Kaufman Astoria Studios project at

34-11 36th St/36-02 34th ave 

is allowing construction workers to be exploited 

Safety Concerns

At Kaufman Astoria Studios project 34-11 36th St/36-02 34th Ave there have been some real safety concerns. 

  • In March 2019 a worker cut off his finger while using an electrical saw. The DOB inspection noted that there were no safety measures and that the construction superintendent failed to perform duties; violation summonses and a partial stop work order were issued. The next day an OSHA inspection emphasizing amputation took place at the jobsite.

  • In December 2018 a worker walking on steel fell from the first floor to the cellar concrete, injuring his shoulder. The worker was taken to the hospital and the DOB inspection noted that he was not wearing fall protection, and that the construction superintendent was not present. Summonses for violations and a full stop work order were issued.

  • Contractor Urban Atelier Group was fined several times for missing fence and barriers at the jobsite, endangering pedestrians: first in April 2017, then in October 2017, and again in August 2018.

  • A DOB inspection in June 2018 found there was no construction superintendent present. A full stop work order, notice of violation, and $10,000 fine were served.

  • Contractor Urban Atelier Group was served an ECB violation and partial stop work order in November 2018 for failure to provide clear means of egress which created hazardous conditions for workers.

  • A supported scaffold was in danger of collapse according to a DOB inspection in November 2018; in addition, workers were found using the manlift without training or certification. All use of the scaffold and manlift was stopped; violations and $7,500 in fines were issued.

According to another DOB inspection in April 2017, drilling threatened the structural stability of an exterior wall and caused it to crack, resulting in a full stop work order, violation, and $5,186 fine.

 

Violations

Kaufman Astoria Studios construction site has a slew of construction violations 

 
 

Hired Exploiters

How Can Kaufman Studios Hire these contractors knowing all this ?

Trade Off Construction Services (“Trade Off”)

  • Trade Off provides general construction services and labor. Ron Lattanzio, the registrant for Trade Off has a long history in the construction industry in New York. According to the Village Voice, in the late 1990’s, Lattanzio of A & E Consultants was at “the epicenter of a bribery and bid-rigging ring preying on the city’s buildings department and other agencies.” He pled guilty to charges of bribery and evidence tampering in 1998.

  • Trade Off hires vulnerable, inexperienced workers, and pays them exploitive wages with few to no benefits. Trade Off employees claim to receive minimal if any training, and report that the contractor invests little in construction equipment or personal protective equipment. Workers also claim that the quality of construction is below the standards of union-built, luxury development.

 

Attorney General’s Investigation

In April 2018, the New York Times reported a preliminary investigation into Trade Off’s wrongdoing has been opened by The New York State Attorney General’s Office.

 

Allegations Of Racial Discrimination

  • African American employees of Trade Off, LLC and Trade Off Plus, LLC have filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the NY State Division of Human Rights alleging systematic racial discrimination. Their charges were filed on February 27, 2018. The complaints allege that African Americans laborers were disproportionately segregated into Trade Off, while their other coworkers were generally assigned to work for Trade Off Plus which provides higher wages and some benefits.

  • In his complaint with the EEOC, one African American employee likened his experience to “a system reminiscent of apartheid.” Employees at Trade Off received a starting hourly wage of $15/hour, while Trade Off Plus employees received a starting hourly wage of $20/hour, as well as some fringe benefits such as a 401k contribution.

  • Related frequently makes use on its jobs of labor supplied by Trade Off Plus, the entity from which African American workers have allegedly been excluded.

  • When one African American employee was briefly assigned to a Trade Off Plus jobsite, he reports that he was not paid the enhanced wage. In addition, the charges allege that Trade Off Construction was generally more likely to terminate African American employees and less likely to promote and maintain them as foremen.

