Construction worker dies in fall at site near Times Square

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1604 Broadway
Google Street View image of 1604 Broadway

A construction worker has died after falling at Atlas Capital Group‘s 1604 Broadway near Times Square, where Ryman Hospitality Properties is constructing what will become a Grand Ole Opry-themed music venue and restaurant, The Commercial Observer reported.

The New York Police Department reported that Jose Cruz, 59, fell two stories from a construction beam on April 12 morning working at the site on the corner of West 49th St. according to the New York Police Department.

The project’s general contractor is Streamline USA.

The New York City Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order at the property. DOB commissioner Rick Chandler described Cruz’s death as “a tragic, preventable accident.”

“No building is worth a person’s life,” Chandler said in a statement to Commercial Observer. “We are determined to send a message to bad actors in the construction industry to stop cutting corners and putting speed ahead of worker safety.”

A city official familiar with the investigation into Cruz’s death said preliminary findings discovered that while the construction worker was in a harness at the time of the incident, the harness was not tied off when the fall occurred, the business publication reported.

Atlas acquired the ground lease at 1604 Broadway, which is owned by Farmore Realty, for $15.5 million in 2015, according to city property records. The developer subsequently signed a lease last year with Ryman, which owns the famed Grand Ole Opry venue in Nashville, for a 27,000-sq. ft. country music-themed restaurant and bar.

Orin Zelenak, Streamline’s co-founder and chief financial officer, said in a statement that the contractor’s “top priority is the safety and security of the workers on site, and jobsite safety is something we take seriously.” Zelenak added that Streamline is “cooperating fully with authorities” on the matter.

The New York Daily News has reported that  the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cited Streamline with seven “serious” safety violations in March 2016 relating to unsafe job conditions at the 1604 Broadway site. OSHA set the contractor $19,200 in fines that have been contested by Streamline, the publication said.

Both union and nonunion construction officials responded to news of Cruz’s death. Gary LaBarbera, president the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said Cruz’s death “underscores the need for critically important (construction) safety legislation” that is currently being considered for passage by the New York City Council.

“The vast majority of construction fatalities are avoidable tragedies similar to (the) incident—an improperly trained, exploited worker on a nonunion job site,” LaBarbera said.

Brian Sampson, president of the Empire State chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, said in prepared remarks that “it is clear that more could have been done to prevent this tragedy from happening.”

Sampson added that the nonunion group has “advanced the most comprehensive safety package in the country” in combatting construction safety concerns, describing it as “an inclusive plan to ensure all workers are safe” and rejecting safety measures advocated by the unions as “an exclusionary approach.”