Affordable housing group hopes to snuff revived construction safety bill

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Affordable housing group hopes to snuff revived construction safety bill

Affordable housing group hopes to snuff revived construction safety bill
July 25, 2017

A controversial construction safety bill that’s been stalled in the New York City Council for months will be reintroduced, but an affordable housing group is hoping to kill it once and for all.

The New York State Association for Affordable Housing, or NYSAFAH sent a letter Tuesday opposing Int. 1447-A to all the City Council members. The bill would create new site safety training requirements for all construction workers in the city and ramp up safety enforcement, but NYSAFAH argues the requirements are too onerous.

In the letter, NYSAFAH President and CEO Jolie Milstein says the “bill’s arbitrary 59-hour training requirement … would make it virtually impossible to maintain a pipeline of construction jobs that are accessible to local residents, especially those in low-income communities of color.” Milstein also writes that the bill could hurt MWBE contractors, which are often smaller companies that may find extensive safety training to be a burden.

NYSAFAH is going up against the vast majority of the council.The bill, sponsored by Housing and Buildings Committee Chairman Jumaane Williams, has been co-sponsored by 47 of the 51 council members. When the bill was first introduced in January, it included a requirement for apprenticeship programs on major buildings, but the new bill, expected to be introduced ahead of the Aug. 9 City Council meeting, no longer has that requirement.

Below is the letter in full. 

 

Dear COUNCIL MEMBER,

On behalf of NYSAFAH’s nearly 400 members, I am writing to express our strong and unified opposition to Intro. 1447-A, which would undo the progress of a decade’s worth of public and private sector efforts to increase local hiring and encourage MWBE participation in development projects. We urge you to immediately withdraw the current draft of this bill and engage in a good-faith discussion about bolstering construction safety without damaging much-needed local hiring initiatives and industry diversity.

We are committed to working with the City Council to increase construction safety and make sure workers are protected and properly trained. It must remain our priority to ensure that construction workers go home safely to their families each day. NYSAFAH has always made this clear in our conversations with Council members and staff, and we have made several proposals regarding construction safety, all of which we would be happy to discuss further.

However, the current draft of Intro. 1447-A would not fully address safety concerns and would instead create massive obstacles to local hiring in the communities served by our members and their contractors. Specifically, the bill’s arbitrary 59-hour training requirement – much of which has nothing to do with safety – would make it virtually impossible to maintain a pipeline of construction jobs that are accessible to local residents, especially those in low-income communities of color.

Additionally, the costly burden of this unnecessary 59-hour requirement would make it much harder for MWBE contractors to compete in an industry that already has a high barrier to entry due to strict regulations. As you know, MWBE contractors are often small, emerging enterprises, leaving them at a clear and unfair disadvantage when costs of training a single employee spike into the thousands of dollars – a byproduct of this bill. 

The Council has tackled big, complex issues before and there is no reason why we cannot work together on a proposal that comprehensively addresses construction safety while also protecting local hiring and MWBE participation. The current Intro. 1447-A fails to accomplish this goal and we stand ready to discuss alternatives that will better serve all construction workers and business owners, regardless of their background or affiliation.

Sincerely,

Jolie Milstein

President and CEO

New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH)

Jeff Coltin
is a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.
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