Beware of Falling New Yorkers

By Skye An

The most populous city in the U.S. and a global urban power in its own right faces a serious problem: safety lapses in construction.

New York City is still in the midst of a building boom, and while construction workers continue to transform the Big Apple into a commercial and residential haven, it’s starting to come at the cost of their lives.

Statistics in recent years have shown that the number of construction work related deaths and injuries exceeds the rate of construction in New York City. Workers like Manuel Colorado, Gurmeet Singh, and Lukasz Stolarski plummeted to their untimely ends when the shaky foundation beneath them collapsed. Many reports have argued that these accidents are totally avoidable, but a lack of supervision and observance of safety protocol (wearing harnesses and helmets) amongst the workers causes these issues to persist.

An emphasis on getting the job done quickly contributes to this safety hazard. Speed rather than safety is being prioritized, and as a result, many construction workers face high risks of injury or death while on the job. The known deaths occurred in Midtown and Williamsburg, but the rest of the accidents go largely unnoticed and improperly documented throughout all boroughs due to contractors failing to pay penalties.

As the economy continues to improve, Mayor Bill de Blasio pushes for further construction to make housing more affordable. Many developers who are uncertain over tax abatement programs add on to the frequency of construction in order to cover all of their assets.

Immigrants comprise most of the construction deaths, and they are especially susceptible to these accidents because they are often poorly trained and afraid to speak up about the safety hazards for fear of losing their jobs. Pursuing the American Dream isn’t easy, and many immigrants will take on any job they can in order to earn money. However, financial security has compromised the physical safety of the workers and pedestrians.

Sinyee Cheung ’17 says, “The city is often under a lot of construction. Whenever I go to Manhattan and come across a construction site, I get a bit nervous because the way the workers work doesn’t seem very safe. You never know when one of their materials or maybe even an actual worker may come tumbling down on top of you.”

NYC’s Building Department has recently pushed for better safety precautions and warnings, and many inspectors agree that they should have done that years ago. If all goes well, New Yorkers won’t have to wear helmets everywhere they go after all, but for now, it would be wise to heed this warning: Beware of falling New Yorkers.

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