Manhattan DA’s Office and New York Committee for Occupational Health and Safety Host Construction Site Safety Trainings for Community Organizations and Consulates

March 10, 2016

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and the New York Committee for Occupational Health and Safety (NYCOSH) today hosted a collaborative construction site safety training session for 13 community organizations. The training session, part of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Construction Safety Community Project, assisted community-based organizations and consulates with reporting unsafe conditions, as well as effectively collaborating with law enforcement and the workers they represent. District Attorney Vance was joined at the event by NYCOSH Executive Director Charlene Obernauer, construction safety trainers, and representatives of community organizations that work with construction workers.

“As development booms, more workers are dying on the job or suffering serious injuries at New York City construction sites,” said District Attorney Vance. “Far too often, bad actors in the construction industry take advantage of workers’ language barriers, distrust of law enforcement, and undocumented status, forcing them into unsafe working conditions which can, and do, lead to fatalities. The death of Carlos Moncayo highlighted the need to establish partnerships with the workers that witness these dangerous conditions on the daily basis, in order to both protect them and build strong criminal cases. Whether workers are union or nonunion, documented or undocumented, they deserve nothing less than our commitment to their safety and wellbeing. I urge anyone who witnesses unsafe working conditions to contact NYCOSH or these community organizations for assistance. My office is here to help, regardless of your immigration status or the language you speak.”

Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH, said: “NYCOSH is pleased to co-host construction site safety trainings with the District Attorney’s Construction Safety Community Project. Reporting unsafe conditions begins with workers knowing their rights and the law, and accessing construction safety trainings. Given the disproportionate fatalities among immigrant and Latino workers, providing accessible trainings is an issue of equity in New York City. NYCOSH places a high value on DA Vance’s commitment to holding criminal contractors accountable, as employers are ultimately responsible for a safe workplace.”

The Construction Safety Community Project, an initiative of the Construction Fraud Task Force, was created in response to increasingly unsafe working conditions at construction sites, and in particular, to the April 2015 death of Carlos Moncayo, an undocumented construction worker. In August 2015, District Attorney Vance, the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI), and the NYPD announced charges against two supervisors and their respective companies for recklessly causing Mr. Moncayo’s death by failing to heed and address repeated warnings about unsafe work conditions at an active construction site. Mr. Moncayo was killed when an unsecured trench in which he was working collapse and fatally crushed him.

The Construction Safety Community Project aims to establish partnerships between workers, community organizations, and law enforcement, in order to combat such fraud and dangerous working conditions at construction sites across Manhattan. Today’s training session assisted community-based organizations with effectively documenting unsafe conditions, and establishing protocols for collaboration. Organizations in attendance included:

  • Consulate General of Colombia

  • Consulate General of Mexico

  • Consulate General of Ecuador

  • Catholic Charities Community Services (Yonkers)

  • Catholic Charities Community Services (Bronx)

  • CUNY City Tech: Academy for Occupational Health & Construction Safety

  • National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)

  • New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)

  • Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation

  • Saint Jerome’s H.A.N.D.S. Community Center (Bronx)

  • The New York Immigration Coalition

  • Wind of the Spirit, Immigrant Resource Center

As part of this initiative, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office attends OSHA trainings and workers’ meetings across the City to share the Office’s work in combatting fraud in the construction industry. The Office’s presentation focuses on workers’ rights, as well as how to document and report unsafe conditions. The Office encourages workers to seek help and cooperate with law enforcement and government agencies, regardless of their immigration status. Since January, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has provided trainings for more than 200 immigrant workers.

Last year, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and several investigative agencies, including DOI, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Office of the Inspector General, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Office of the Inspector General, and the Business Integrity Commission for the City of New York, formed a citywide Construction Fraud Task Force designed to identify and prosecute citywide corruption and fraud in the construction industry. The investigative agencies comprising the Task Force meet monthly and work collaboratively to probe the commission of crimes including fraud, bribery, extortion, money laundering, bid rigging, larceny, and safety violations, among others. By working together to investigate those compromising the integrity of the construction and trade industry, the overarching goal of the Task Force is to ensure fairness and safety, as well as deter future fraud and misconduct.