Drunk construction worker jumps off tower into net


By Julie Shapiro

A construction worker showed up drunk last Thursday to the W Hotel tower rising at 123 Washington St. and made his way up the building, according to a city Buildings Dept. complaint.

His boss told him to put on a harness, part of the safety protocol, but the worker yelled that he didn’t need one, said a source familiar with the incident.

The worker then jumped off the 36th floor of the building into protective netting one floor below, said John Gallagher, spokesperson for contractor Tishman Construction Corp.

The worker, for subcontractor Century Maxim, was fired immediately, Gallagher said. He would not name the worker and did not say how the worker got off the net and out of the building.

The worker ran off the site before First Precinct police arrived, but police may charge him with reckless endangerment, Detective Rick Lee said.

Kate Lindquist, Buildings Department spokesperson, said the department is investigating.

“Oh my God,” said Esther Regelson, who lives nearby at 109 Washington St., upon hearing of the accident. “Unbelievable. That’s pretty intense.”

The same day, a piece of wood measuring 4 feet by 8 feet fell from the 38th floor and landed on Albany St., where it did not hit anyone. Tishman has not determined what caused the wood to fall.

The Buildings Dept. stopped work at the building last Thursday, issuing six violations, including unsecured material near the edge of the building, unprotected holes in the floor, inadequate overhead protection and smoking materials found. The stop-work order was still in effect Wednesday.

The Moinian Group bought the hotel site from Deutsche Bank for $30 million in 2004. A 10-story Deutsche office building stood on the site at 4 Albany St., and like the more well-known former Deutsche Bank building one block north at 130 Liberty St., the Albany St. building was damaged and contaminated on 9/11 and had to be demolished.

The Moinian Group hopes to open the 57-story W Hotel later this year with 217 hotel rooms and 223 condos. Tishman has poured concrete up to the 39th floor and expects the building to top out in June. The Moinian Group did not return calls for comment.

Regelson said she was more concerned about the falling wood and other violations than about the drunk worker, because the worker was, she hoped, an isolated incident.

“Stuff is happening every day, and it’s pretty disconcerting,” Regelson said. “It’s not safe to live here, or work here.”

Regelson wants the Buildings Department to mandate harsher punishments for construction safety violations.

“Something’s got to change or people are just going to keep getting hurt,” Regelson said.

Nancy Keegan, Regelson’s neighbor, agreed.

“Unfortunately, it’s par for the course,” she said of the falling wood. “There is such total disregard to residents, and carelessness. Unfortunately, this is something we’ve kind of become used to.”

Keegan recently saw a pickup truck back out of a driveway adjacent to the site and slam into the W construction’s scaffolding, then just drive away. If he’d hit the scaffolding harder, “the whole thing could have collapsed,” Keegan said.

Gallagher, the Tishman spokesperson, would not give specifics on how the contractor will prevent future accidents like the falling wood. Tishman is also managing construction at the Goldman Sachs headquarters, where a steel plate flew off the hoist last year and landed in the adjacent Battery Park City ballfields.

“Tishman is committed to maintaining a secure environment for workers, local residents and pedestrians throughout the construction process and takes appropriate action to address any violations as they occur,” Gallagher said in an e-mail to Downtown Express.

The W Hotel has attracted a handful of other violations in the past month in addition to those issued last week. They included a smaller piece of falling wood, the absence of protective netting, debris buildup and more smoking materials. A worker’s cigarette started the 2007 fire at the former Deutsche Bank building that killed two firefighters.