Church Hit With Safety Violation in Ironworkers' Deaths
By Ben Fractenberg and Olivia Scheck
UPPER WEST SIDE — The Department of Buildings issued a violation for improper safety measures to the owners of an Upper West Side construction site where two workers fell 65 feet to their death Tuesday morning.
Redeemer Presbyterian Church's construction site at 150 West 83rd Street did not have a proper guardrail system installed in the elevator shaft where the men were working, according to the violation on the DOB’s website. The city has issued a stop work order until the fixes are made.
The church could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday. But they issued a statement on their website Tuesday saying they were "deeply saddened" by the news. "It is with our deepest sympathy that we extend our prayers and condolences to their families and loved ones," the church said in a statement.
DOB officials said Tuesday that they were concerned by the apparent lack of safety equipment and measures they found in their initial round of investigations.
"Right now we have no evidence in detail that gives us the assurance there were safety measures in place," said Department of Buildings commissioner Robert LiMandri on Tuesday.
The building owners could have provided a harness with a safety line, platform within the shaft or a netting system, which could have broken the workers’ fall, LiMandri said.
The victims, Brett McEnroe, 49, of Dover Plains, N.Y., and Roy Powell, 51, of New Paltz, N.Y., were rushed to separate hospitals and pronounced dead after falling down the shaft at 10:40 a.m. They worked as subcontractors for Cross County Erectors, which was contracted by Weir Welding, which was in turn subcontracted by F.J. Sciame Construction Co, officials from Sciame and Weir said. Sciame is responsible for the site's construction.
The men were installing metal beams inside the elevator shaft when they fell, a buildings department spokesman said.
Bob Walsh, business manager for Ironworkers Local 40, said Powell was a member of the union and a personal aquaintance, and described him as "a family man" who "had great character."
Walsh, who said he'd known Powell for nearly 20 years, said Powell also earned the respect of his colleagues, and had been voted "Foreman of the Year" by the Allied Metal Trade in 1999.
Powell followed in his father's footsteps into the ironworker trade, Walsh said. Powell had one son, who's now in his 20's, Walsh said.
The union is taking up a collection for Powell's family and is also collecting donations for their scholarship fund in his honor, Walsh added.
The space where the men died is being renovated into a community center and worship space for the Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
The center was expected to open in spring 2012, according to the church’s website.
The building has several previous violations from the buildings department, including some that remain open, officials said. Several of the violations pertain to problems with scaffolding on the building, according to the DOB website, and in at least one case last December, the construction company Sciame was fined $8,000, the DOB website shows.
The DOB said they could not comment on the open violations, citing an ongoing investigation.