  • Separate from the charges, an African American employee who worked for Trade Off Plus has claimed that he and other African American coworkers were discriminated against in receiving overtime while working at 261 Hudson Street, a site not only developed by Related, but permitted to its affiliated construction firm, Roy Anderson. According to this employee, African American workers at 261 Hudson Street would be among the last selected for overtime and received significantly less of it. The same worker claimed other African American workers who spoke out against the discrimination were either fired or moved to other Trade Off sites with lower rates of pay

 

Sexual Discrimination & Harassment

  • Female construction employees of Trade Off describe a hostile workplace where sexually harassing behavior is routine. Some of the worst examples of this occurred at 55 Hudson Yards, where a worker claims her supervisor exposed his penis and solicited her for sex on multiple occasions.

  • In a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), a female Trade Off employee describes threatening and demeaning treatment by a Trade Off foreman while working on 520 West 30th Street project.  The worker had already suffered a miscarriage after working through her pregnancy for fear of losing her job.  Her miscarriage required repeated access to on site bathrooms. As described in the complaint, the foreman would follow her and stand outside the bathroom menacingly staring at her.  When she confronted the foreman, he reportedly responded, “Bitch, I do what the fuck I want to do. I don’t know who you think you’re talking to.” After speaking with her supervisors about these issues, the worker claims she was fired.

 

Low Wages & Minimal Benefits

  • Some workers make as little as $15 per hour.

  • Workers report that time is often missing from paychecks, and that the process to reclaim these wages is arduous. At least one worker described a systematic underpayment scheme of habitually shorting hours, in which workers were required to sign into jobsites but were signed out by their foremen in the evening.

  • In one case, after being shorted hours, a worker approached his foreman who apologized and paid cash for the missing time.

  • Some workers stated that their checks have bounced.

  • At least two workers reported that Trade Off failed to pay the federally-required overtime premium for work over forty hours.

  • Workers who have insurance say that it is too expensive and provides limited coverage.

The 401K Myth

  • Employees, including those at 55 Hudson Yards, were promised a 401K, but for many workers these benefits long remained nothing more than empty promises. After months of workers requesting information on the 401K plan, Trade Off effectively admitted no plan existed by claiming they were in the process of creating one. Despite long having claimed the 401k was in place, documents for the first time distributed in October 2017 show the Plan had only recently been established, while still failing to give workers any information about what, if any benefits, are provided. Contributions to the plan by Trade Off are only discretionary. The provided plan summary states Trade Off “may from time to time make Profit Sharing contributions to the Plan. Making these contributions is totally discretionary on [their] part, as is the amount should we decide to make them.”

 

Unsafe Working Conditions And Lack Of Training

  • “I do whatever needs to get done.” Trade Off employees start without training and work in many specialized fields. Many employees are uncertified but work on the scaffolding at all heights without adequate fall protection and use dangerous machinery without any preparation.

  • Trade Off also has reported history of promoting workers to foremen despite limited experience with the company. Because of this practice, supervisors abound on worksites, and lower-level workers sometime deal with conflicting instructions.

  • Workers report safety issues with hoists on Trade Off projects. One Trade Off employee reported that the hoist had come open multiple times on his project. At 68 Charlton the hoist doors could not be properly secured, creating the chance of the door accidentally opening while the hoist was in use or elevated. At a project near 23rd Street and Broadway, the hoist showered debris onto the street, breaking car and shop windows. An employee had warned Trade Off supervisors that the hoist was not properly operating before the accident.

  • Workers are not required to use harnesses on scaffolding or hoists, and are often not given the opportunity to put harnesses on when asked to go up on scaffolding.

  • A worker received conflicting directions from supervisors on whether he should use a ladder that he felt was unsafe. On another occasion, the same Trade Off employee worked on a ledge, nine-stories up only tied-off to a stud.

  • When workers speak up about safety they report that they are usually sent home for a few days without pay.

  • Many job sites lack adequate bathroom facilities and workers urinate in bottles and defecate in bags. This waste was left in the walls or piled about around jobsites. One worker reported being fired after refusing to collect biological waste left around the jobsite.

