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Press Releases / 2009 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2009

MAYOR BLOOMBERG SIGNS LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE SAFETY, COORDINATION AND OVERSIGHT AT CONSTRUCTION, DEMOLITION AND ASBESTOS ABATEMENT SITES THROUGHOUT THE FIVE BOROUGHS

Remarks by Mayor Bloomberg at a Public Hearing on Local Laws

“The first five of thirteen bills before me today – Introductory Numbers 1001-A, 1002, 1003-A, 1005, and 1007 – are part of a comprehensive legislative package to improve safety, enhance coordination, and increase oversight at construction, demolition, and asbestos abatement sites in New York City.

“Following the tragic fire at the former Deutsche Bank building located at 130 Liberty Street that took the lives of firefighters Joseph Graffagnino, Jr. and Robert Beddia, I ordered a comprehensive review of oversight and operations at construction, demolition, and abatement sites.  The Construction, Demolition & Abatement (CDA) Working Group, led by Deputy Mayor for Operations Ed Skyler, and comprised of representatives from the Department of Buildings, Department of Environmental Protection, Fire Department, and the Office of Operations, developed thirty-three recommendations that focused on four areas: inspection processes, general oversight, field operations, and data sharing.  In conjunction with the City Council, twelve pieces of legislation were drafted that collectively address many of the recommendations from the panel.

“Introductory Number 1001-A, sponsored in conjunction with the Administration by Speaker Quinn and Council Members James, Crowley, Ulrich, White, Koppell, Gennaro, Brewer, Liu, Mealy, Stewart, Weprin, Recchia, Felder, Gentile, Jackson, Reyna and Sears prohibits smoking on any floor where asbestos abatement activity is taking place.  In addition, Introductory Number 1001-A prohibits tobacco, lighters, and matches at asbestos abatement work sites.  Similarly, Introductory Number 1002, sponsored in conjunction with the Administration by Speaker Quinn and Council Members James, Vallone, Brewer, Koppell, Liu, Mealy, Stewart, Weprin, White, Felder, Crowley, Gentile, Jackson, Reyna and Sears, prohibits smoking at construction sites.  These two bills encompass simple recommendations of the CDA Working Group that strengthen the Citywide smoking ban at work sites with a zero-tolerance enforcement approach.  As you may recall, the fire at 130 Liberty Street was started by a lit cigarette that had been left at the site. These two common sense bills seek to avoid a similar tragedy from occurring elsewhere in the City.

“Introductory Number 1003-A, sponsored in conjunction with the Administration by Speaker Quinn and Council Members Martinez, Gerson, Crowley, Ulrich, White, Koppell, Gennaro, Fidler, James, Liu, Nelson, Stewart, Recchia, Gentile, Sears and Weprin, establishes a permitting requirement for asbestos abatement jobs that pose the greatest risk to the safety of workers, first responders, and the general public.  This is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of the thirty-three CDA Working Group recommendations.

“Asbestos abatement is a complex and heavily regulated activity.  A safely conducted abatement generally requires extensive pre-cleaning, establishment of a containment area, and installation of machines to maintain negative air pressure during abatement.  Even with all of these safeguards, there is a risk that unless carefully designed and implemented, the structures and materials needed to establish containment and run a safe job could obstruct building exits or interfere with fire suppression systems. Introductory Number 1003-A grants the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to issue abatement permits for these jobs and establishes the broad criteria under which they would be required. 

“DEP and the Mayor’s Office of Operations have been working for months to establish a brand new office that will review and permit significant abatement projects.  Based within DEP’s Asbestos Control Program, this new Asbestos Technical Review Unit (A-TRU) will issue DEP permits based on a joint DEP/DOB review.  The Unit will develop guidance documents for contractors and will allow contractors to gain the necessary approvals in one location.  The Fire Department will receive automatic notification for all jobs that require a permit and will dispatch the local fire company to inspect the site.  In addition, Introductory Number 1003-A authorizes the Fire Department to delegate to DEP authority to enforce the Fire Codes at abatement sites, so that DEP inspectors can issue violations for dangerous conditions.

“Introductory Number 1005, sponsored in conjunction with the Administration by Speaker Quinn and Council Members Stewart, Crowley, Ulrich, White, Koppell, James, Liu, Gennaro, Fidler, Nelson, Gentile, Recchia, Reyna, Weprin and Gerson, requires DEP to promulgate rules giving guidance to contractors on how to maintain safe abatement project sites.  DEP, DOB, and FDNY, in collaboration with the Office of Operations, have developed new rules that will soon be promulgated to strengthen safety at abatement jobs, and this bill requires DEP to publish guidance for the environmental contracting industry, so they know how to follow the rules.

“Finally, Introductory Number 1007, sponsored in conjunction with the Administration by Speaker Quinn and Council Members Vacca, Vallone, Brewer, Fidler, James, Mealy, Nelson, Sanders, Seabrook, Stewart, Oddo, White, Crowley, Gentile, Jackson, Reyna, Sears and Weprin, requires the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fire Department, and the Department of Buildings to establish a procedure to share information regarding violations issued as a result of building inspections that meet agreed-upon criteria.  Once in place, this procedure will build on the considerable progress in sharing information that these agencies have made since the fire at 130 Liberty Street.  Today, the FDNY receives notifications about all demolition and construction jobs directly from the DOB, and notice of the highest-risk abatement jobs from DEP.  And these notifications trigger automatic inspections by the local fire company.

“This bill requires FDNY, DOB and DEP to do even more.  They must develop a process to share inspection data so that inspectors in the field have the best available information, no matter which agency they work for.  In addition, the Administration will be required to provide the Council a copy of the CDA information sharing procedure one year from the effective date of this bill.

“I would like to thank Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler, Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri, Fire Commissioner, Nicholas Scoppetta, Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Steve Lawitts, Director of Operations Jeff Kay and their staff for working tirelessly over the past year to identify the problems, recommend solutions, and develop legislation that will overhaul the City’s construction, demolition, and abatement procedures.  I would also like to thank Speaker Quinn, the Council, as well as our partners in the construction industry, including Gary La Barbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council, Lou Coletti, President of the Building Trades Employers Association, Stephen Spinola, President of the Real Estate Board of New York, and Frank Garito, President of the Environmental Contractors Association of New York City.  Through the measures enacted today and the remaining seven CDA bills, we are making these sites as safe as possible for workers, first responders, and the public.”

Contact: Stu Loeser/Evelyn Erskine (212) 788-2958
Press Contact: Francis X. Gribbon (FDNY) (718) 999-2056

http://www.nyc.gov/fdny

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