Injuries at construction sites are up 78% this year, with 16 workers dying. Those numbers sparked a massive protest outside of City Hall Thursday with the city's major construction union calling for action, as NY1's Courtney Gross reports.
It was an unorthodox funeral procession, there were coffins parading past City Hall, a tribute to the construction workers who have died on the job this year.
"Most of the accidents that are happening out here is all non-union work," said one protester. "People are dying."
Thousands of people lined Broadway demanding safer work sites.
Led by the city's biggest construction union — it wants the city to require workers take part in a new apprenticeship program before working at construction sites for large buildings.
"I think it's important that the administration as well as the city council take this legislation very seriously and do what's right to protect non-union workers and workers at construction sites that are dying at an epidemic rate," said Gary LaBarbera, of the Building and Construction Trades Council.
This rally was the latest spotlight on an industry some say has become more dangerous.
They point to a construction boom, where critics say builders are cutting corners to finish the job more quickly. Injuries at construction sites are up 78% this year.
Elected officials were lining up on Thursday saying something needs to be done.
"We just want safety, safety, safety at these sites," said City Councilman Corey Johnson.
Despite this strong showing of construction workers, so far the de Blasio administration has had other solutions.
"We are noticing people that are doing the wrong thing and picking those folks and being aggressive," said Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler.
Testifying to the City Council before the rally, the buildings commissioner said his agency is hiring nearly 100 new inspectors and is considering requiring more safety personnel at construction sites for smaller buildings.
They have also created a risk management office to identify sites that pose a threat to public safety —but it appears, at least right now, that office is thinly staffed.
"Currently there is three people," the commissioner said. " But I am in the process of evaluating how we might consolidate other analysts within our agency and I am asking for some additional lines to bring in data scientists."
As for the union's proposal, City Hall says that is under review.