  • Drugs and alcohol use on Trade Off projects is a problem. In one case a worker witnessed another Trade Off employee smoking marijuana and then later in the day dropping a hammer off the building onto a truck. Another worker reports that the deputy foreman at 55 Hudson Yards was regularly intoxicated on the jobsite.

  • Trade Off employees also encountered safety issues with power equipment at 55 Hudson Yards that could have been easily resolved to improve worker safety. One employee reported having to use a chipping gun with no safety guard. Another worker reported being forced to use a dull saws-all, increasing the risk of sparks and skipping blades.

  • At 55 Hudson Yards Trade Off workers were directed to work at the edge of the 44th floor with no harness. Workers were told to unhook the safety net at the edge of the building and to reach out with hand held dust pans to sweep debris inside.

 

ECD NY Inc.

AGL Industries

Wage Theft

  • AGL employees filed federal Fair Labor Standards Act class action civil suits against the firm in 2014 and 2016.  The workers sought to recover unpaid prevailing wages, overtime premiums and supplemental benefits. AGL Industries reached an undisclosed settlement in each case.

 

Accidents & Worker Injuries:

  • In July 2012 a ladder fell from under a worker, causing the worker to fall thirty feet and suffer injuries to his head, left eye, face, teeth, left hip, left leg, left wrist, left hand, back, neck, internal injuries, traumatic brain injury, and other injuries.  By October 2015, multiple doctors found that the worker remained incapable of work due to his traumatic brain injury and limited mobility.

  • In May 2013, a worker dropped a 15 foot by 3 foot piece of metal on the foot of an another worker.  The injured worker suffered a 4-month spell of disability following the accident.

  • In August 2013 at 86th Avenue in Queens the DOB issued a violation to AGL Industries when worker’s hand was struck by a load carried by the hook of a crane.  All work was ordered to stop.

  • In December 2015, a foreman and welder who had been employed by AGL Industries for 14 years fell on wet stairs while carrying tools.  The worker claimed sustained Injuries to back, neck and right leg; however AGL’s insurance carrier successfully argued the long-term employee had not provided “timely notice” of his injuries and was able to deny avoid paying a workers’ compensation claim.

Spring Scaffolding LLC

Spring Scaffolding LLC

Spring Scaffolding designs, engineers, installs and rents sectional scaffolding, sidewalk bridges, safety netting, debris chutes and hoists.  This firm has a history of dangerous and exploitive work.

 

Wage Theft:

Spring Scaffolding LLC settled a Fair Labor Standards Act civil suit with laborers in their employment between October 2006 and March 2014 for $560,000.  The workers were seeking compensation for unpaid overtime, payments that averaged below minimum wage, and underpayment of wages on prevailing wage jobs. Up to 197 workers were members of the class action.

 

Safety & Accidents:

New York City agencies have cited Spring Scaffolding with numerous safety violations.  Since 2012 City agencies imposed $155,720 in penalties against Spring Scaffolding for 97 violations.  Most of these violations (68) and penalties ($108,790) issued by the DOB. The company also has a series of accidents and scaffolding collapses, which endanger workers and the community.

           

  • A DOB inspector issued a Stop Work Order against Spring Scaffolding on October 17, 2016 after a worker erecting pipe scaffold fell twelve feet hitting his head on a concrete baluster and was struck by a falling section of scaffolding.

  • Spring Scaffolding was issued an aggravated offense level two penalty following the collapse of a sidewalk shed that injuring and hospitalizing three workers in April 2012.

  • In April 2014 a Spring Scaffold worker fell 18 feet from pipe scaffolding onto the sidewalk shed while building the scaffold.  The DOB issued a violation to Spring Scaffolding for failing to provide a walkway during scaffold installation.

Rising Sun Construction, LLC

Rising Sun Construction, LLC is a masonry company based in New Jersey.

