The Real Deal New York

New York’s scaffold law must change: OPINION

Critics offer plan they claim will bring New York in line with other states

May 27, 2014 10:27AM

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From left: the Reverend Jacques Andre DeGraff, scaffolding and Louis J. Coletti

From left: the Reverend Jacques Andre DeGraff, scaffolding and Louis J. Coletti

Reform is needed to the state’s scaffold law, argue Reverend Andre DeGraff, first vice president of 100 Black Men, and Louis Coletti, the president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers Association in an opinion piece in Crain’s.

“Our reform proposals are fair and reasonable,” DeGraff and Coletti wrote. “We want to change the strict liability standard for accidents to comparative negligence, and preserve the right of injured workers to sue their employer, bringing New York in line with every other state.”

Under the current law, businesses are placed at risk and taxpayers pay for hundreds of millions of dollars to cover the insurance costs, according to DeGraff and Coletti. 

According to their opinion piece in Crain’s on Tuesday morning, trial lawyers and special-interest groups spent $1,147,139 lobbying New York state’s elected officials, 37 percent more than what was spent in 2010. The high donations from lawyers are hindering reform, according to DeGraff and Coletti.

Four nonprofit organizations that are looking to rebuild since Superstorm Sandy have told the legislature that they can’t provide relief to families because of lack of insurance that has been caused by the scaffold law.

“Make no mistake,” they wrote to the legislature, “the scaffold law has directly and significantly hindered our ability to help hundreds of New Yorkers return home after Superstorm Sandy.”

As a result of the law, the city’s School Construction Authority will build 5,000 fewer classroom seats annually, according to the opinion piece. The authority’s MWBE program, which awards contracts to minority- and women-owned contractors, is also in jeopardy, according to the same article.

DeGraff and Coletti are also proposing that every worker received a basic Occupation Safety and Health Administration safety course at all private and public construction sites. [Crain's] — Claire Moses

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