Robert LiMandri, commissioner of the Department of Buildings, visits a construction site last year. Deaths have fallen 84 percent on his watch. (Courtesy DOB)
While the recession has been woefully difficult for architects and construction workers, the latter have had some small reason for celebration: Last year, construction deaths in the Five Boroughs plummeted 84 percent, with only three in 2009, down from 19 in 2008. Partly this can be chocked up to reduced activity: the Department of Buildings, in a release heralding the declines, notes that new permits declined 33 percent, a staggering number itself—as much for not being higher, given everyone’s dour expectations, as for being so high. Also, there were no major accidents as there were in previous years—no Deutsche Bank fires, no consecutive crane collapses. Still, with fatalities at 12 in 2007 and 18 in 2006, this is clearly an awesome improvement. And credit is due, much more than the bad economy, to department Commissioner Robert LiMandri, who has made construction safety his abiding purpose. “We have been working to change the culture of the construction industry—to put public safety ahead of profit—and our message is being heard,” LiMandri said in the release. Well, we hear you, too.