Critics of Trump SoHo project call for shutdown - Monday 28th of January 2008

The day after a crane accident at the Trump SoHo complex killed one worker and injured three others, some city officials and neighborhood groups said the project should have been shut down completely after a spate of safety violations in recent months.

"When a building has a major violation, it has to be resolved quickly," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, noting that the Building Department hearing on October crane safety violations is scheduled for next week.

"We close down restaurants for fruit fly violations quicker than we shut down potentially dangerous construction sites," Stringer said.

Building officials say that every hearing for previous violations related to the Trump SoHo project were scheduled within 90 days, as is the agencys general practice. The project has been shut down by the city four times since September, but never for more than nine days, according to city building records.

Mondays accident killed Yurly Vanchytskyy of Brooklyn, who a neighbor said emigrated from the Ukraine almost 20 years ago. Vanchytskyy, 54, fell 40 stories when the floor beneath him and three other workers buckled as they poured concrete from a crane.

"No matter what - rain or shine - he was going to work," said a neighbor, Muhammad Tambra, 52. "Monday through Friday, he was out at 5 oclock in the morning."

The city halted work indefinitely and issued contractor Bovis Lend Lease four violations after the fall. Bovis and DiFama Concrete of Brooklyn had been issued 11 others last year in connection with the Donald Trump hotel-condominium tower. Bovis was also the contractor for the demolition of the former Deutsche Bank Building when a fire broke out last August, killing two firefighters.

The violations include unsafe crane operation and failing to notify the city when a crane hit a neighboring building in October, as well as storing materials too close to the edge of the building on the 39th floor on Jan. 5.

Trump officials referred questions to Bovis. A spokeswoman for the contractor did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday, although the company issued a statement saying it intends to conduct its own investigation of the accident.

"They will not be allowed to go back to work until theyve demonstrated to us what theyre going to do to keep this site safe," Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster said yesterday.

But a partial evacuation order of some floors of three surrounding buildings will be lifted once the contractor installs safety netting and scaffolding to catch any loose debris, Department of Buildings spokeswoman Kate Lindquist said.

The Trump SoHo project, first announced on "The Apprentice" in 2006, has been opposed by preservationists and neighborhood groups, which have complained the building was going up too fast and using unsafe construction practices.

"Trump is trying to turn SoHo into Las Vegas and Atlantic City," said Sean Sweeney, director of the SoHo Alliance.

One woman whose office looks out onto the construction site said people who work and live nearby have long worried the project is dangerous.

"Everything they do at this building isnt safe," said Flavia Vogt, 34, of Hempstead.

The citys largest contractors group, the Building Trades Employers Association, announced yesterday that it will convene a meeting to discuss improving safety for general and concrete construction companies.

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