Manhattan DA cracks down on construction safety after worker’s death, gas explosion

Cyrus Vance is prosecuting East Village landlords over blast

Cyrus Vance and the East Village gas explosion
Cyrus Vance and the East Village gas explosion

As violent crime retreats from Manhattan, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is shifting his focus towards construction safety.

“My goal is to play whatever part we can in having a vibrant, safe construction industry, because that’s good for New York,” he told the Commercial Observer.

Earlier this year, Vance’s office won a conviction against Harco Construction over the death of nonunion worker Carlos Moncayo at 9-19 Ninth Avenue in the Meatpacking District. Moncayo was crushed to death when the walls of a trench collapsed on him. The trench was later found structurally unsafe.

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The subcontractor, Sky Materials Corporation, will head to trial this week over the death of Moncayo.

Following Moncayo’s death, Vance launched a construction safety taskforce in partnership with the Department of Investigation and other city agencies.

The DA and DOI are also working on a case against landlords and contractors over a March 2015 East Village gas explosion that killed two people and injured another 20. Vance hopes that prosecuting unsafe working conditions more vigorously will deter bad behavior and prevent future tragedies. Last year, there were 400 construction accidents in the city, which led to 450 injuries, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“One of the things that a DA has to do is constantly be looking at the city and what are the prevalent issues,” DOI commissioner Mark Peters told the Observer. “Twenty years ago, a DA mostly had to be thinking about violent crime. Happily, there’s been a massive decrease in violent crime. Now things like construction safety [and] corruption are real issues we have to deal with. Cy Vance has done a great job in changing the office’s priorities to meet the new needs of the city.” [CO]Konrad Putzier