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Contractor Behind Pastis Death Had Hazardous Violations at 7 Other Sites

By  Danielle Tcholakian and Rosa Goldensohn | August 11, 2015 3:37pm | Updated on August 11, 2015 7:57pm

 The construction site at 9-19 Ninth Avenue on April 6, 2015, the day 22-year-old construction worker Carlos Moncayo was crushed to death.
The construction site at 9-19 Ninth Avenue on April 6, 2015, the day 22-year-old construction worker Carlos Moncayo was crushed to death.
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Manhattan District Attorney's Office

CIVIC CENTER — A contractor whose company was criminally charged in the death of a construction worker in April has had his license yanked after the Department of Buildings found his eight job sites citywide had been deemed “immediately hazardous” 30 times over the past two years.

Kenneth Hart, who runs Harco Construction, is the first person to lose his DOB registration for amassing too many construction violations under a new enforcement effort, which includes hiring additional staff to tackle the issue, DOB officials said.

Hart racked up 30 violations for “immediately hazardous” circumstances at eight different construction sites he oversaw over a period of two years, DOB said. Hart’s company is no longer allowed to operate in the city, officials said.

"The industry should take notice," said DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler in a statement. "An attitude that violations are simply the cost of doing business will no longer be tolerated."

Prosecutors found that Hart's company failed to properly safeguard or warn construction worker Carlos Moncayo, who was crushed to death in an excavation pit known to be hazardous at the Pastis site in the Meatpacking District.

In the wake of his death, the DOB reviewed the company’s work history and found a pattern of risky behavior at all of its eight open work sites. DOB officials said they were not yet ready to reveal the terms of Hart's suspension, or provide the 33-page administrative complaint against him.

In addition to the Pastis site at 91-19 Ninth Ave. in the Meatpacking District, Hart's company was slapped with DOB violations for seven other sites for allowing "immediately hazardous" conditions that threatened worker safety.

Those sites included 529 Broadway in SoHo, where a Nike flagship store is slated to rise; 118 N. 4th St., which is slated to become a Williamsburg Whole Foods; a “Galleria” on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Boerum Place; 5 W. 125th Street, which will house a new Bed Bath & Beyond and WeWork, according to Curbed; a tower at 218 W. 35th St., a future Planet Fitness at 213 W. 34th St.; and 168-42 Jamaica Ave. in Queens that was meant to hold a new pre-K center.

Hart received three violations at the Jamaica Ave. site in 2013 for failing to properly safeguard an excavation pit, the same issue that prosecutors say killed Moncayo at the Pastis site, records show.

The future Planet Fitness location was twice slapped with violations for inadequate safety netting. At Atlantic Avenue, there was no overhead protection for workers on site, according to DOB. And at the West 35th Street site, the DOB issued three "fail to safeguard persons/property affected by construction" warnings, a violation found at each of Hart's job sites, according to DOB records.

An investigation from the Manhattan District Attorney and the Department of Investigation resulted in manslaughter charges against Hart's company Harco and the company it had subcontracted, Sky Materials, as well as Harco employee Alfonso Prestia.

Part of the prosecutors' investigation revealed that higher-ups at Harco had ordered company employees to stop putting complaints about site safety in emails, or risk being fired.

All of Hart's job sites are owned by a rising real estate dynasty headed up by developer Bobby Cayre and Cayre's uncle, Alex Adjmi. The DA and DOI made no mention of whether they were looking into the role of the building’s owners.

An attorney for Hart and Harco did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reached by phone, Cayre said, “We have no comment on the matter.”

All but one of the sites Hart had worked on were taken over by Michael Marino of MJM Associates. Messages left for Marino were not immediately returned.