A construction worker died yesterday after a sustaining a fall 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.
Jose Cruz, 59, fell two stories from a construction beam Wednesday morning while working at the site on the corner of West 49th Street, according to the New York Police Department. Cruz sustained head trauma and was transported to Mount Sinai West hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The New York City Department of Buildings subsequently issued a stop-work order at the property. DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler described Cruz’s death as “a tragic, preventable accident” and noted an ongoing investigation into the incident.
“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.
Atlas Capital Group 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 Hospitality Properties, which owns the famed Grand Ole Opry venue in Nashville, for a 27,000-square-foot country music-themed restaurant and bar.
Atlas Capital declined to comment on Cruz’s death, referring CO to the general contractor for the site, Streamline USA. Ryman Hospitality did not immediately return a request for comment.
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.
According to the the New York Daily News, which first reported news of the incident, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) leveled Streamline with seven “serious” safety violations in March 2016 relating to unsafe job conditions at the 1604 Broadway site. OSHA hit the contractor with $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, the president of the union construction group Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said Cruz’s passing “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 [yesterday’s] incident—an improperly trained, exploited worker on a nonunion job site,” LaBarbera said.
Brian Sampson, the president of the Empire State Chapter of construction group 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.”