Menchaca Vows To Get Tough On Contractors Following Construction Death


The NYPD’s 72nd Precinct – along with City Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook) – convened last night to discuss an accident at a construction site in Sunset Park, which left one hapless worker buried and unaccounted for.

At around 1:30 p.m. yesterday, Sept. 12, a wall at a construction site on 39th Street and 7th Avenue collapsed, leaving six workers trapped under the rubble. The firefighters who responded to the distress call were able to locate and rescue five of the victims; the remaining one is, as of now, still missing and believed to be dead.

“Looking at what happened today… it was very reminiscent to what I saw at Ground Zero, the tireless effort to rescue them,” said NYPD Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez.

NYPD Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez, the commander of the 72nd Police Precinct. Photo by William Engel

The 72nd Precinct held their monthly community council meeting later that evening at the Marien-Heim Senior Center, which began with a recap of the details of the accident. The council saw an impromptu appearance by Menchaca, who talked about what he plans to do as a councilmember to prevent incidents like this from happening again.

“One of the things I want to let you all know about is that, in the council, we’re putting these construction companies on notice,” said Menchaca. “This is not the first time this has happened in the city of New York. People are put into danger because of rapid, cheap construction standards.”

Menchaca regretfully informed attendees that it was not likely that the remaining trapped worker would be found alive, barring “a miracle”. He also mentioned that the victim was believed to be a Latino immigrant, claiming that his fate was symptomatic of the marginalization faced by low-income immigrant laborers in the borough.

“When we think about all the workers who have died on construction sites in the city, they are Latino, they are immigrants,” said Menchaca. “A lot of them are undocumented, and they’re being forced to work in unsafe conditions. And that needs to stop.”

When asked what he intends to do going forward, Menchaca said that the Department of Buildings (DOB) is going to place the contractors in charge of the site under investigation. The DOB will review both the site of the collapse and any other construction sites under his supervision.

“This is probably not his only job, which means that this is probably not the only place which is creating dangerous conditions for workers,” said Menchaca.

To alleviate the problem in the long run, Menchaca plans to enforce harsher penalties on contractors for collapses that happen under their scrutiny. Last year, he co-sponsored a bill mandating that every construction worker in the city receive a minimum of 40 hours of safety training.

“This is not longer going to be one of those things where it’s just ‘part of business’,” said Menchaca. “These collapses happen, and [the contractors] get a small little slap on the wrist and a fine. We’re being very tough; we’ll actually be shutting down sites to make sure that everything’s safe, and they might not be able to get a DOB permit ever again.”

Menchaca ended his speech by urging those present to “keep [their] prayers strong,” suggesting that there was still a silver of hope that the remaining worker would be rescued alive.