|Council Member Jumaane Williams
...the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings held a hearing on Thursday to fast-track several bills and to ask questions, some of them pointed, of the city’s buildings commissioner. Several members of the Council also said that they were busy drafting additional bills that would soon be introduced.
“Saving New Yorkers’ lives is the reason that I called this hearing today,” said Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, the committee’s chairman. “To the families of those that we have lost, and to those who have been injured, let me say loudly and clearly: We hear you, and we are here because of you.”
Mr. Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, then read out loud the names of some of the workers who have died in the last two years, including several whose stories were described in detail in the Times article.
Two of the new bills would double the penalties assessed to contractors for working without a permit and for violating a stop-work order. Another bill would establish a task force of mayoral agencies, to be led by the Department of Buildings, that would convene regularly to assess the safety risks posed to workers, pedestrians and motorists near construction sites.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration opposes the bills, said Rick D. Chandler, the city’s buildings commissioner. “If we set penalties too high, we also risk driving work underground, without the benefit of department regulation, which may in turn result in more unsafe construction,” he told the committee.
Mr. Chandler said that the department was already doing “proactive enhanced disciplinary work” with additional staffing and had established, for the first time, a Risk Management Office that would use data analysis to better identify problems.
He also said the administration would focus more attention on buildings up to nine stories high, “where a disproportionate number of accidents occur.” Mr. Chandler added that the administration was considering requiring that construction superintendents be on site on all midsize alteration projects.