New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

NY1 Construction Accident Raises Questions About Oversight of Buildings by Rocco Vertuccio

Construction Accident Raises Questions About Oversight of Buildings

59-year-old Mario Salas died on the job Thursday while doing restoration work on the facade of a building at ‪36th Street‬ and Lexington Avenue. 

"What happened? How it happened? It’s supposed to be safe here,” said Angela Molina, Salas' daughter. 

Two workers were on a scaffolding near the 11th floor when part of the building’s parapet broke away from the roof. The weight of the debris brought the scaffolding down to the sidewalk shed below, killing  Salas. He had started with the Edras Group two weeks ago after losing his last construction job because of the pandemic.

“He was not supposed to die like that. We need some answers from someone. My mom is destroyed," said Molina.

The city’s Department of Buildings issued 43 violations to the Edras Group over the past 10 years. They had all been resolved. The company had no violations at this site.

But the tragedy is raising new questions about the city’s oversight of unsafe buildings.

Residents of the building told us off camera the repairs should have been done much sooner. The DOB deemed the building’s facade unsafe and needing repair in February 2019.

A property manager told us they put up the sidewalk shed a year and a half ago but wouldn’t say when the restoration work started. He did say it was suspended because of the pandemic and had just recently resumed. 

In December, a woman walking near Times Square was killed when part of a building facade fell.

The City Council then considered legislation to allow the Department of Buildings to use drones to inspect building facades more quickly, but the bill stalled.

“It seems not a day goes by that another piece of a building falls on somebody,” said Manhattan City Council member Ben Kallos. 

Building owners often erect sidewalk sheds to protect passersby from debris that may fall from unsafe buildings, but some fail to quickly repair the unsafe condition. Kallos proposed legislation that would allow the city to impose tougher fines in such cases and charge the owners for repairs.

“There shouldn’t be a place where any part of a building is falling on anybody,“ said Kallos. 

The DOB says because of its new initiatives, worksite accidents dropped 20 percent last year, and they continue to decrease this year. That is little comfort to Mario Salas family.

“He was a wonderful guy, He was strong. We really do miss him,“ said Molina.

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