Local Community Board Pushes Back Against Construction Safety Bill


A disagreement over proposed city legislation requiring safety training for construction workers has broken out between the local community board covering Downton Brooklyn – the epicenter of the borough’s massive wave of highrise construction – and the local city council members that represent the area.

City Councilmember Jumaane Williams is the prime sponsor of the measure.

The city council is expected to vote as early as next week on proposed Local Law 1447, which will require construction site safety training for workers.

Proponents of the proposal include construction unions who feel this measure will help stem the rising tide of construction deaths. Opponents of this bill, which includes the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and small contractors – many of whom hire minority workers – argue that both the cost of doing the training and exemptions given to union workers from doing the training make it more prohibitive for minorities and new immigrants from getting into the construction industry.

The measure comes as construction-related accidents in the city increased to 435 in 2015 from 128 in 2011, according to the most recent data available from the city’s Department of Buildings. About three-quarters of construction sites where fatalities occurred in New York state in 2014 and 2015 were non-union, and twice the number of safety violations were found at non-union sites than at union sites in 2014, according to a January 2017 report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Earlier this week, Community Board 2, which covers Downtown Brooklyn, jumped into the controversy when its executive committee voted, 8-0-1,  to register its opposition to the bill as written.

“The principal concern of the CB2 Executive Committee is that the fee for the proposed site safety training will be prohibitively expensive for small contracting firms and construction workers who are not employed at the time that they need to obtain certification,” wrote CB 2 Chair Shirley McCrae in a letter to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Councilmember Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood), the bill’s prime sponsor.

“The committee believes that the proposed requirements will negatively and disproportionately impact low income communities and construction workers who are women or of color. The grandfathering of union construction workers is by itself inequitable,” the letter further stated.

Brooklyn’s entire (16 City Council members) delegation with the exception of City Council Members David Greenfield (D-Borough Park, Midwood, Flatbush, Bensonhurst) and Darlene Mealy (D-Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, East New York) co-sponsored the measure.

Both Greenfield, who is stepping down at the end of his term, and Mealy, who is term-limited, are leaving the city council at the end of the year.

The two city council members that count CB2 as part of their district are Stephen Levin and Lauire Cumbo – both of whom co-sponsored the bill. Levin has no opposition in the upcoming Democratic Primary. Cumbo’s primary opponent, Ede Fox, said she also supports the measure.

The bill was expected to go before the full city council for a vote next week, but the Wall Street Journal reported that the final version of the measure is still up in the air and could undergo further revisions. These include reducing the number of hours required for the safety training and the exemption granted to union workers that had previous training.