 

Litigation

  • In an ongoing case in the NYS Supreme Court, construction manager Pizzarotti alleges that, while retained as a subcontractor, RSC breached its contractual obligations. The complaint alleges pervasive staffing failures, failure to perform work according to schedule, a DOB scaffolding violation with related one week delay, a stop work order that led to a two-week shutdown of the site, and missing materials, claiming damages not less than $2 million. The complaint even alleges that police had to intervene when RSC began forcibly removing materials from the site after receiving notice of termination.

  • RSC is one of the defendants in an ongoing lawsuit filed by a resident alleging that his apartment was destroyed when concrete slabs fell from the neighboring construction site where RSC and other contractors were performing work.  According to the complaint, the incident created a massive hole in the roof, causing the apartment ceiling to collapse and fill with smoke, ash, and debris. The complaint also describes how the resident, who was showering at the time, remained trapped inside until firefighters were able to pry open the door. Allegedly, the defendants had ignored previous complaints and DOB warnings about falling debris.

  • In an ongoing NYS Supreme court case, a pedestrian alleges that her infant was injured when debris fell from construction on an elevated train platform where RSC was performing work. According to the police report the child was taken to the hospital for swelling in her eye.

 

Wage Theft Allegations

  • In December 2018 construction laborers filed a class action lawsuit against RSC and its principal Brett Steinberg for overtime violations and wrongful termination as retaliation. The case was later dismissed.

  • In 2019 Rising Sun Construction was on HPD’s list of disqualified contractors who are ineligible for inclusion on any HPD prequalified list for housing development projects due to a failure to provide the wage reporting information required by Local Law 44.

 

Safety Concerns

  • In 2016 RSC paid an informal settlement of $2,800 for an OSHA violation of personal fall protection duties at a jobsite in Brooklyn.

  • Scaffold standards were a recurring issue for RSC at 2036 2nd Ave. RSC was issued DOB violations, a partial stop work order, and $3,300 in fines for use of supported scaffold without permits and workers found on the scaffold without proper certs in December 2014, then in March 2015 another inspection resulted in violations and $1,700 in fines for construction of a supported scaffold and sidewalk shed without a permit.

East Coast Drilling (ECD) NY Inc. is a foundation concrete contractor working at 42 Trinity Place, where Gilbane is the general contractor.

 

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

  • ECD, NY is accused by a female employee of sexual harassment and discrimination.  In July 2015, the female employee reports she was directed to find “pretty, sexy girls” to hire as fire guards.  After this comment, the female employee discovered her starting salary of $14 per hour was $6 to $8 less per hour compared to men with fewer credentials, according to her legal filing.  She approached company president Barry McKenna about getting a raise to match her male coworkers pay. For months, the employee says she was promised a raise that never materialized as she continued to do work that required equal skill and effort as her male coworkers.  When the raise finally was granted, it was only an increase of $2 an hour, leaving her paid still significantly less then what male workers were making. When the female worker brought this concern to McKenna, she was ignored and ultimately terminated, according to legal filings.  The case is ongoing as of August 31, 2018.

  • Summonses have been issued to ECD NY, Inc. by two additional female employees under the provisions of N.Y. Labor Law §194, which makes it unlawful to pay employees differently based on sex.

Threats to Environmental and Community Health

  • ECD is accused of illegally dumping construction waste containing hazardous substances at Roberto Clemente Park, which has been closed since 2014. ECD and other contractors are now facing a federal lawsuit filed by NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Wage Theft

  • In 2014 a ECD worker filed a class action lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act for allegedly failing to pay overtime premiums. ECD settled the case in 2015.

  • The US Department of Labor found that between February 2013 and March 2015 violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and agreed to pay $7,680 in back wages to a worker.

 

CONTACT

 If you are a worker who has been exploited, injured or experience wage theft at Kaufman Studios Call : (347)658-2826 or fill out the following form. All is Confidential

What can the Public do to help?

You can call Tracy Capune

of Kaufman Studios

(718) 392-5600

and tell her that all workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace and deserve  living wages for their families