- A New York City construction foreman has been sentenced to one to three years in prison for his part in the death of 22-year-old construction worker Carlos Moncayo, who was killed in an excavation collapse in April 2015, the New York District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
- A Manhattan court found Wilmer Cueva, an employee of subcontractor Sky Materials Corporation, guilty of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment for allowing Moncayo and others to work in the unsecured trench despite several warnings that it was unsafe.
- Earlier this year, general contractor Harco Construction was convicted of manslaughter and other charges around the deadly accident. The judge in Harco’s case sentenced the company to pay for English and Spanish public safety ads, but Harco refused and said it would appeal the decision.
At the time of Harco's conviction, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said that the guilty verdict showed that "managing a project from afar does not insulate a corporation or general contractor from criminal liability." According to Newsday, a jury reached an impasse in the case of Harco supervisor Alfonso Prestia, so the court sentenced him to probation and community service as part of a November plea deal.
Despite some claims that construction is an inherently dangerous business and that it is an overreach to criminally prosecute contractors for accidents like Moncayo's, authorities have stepped up their efforts to ensure job site safety. In response to the Moncayo incident as well as other safety and corruption issues in the city's construction industry, Vance set up the Construction Fraud Task Force, which investigates safety violations as well as fraud, bid-rigging, extortion and other industry malfeasance.
The New York City Department of Buildings has also heightened its focus on safety and increased the number of stop work orders by 23% to 4,580 for the first half of 2016. Some in the city's construction industry have pushed back against the DOB's uptick in citations, as they say it has has centered around an alleged lack of guidelines as well as inspectors' willingness to shut down projects quickly.
The issue of immigrant construction workers like Moncayo has also been a major talking point in the discussion around worker safety in New York City and across the U.S. In November, The New York Times reported that immigrants made up a disproportionate number of job site fatalities because many believed their legal status would be brought into question if they complained about unsafe conditions. An April AFL-CIO report also found that Latino construction worker deaths rose 32% between 2010 and 2014 and that Latino and immigrant construction deaths were the highest of any industry.