Could What Happened in Miami Happen in New York?

Experts fear that builders may have cut corners on a critical support element which may have been a cause of the collapse. Some construction workers tell us that similar corners are being cut in New York City construction today.

Surfside_Condo_Miami.png

Engineers theorize that the Champlain Towers condo in Surfside, Florida near Miami may have collapsed because builders did not follow engineer specifications when they made the support columns.  Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Weeks after the accordian collapse of a Miami high-rise condo in which nearly 150 people are feared lost, experts are examining the images of the broken support columns and wondering if they are seeing a construction flaw that may be to blame for the fall.

 

According to a July 5, 2021 New York Times article, “Critical places near the base of the building appeared to use less steel reinforcement than called for in the project’s original design drawings.”

 

The story continued.

Allyn E. Kilsheimer, a forensic engineering expert hired by the town of Surfside to investigate the collapse, … confirmed there were signs that the amount of steel used to connect concrete slabs below a parking deck to the building’s vertical columns might be less than what the project’s initial plans specified.

 

“The bars might not be arranged like the original drawings call for,” Mr. Kilsheimer said...

 

R. Shankar Nair, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and former chairman of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, was among the other engineers who reviewed photographs and saw inconsistencies between the design and the steel that remained visible in the columns…

 

Mr. Nair, who has over 50 years of design experience, said it was clear from images … that the structures did not appear to contain the expected amount of steel.

 

“There does not appear to be enough steel connecting the slab to the columns,” Mr. Nair said. “What we see out there seems inconsistent with what the drawings show.”

A non-union NYC construction worker tells of being ordered to skimp on the number of metal supports used in a high-rise concrete floor and then to lie about it to an inspector. A similar scenario may have been a cause of the Miami condo collapse.

Evidence from the rubble

According to the design drawings

Surfside_Columns_Miami_w_Text.png

Photo by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue/via Reuters

Illustration by Mika Gröndahl and Anjali Singhvi

Could this terrible scene of destruction, death and loss be repeated in New York City? There are enough warning signs to take this possibility very seriously.

 

On this site we documented the testimony from non-union high-rise construction workers who were ordered to skimp on production and to disregard engineering specifications. One interviewee explains a scenario eerily similar to what those experts fear may have happened in Miami. Ivan Duta, now a member of Metal Workers Local 46, tells of his experience before joining the union. He explains that while working for Parkside Construction — a non-unionized open shop contractor with many large projects in the city — on a project in Manhattan, he was told to deceive an inspector about the amount of metal that was laid beneath a concrete floor.

 

Mr. Duta successfully deceived that inspector. It remains an unanswered question whether that deception was executed on a grander scale, and if so, on how many floors and in how many buildings.

 

Also cited here is the word of Danny Coleman, a member of the New York City Carpenter’s Union. Mr. Coleman’s tale refers to his time at RNC — another non-unionized open shop contractor with many work sites dotting New York. Mr. Coleman speaks of old and degraded construction materials used on one of these jobs that caused a construction deck to collapse. He says the crew quietly swept away the evidence, but he can’t say whether the same flawed materials were used when they rebuilt that platform – because he had quit.

 

All of the workers interviewed for these stories say they have many more non-union examples like this – and know of many more – in which vulnerable workers are ordered to cut corners, ignore engineers, and lie.

 

All of these stories raise the frightening question: How many non-union-built structures in New York City bear these potential weaknesses and how long before one or more of them reveals itself in the form of an epic tragedy like the one in Miami?

 

City Councilman Francisco Moya, 21st District in Queens, says “Call your local representative in New York and tell them to pass the laws that will hold greedy developers to account. It’s time we put an end to the corner cutting and putting innocent people in harm’s way. And if you want the best building, buy union-built.”

Get The Facts

If you work, shop, study, or live in a NYC high-rise, here are 3 reasons you'll want to know who built it: safety, quality, and cost to you. Find out the real stories about non-union construction in New York City. 

Email Your City Councilman
Tell them you want better safety laws and enforcement for NYC construction workers. Just pick your rep, add your name, and hit send.
Share Your Construction Story
Have a NYC construction story to tell us? Want to make NYC safe for all construction workers? We’ll take your words, pictures, or videos.