Construction Worker Falls to His Death on East Side of Manhattan
A construction worker fell to his death from an East Side building on Monday when a safety strap system intended to secure him to the building failed, the authorities said.
The worker, Kevin Kelly, 25, of Bayside, Queens, was installing windows at a condominium tower under construction when he fell from the 23rd floor to a 14th floor balcony at about 10:30 a.m. Contractors at the site of the 30 story tower, the Laurel, 400 East 67th Street at First Avenue, had been cited by city inspectors for 25 code violations during the last year, city officials said.
Patricia J. Lancaster, the city’s commissioner of buildings, said that Mr. Kelly’s fall remained under investigation, but that “a failure of the safety strap connecting the worker to the concrete ceiling played a role.” Late Monday, the Buildings Department said the entire strap had pulled out of its steel and concrete mooring, and remained attached to his harness when he fell.
The Buildings Department, which halted all work at the site, will investigate “the method the crews used to install safety straps throughout the building,” Ms. Lancaster said.
“We will be holding the individuals responsible for this terrible tragedy accountable,” Ms. Lancaster said during a visit to the site. “Construction companies, owners, architects and engineers have to obey the law.”
Construction in New York has been proceeding rapidly recently, and there has been a string of fatal accidents. Ten people have been killed in high-rise construction accidents since January, including seven who died on March 8 when a 200-foot crane collapsed at another East Side condominium project, demolishing a four-story town house on East 50th Street.
The deaths have prompted criticism of city safety rules and enforcement. On Monday, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney and Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, criticized the Department of Buildings during a joint visit to the accident site.
“Safety is not a priority for the Buildings Department,” Ms. Maloney said.
The Laurel condominium is being built by the Alexico Group, a development company in Manhattan, and the project manager is Hunter Roberts Construction Group, which has several projects under way in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Officials of both companies did not return calls for comment on Monday.
Mr. Stringer said citations for 38 building code violations had been issued at the construction site since July 2005. Department officials said that 25 of the citations were issued since work on the building began in April 2007, and that the others were issued during demolition and other work to prepare for the construction.
The department said the contractors and developers of the project had been ordered to pay $25,690 in fines for 23 of the 25 violations. It said Monday night that all but one of the past violations had been corrected. It said the one unresolved violation involved failure by a contractor to provide design drawings for a sidewalk scaffold shed.
The department’s Web site indicated that the violations had included things like failure to provide safety nets, which are required to prevent debris or workers from falling, and to install standpipes, which are designed to pump water to combat high-rise fires.
The department said it cited the project for five new violations on Monday after the accident, including failing to safeguard the public and having damaged safety netting on the 23rd, 24th and 25th floors.
The nylon safety strap used by Mr. Kelly was a standard piece of safety equipment at high rise construction sites.
Michael Gianatasio, an engineer and site safety consultant at several New York City projects but not at the East 67th Street project, said nylon straps were secured to steel girders that provide the framework for each floor before concrete is poured.
The straps, designed to hold 4,000 pounds, are normally installed near each window and are equipped with rings that are secured to construction workers’ safety harnesses, he said.
The police and buildings officials said that no one else was injured in the fall, but that another worker at the site, who had apparently witnessed it, complained of chest pains and was taken to a hospital for observation.
Several workers mingled quietly at the site afterward. When approached for comment, all of them said they had not witnessed the fall and declined to say more.
Mr. Kelly, a graduate of Benjamin N. Cardoso High School in Bayside, was single and living with his father at his childhood home at 73-84 Springfield Boulevard. He was described by a neighbor, Rita Meyers, as an outgoing man who had held a succession of jobs before he went to work installing windows about two years ago.
“He is a very friendly kid,” Ms. Meyers said. ”He finally got settled into what he wanted to do.”
A description of the Laurel condominium on a Web site of Hunter Roberts says the project is scheduled for completion in January, with 129 apartments, 14,000 square feet of retail and office space and two levels of underground parking.