Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pat and Mike kill again

With Monday’s death of a 25-year-old window installer on the upper east side of Manhattan, city construction accidents have now killed ten New Yorkers (according to the New York Times; 13 by WNYC’s count) since the start of 2008. But if Mayor Michael “Bloody Mike” Bloomberg or his Buildings Commissioner Patricia “stick with Pat—see workers go splat” Lancaster are alarmed, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

“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.”

And, by “obey the law,” Lancaster means letting the construction companies, owners, architects, and engineers continue to build their monuments to Bloody Mike’s revitalization plan and profit off of the deaths of working class New Yorkers to the tune $45 million this decade.

“Safety is not a priority at the Buildings Department,” says US Representative Carolyn Maloney (whose district includes the site of the latest construction death)—which is a problem, since the DoB is the city agency tasked with ensuring construction site safety.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer reported that the development that killed the worker on Monday had been cited for 38 building code violations; the DoB says the number is 25, but whatever the number, construction continued while fines were assessed totaling a whopping $25,690. . . on a 30-story luxury tower that will net its developers millions in profits.

Under the reign of Bloomberg and Lancaster, construction accidents, injuries, and deaths have all skyrocketed while NYC development has charged ahead. Mayor Bloomberg has pretty much always exhibited a callous “to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs” attitude toward the city residents that actually work and live here, so his official silence on Monday, while disgusting, is hardly surprising. But, it is amazing to me that Commissioner Lancaster—a woman who continually talks of trying to reclaim the Department of Buildings from the years of neglect it suffered under Mayor Rudy Giuliani—well, it’s amazing to me that Pat can sleep nights.

I have, in recent months, repeatedly called for accountability in these matters. I have called for Lancaster to accept responsibility for the repeated failures of her department and step down—and if she won’t step down, then it is Mayor Bloomberg’s responsibility to show that he finds this reign of death/rain of bodies intolerable and fire her. At this point, however, after so many have died and continue to do so with no real accountability, that really isn’t enough.

I am not often one to call for frog-marching. . . but my feeling today is that slapping on the handcuffs and hauling Patricia Lancaster down to the courthouse is the least that this city can do. The Bloomberg Administration’s disregard for worker safety—indeed, all of our safety—is criminal. If the city’s officials can’t see their way clear to jailing the developers and contractors that keep killing New Yorkers, then it is time for us New Yorkers to start jailing our officials.

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