The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Prosecutors: Firms had cooks, stylists sign as safety monitors at New York construction sites

  • Print

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Two construction safety companies dispatched cooks, hairdressers, bellhops and musicians to sign off as licensed safety experts — one of them dead — on inspections at dozens of high-rise sites, authorities said Wednesday.

Flouting a city law that requires a private-sector site safety manager to spend at least two hours a day checking everything from ladders to firefighting pipes, the companies hired unqualified relatives and others, gave them the names of 10 safety managers and had them sign more than 400 daily safety logs at about 40 building sites, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and city Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said.

No one was physically hurt because of the scheme, but proper inspections later found blocked exits, torn safety netting and other potentially perilous lapses at some sites, the authorities said.

Having "unqualified individuals fabricating that they inspected sites" was a disaster waiting to happen, Vance said. The case is prompting tighter oversight of safety managers' documentation.

Avanti Building Consultants Inc., NYCB Engineering Group, Avanti leaders Richard Marini and Richard Sfraga and NYCB Vice-President Kishowar Pervez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to grand larceny and other charges, as did four men accused of signing the logs. Lawyers for several defendants, including the companies and executives, had no immediate comment.

Site safety managers are supposed to keep tabs on safety in between visits from city Department of Buildings inspectors, who spot-check their logs. Construction firms and building owners have to hire a safety manager at any exterior work on a building taller than 14 stories. The managers generally must have several years of experience, take courses and pass a city-administered exam, authorities said.

"Site safety managers are an important, crucial part of making sure that large construction sites in the city of New York remain safe," Peters said.

While site safety managers can make as much as $100 an hour, NYCB and Avanti, also known as Risk Management Agency Inc., sometimes paid their interns and runners $25 an hour to pose on paper as safety managers who were elsewhere, retired or dead, authorities said.

"Please be extra careful looking for DoB," Marini wrote in a text message to one runner last August, using the acronym for the buildings department, according to a report by Peters' agency.

The companies' clients didn't know they were paying for bogus inspections. One shelled out more than $412,000, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Diana Florence said.

Authorities said the real safety managers were largely unaware of the scam; none has been charged.

In response to the probe, the Department of Buildings is increasing audits of site safety managers' work and qualifications, developing an electronic system that will notify site safety managers whenever their names are being used at construction sites and making some documents more fraud-resistant.

___

Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @jennpeltz

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Keri Latimer looks for beauty in the dark and the spaces between the notes

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose cools off Thursday in water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A water lily in full bloom is reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you miss Grandma Elm?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google