By David Brand
A chaotic video obtained by Councilmember Francisco Moya shows a construction crew working at an East Elmhurst construction site in violation of a city stop-work order moments before a water pipe burst, causing the street and sidewalk to caved-in.
In the 39-second cell phone video, workers were inspecting a retaining wall that buttressed a stretch of Northern Boulevard in East Elmhurst before an eruption sounds in the background. The person filming the conversation abruptly runs to another part of the construction zone, stops and films a geyser of water shooting from a burst pipe.
“What’s clear beyond this video is that the property owner and developer have routinely violated safety regulations and disregarded Department of Building orders,” Moya said in a statement, adding that his office blurred the faces of the workers to protect their identities. “Culpability for this incident is on the developer and the property owner, not the working-class laborers trying to provide for their families.”
Moya is looking into whether the DOB can create a unit dedicated to monitoring sites hit with stop-work orders, spokesman Ryan Sit said
DOB did not say whether they favored creating the new unit, but a spokesman for the DOB the Eagle they already review sites with stop-work orders.
“DOB already reinspects all violations that we issue for hazardous conditions within at least every 60 days,” the spokesman said.
“Those responsible have to be held accountable for the damage their misconduct has caused,” Moya said.
No one was hurt, but the construction site collapse has complicated life for Elmhurst residents, Moya said.
“This incident has been immeasurably disruptive, forcing the closure of one of the borough's busiest thoroughfares, significantly inconveniencing parents trying to pick up and drop off their children at the nearby P.S. 330 and has come at a significant financial cost to the city,” Moya said.
Manhattan-based Perini Group Inc., the site’s general contractor, told the Eagle on Friday that the company had no comment.
On Jan. 8, Perini said they were “still investigating the reasons” for the cave-in.
“We had a stop-work order so no one was hurt,” assistant project manager Angela Li told the Eagle.
The DOB issued a stop-work order on Nov. 29
Li said Perini planned to develop a 12-story mixed-use building that would feature mostly commercial space.
The cave-in was just the latest chapter in the saga of the construction site at 112-21 Northern Blvd., where property owner Fleet Financial Group had planned to build a glass facility called the LaGuardia Convention Center.
Fleet Financial now plans to develop the Eastern Emerald Hotel, the website City Realty reports. The site was home to the Di Blasi Ford dealership.
In June 2018, Moya sent a letter DOB Borough Commissioner Derek Lee sharing his “deep concerns about the unsafe working conditions at the 112-21 Northern Blvd. construction site,” which had accumulated at least eight violations related to unsafe working conditions by March .
“These violations indicate not only a continual flouting of safety regulations but also raise the question of whether the property owner is permitting construction in flagrant disregard of the stop work order at the site,” Moya wrote. “I hope you will join me in continuing to support safe work conditions and to ensure this site — and all the others across my district and the city — is abiding by the safety regulations promulgated by your agency, and the laws that the City of New York.”
The DOB responded to Moya’s letter, stating that it would continue to inspect the site.
“We thank Councilmember Moya for relaying his concerns regarding this site. DOB has inspected this site regularly since construction permits were issued in 2017, and have taken multiple enforcement actions, including in April 2017, when we issued the first of several stop work orders at the site,” a DOB spokesperson told the Eagle.
In a statement, Fleet Financial Group said the company will continue investigating what happened at the construction site.
“We are working with all of the city agencies and Con Edison cooperatively to determine what happened adjacent to the Di Blasi Ford development site, and we have full confidence in that process,” Fleet Financial Group said in a statement to the Eagle.