan Gerson, Daniel Garodnick, Kendall Stewart, Letitia James, Vincent Ignizio and James Sanders.
The reforms announced today include:
STRENGTHENING STANDPIPE AND SPRINKLER SAFETY
Five bills announced today that will:
Establish uniform color coding of standpipe and sprinkler systems for ease of identification in case of emergency and so they are not accidently damaged and rendered inoperable;
Require a plumbing or fire-suppression license and permit to cut and cap standpipes or sprinklers during demolition. Additionally, this bill will establish a procedure for removal of a damaged or inoperable sprinkler systems to ensure agency personnel are aware of changes to the fire-suppression system and the work is done correctly;
Require installation of an air-pressurized alarm system in dry standpipes during construction and demolition operations to ensure any breach in the system is immediately detected;
Require pressure testing of new or altered sprinkler or standpipe systems;
Require site safety managers to conduct daily checks of standpipes and weekly tracing of the system at construction and demolition sites to ensure no breach has occurred.
“The search for a working standpipe proved tragic in the Deutsche Bank Building fire, as those lost minutes cost two firefighters their lives,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick, who introduced the bill for color-coding standpipes and sprinkler lines. “This is a simple measure that will prevent emergencies from becoming tragedies.”
“The removal or damage of a standpipe without notice or permission by the City has cost lives, and this legislation will go a long way in making sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Council Member Vincent Ignizio. “Working together with the Speaker, my colleagues in the Council and the Administration, we will create a safer environment for the FDNY.”
“Regrettably the tragedy of Deutsche Bank taught us a valuable lesson and it cost us the lives of firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino. Never again will we send our firefighters in to harm way without ensuring they are protected. Today we are setting a new standard of safety that will prevent incidents such as this from occurring again hopefully,” said Councilman James Sanders Jr.
IMPROVING INTER-AGENCY COMMUNICATION AND ENHANCING SAFETY AT CONSTRUCTION AND DEMOLITION SITES
Three bills announced today that will:
Require DEP, FDNY and DOB to share information about violations issued and other key inspection data so that inspectors from all three agencies enter a site aware of any serious problems, and agency managers can allocate inspection resources most efficiently to the properties that pose the highest risks;
Improve permitting standards for demolitions by requiring a registered design professional to submit a detailed plan for demolition, including all work done by mechanical devices (for example, jackhammers, bobcats, etc.);
Implement a zero-tolerance smoking policy at certain demolition, construction and abatement sites.
“To have effective oversight and enforcement, we need our agencies to talk to one another,” said Fire and Criminal Justice Committee Chair James Vacca. “This bill brings together three departments that visit the same sites and conduct similar inspections but that haven’t always shared information. By making sure each inspector knows the results of all previous inspections at a given site, this bill has the potential to save not only time but lives as well.”
“Over the last few years, we have taken tremendous steps forward in making construction sites safer places to work,” said Housing and Buildings Chair Erik Martin-Dilan. “Asking licensed professionals to share their plans before they start a demolition is yet another common sense way to get information to City Agencies, so that we can flag any problems before they cause any accidents.”
“Let safety be our priority in everything we do; let it be the main goal,” Council Member Letitia James. “It is my belief that faulty equipment could be eliminated by the improvement of permitting standards, which would make certain the proper functioning of equipment, thus ensuring the safety of workers. Most of all, I feel that smoking bans at construction, demolition, and abatement sites are mandatory in order to prevent potential fires and save innocent lives.”
REGULATING OVERSIGHT AND SAFETY OF ASBESTOS ABATEMENT
Three bills announced today that will:
Establish a three-point asbestos abatement protection program that will: 1) require permits for certain abatement jobs that pose the highest safety risk; 2) mandate the use of fire-retardant materials during the abatement process; and 3) authorize DEP inspectors to enforce provisions of the fire and building code at abatement sites;
Limit simultaneous asbestos abatement and full demolition work unless the job meets certain thresholds established by DEP, FDNY and DOB;
Require DEP to publish guidance to environmental contractors on how to maintain egress and satisfy other safety requirements at abatement sites.
“Demolition and asbestos abatement are necessary to the development of our City, and we need to make sure the people who work these jobs are as safe as possible,” said Council Member Miguel Martinez. “But the measures we’re introducing today are not just good for the people who work these jobs – they are also good for the inspectors, the firefighters and the surrounding neighborhoods, for everyone who is depending on a fast and safe process.”
“The history of events at the Deutsche Bank building demands that we take action to prevent such tragedies in the future,” said Council Member Alan J. Gerson, whose district includes the Deutsche Bank Building. “These bills are a good step toward protecting the workers and communities surrounding construction sites from asbestos and fire injuries.”
“Regardless of whether a building is under construction, being repaired or going through a demolition, City Agencies must ensure that all codes and regulations must are adhered to in order to secure the safety of all workers,” said Council Member Kendell Stewart.
“This is a part of our continuing effort to work in tandem with the Bloomberg Administration and the City Council to make our city safer within the built environment,” said Lou Colletti, President and CEO, New York City Buildings Trades Employer Association.
“The best safety practices are developed when industry and government come together to develop comprehensive plans that allow work to move forward and increase site safety,” said Gary LaBarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “The legislation being introduced today is the result of that kind of collaborative process and I want to thank the administration and the council.”
“We appreciate the commitment of the Mayor and the Speaker to providing a safer environment for construction in New York City,” said Steven Spinola, President of the Real Estate Board of New York. “The bills put forward advance that worthy objective.”
Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler led the seven-month review by a working group comprised of the Fire Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Buildings, the Law Department, and the Mayor’s Office of Operations. The legislative package introduced today establishes the authorities, site procedures, and oversight tools necessary to implement the 33 recommendations developed during the review and accepted by Mayor Bloomberg.