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City Forced Workers to Scale Muddy Bank to Exit Water Tunnel, Lawsuit Says

By Nicholas Rizzi | March 9, 2017 9:56am
 A worker for the water tunnel that connects Staten Island to Brooklyn sued the city after he hurt himself while trying to exit the project, claiming the city failed to provide a safe way out. Lawmakers toured the tunnel in 2016 when it finished construction.
A worker for the water tunnel that connects Staten Island to Brooklyn sued the city after he hurt himself while trying to exit the project, claiming the city failed to provide a safe way out. Lawmakers toured the tunnel in 2016 when it finished construction.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

NEW YORK CITY — The city failed to provide a safe exit for workers building the new water tunnel that connects Brooklyn to Staten Island, forcing them to climb up a muddy bank instead and leading one worker to fall onto rocks, a lawsuit claims.

Michael Hickey, of Long Island, filed a $2 million suit against the city after he fell while trying to exit the tunnel in 2015, severing two nerves and three veins in his hand, according to court documents.

The suit claims the city failed to provide a "scaffold, ladder and/or other safety device" to help workers climb out of the tunnel during construction.

Workers instead had to climb a patch of land that had "slick, slippery rocks hidden beneath muck and unlevel, hole-laden, raised depressed and obscured surface," according to the suit.

Hickey's lawyer, Jeffrey Nemerov, did not respond to a request for comment.

The city started work on the $250 million project in 2012, building a new tunnel between Staten Island and Brooklyn to replace two older ones, NY1 reported. It's meant as a backup for a different tunnel and can supply up to 150 million gallons of water to the borough, NBC 4 reported.

The project was stalled by Hurricane Sandy, but construction finished in October.

Hickey worked for Judlau Contracting Inc., which was hired by Tully Construction to install the land piping, build the chlorination building and install the siphon pipe in the tunnel, according to the company.

He was on the Staten Island side of the project — near Front Street in Stapleton — on Dec. 5, 2015 when he tried to exit the tunnel's shaft at about 5:10 a.m., according to court documents.

Hickey slipped and fell onto rocks, deeply cutting his right hand. The injury severed two nerves and three veins and made him unable to continue his work, according to the suit.

He filed the suit against the city, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and Tully last year in Brooklyn, but it was moved to a Staten Island court on Feb. 24, court records show.

"The Law Department will review the complaint," a spokesman for the city's Law Department said in a statement.

A lawyer for Tully did not respond to a request for comment.