Jan. 10, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
The developer of the construction site that partially collapsed on Northern Boulevard last week has a history of violating building code, and the Department of Buildings was alerted to its questionable practices by a local legislator back in May.
Council Member Francisco Moya penned a letter to Derek Lee, the Queens Commissioner for the DOB, in May, where he noted that Fleet Financial Group, the developer behind the 112-21 Northern Blvd. site, had racked up several violations relating to unsafe working conditions at the site.
The company was slapped with four violations on March 5, 2018, when a partial stop work order was issued after the DOB determined that excavation work had illegally started and an adjacent bus shelter had been damaged.
The developer, according to a DOB spokesperson, was cited at the time for failure to safeguard the site, failure to report the incident, failure to notify the DOB that it had started excavation work and failure to submit ongoing reports.
The Fleet Financial Group, which is in the midst of constructing a 12-story building, was also hit with $10,000 in fines.
“I am writing you to express my deep concerns about the unsafe working conditions at the 112-21 Northern Blvd construction site,” Moya’s May 3 letter reads. “As you know, the development has already been issued a partial stop-work order and has been hit with at least eight violations issued related to unsafe working conditions as of March 2018.”
The DOB lifted the stop work order on April 17 after the contractor notified the agency that its excavation plans were in order.
But the agency issued another stop work order on Dec. 19 after conducting an inspection that was prompted by a 311 complaint. The 311 caller said excavation work at the site was causing the sidewalk and roadway to crack.
The DOB subsequently shut the site down and visited the location several times to ensure the developer was complying with the stop work order.
Weeks later, on Jan. 4, the excavation wall at the construction site collapsed, bring down a large portion of sidewalk and roadway. The gas and water main lines were also ruptured.
Moya took to Facebook the following week to blame the developer for the collapse, noting the company’s track record.
“There is no question that this property owner and developer have together consistently violated safety regulations and DOB orders,” Moya posted, adding, “As a direct result of their transgressions, the City of New York has had to deploy countless resources in response to the street collapse and the people of Queens have been inconvenienced with the closure of Northern Boulevard, one of the borough’s busiest thoroughfares.”
The council member also posted video to Facebook on Thursday of workers purporting to breach the stop work order on the day of the incident.
The video comes after the DOB said that their preliminary investigation had not revealed any evidence that the active stop work order was being violated at the time of the incident.
The cause of the incident, they added, is still being investigated.
A spokesperson for Fleet also said that the company had not violated the conditions of the stop work order. “Nobody was on site during the incident because of the order. Definitely not,” the spokesperson said.