For years, organized crime had construction in New York City in a stranglehold, according to writer Bob Hennelly, who has written a three-part series for CityLimits.org on the successes, failures and questions that surround the construction monitors who keep an eye on the multinational construction companies, sub-contractors and unions that are demolishing and rebuilding New York.
The “integrity monitors” were the prosecutors who helped eradicate organized crime from New York’s construction industry. Now, no longer government employees, the monitors wield a lot of power in the multi-billion construction industry, reporting to “the client the construction company is working for, a sitting judge, a law enforcement agency like the City’s Department of Investigation or even the construction company itself,” according to Hennelly.
"I was a working reporter covering New York City throughout the trauma of the September 11th attack and covered how our region did its best to recover from what felt like a collective post-traumatic shock event,” Hennelly told EHSToday.com. “For most of the time since the attack, I worked for WNYC, the NPR affiliate in New York City. I had real editorial support to cover the rebuilding effort. As a veteran journalist I loved my city, but I knew that historically, endemic corruption in the construction trades had held us back.”
According to Hennelly, the city’s future rested on a multi-billion dollar question: “Could we do the rebuild on the up and up, on budget, on time and without serious workplace or passerby injury? As the CityLimits series documents, our results were mixed."
In addition to OSHA and the state of New York’s Department of Labor, the city's Department of Buildings and the FDNY provide oversight of the construction industry. The private monitors “are a critical extra layer of pro-active monitoring on top of that existing overlay of municipal, state and even federal regulation,” said Hennelly.
Writes Hennelly in the first article of the series, “Monitors with Mixed Record to Play Key Role in Vital NYC Projects”:
“If the past 15 years are any guide, as that work progresses, some integrity monitors will succeed at preventing problems, as they did in the demolition and reconstruction of the World Trade Center. Others will catch serious issues in time for corrective action to occur, as occurred in the recent scandal over concrete testing at city sites.
But sometimes, corruption or a callous regard for human life will win, with deadly consequences. Such was the case of the decontamination and deconstruction of the Deutsche Bank at 130 Liberty Street, adjacent to the World Trade Center site.”