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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Firm with history of mob ties chosen to demolish shed on church grounds



The Cathedral of St. John The Divine in Morningside Heights.

They certainly chose a hell of a contractor for this job.

The developer slated to build two apartment buildings alongside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine hired a firm with alleged past mob ties and a deadly safety record to demolish a one-story metal shed on the church grounds in Morningside Heights.

The Brodsky Organization tapped Brooklyn-based Breeze National Inc., a firm formerly headed by alleged Lucchese crime family associate Toby Romano Sr., who was convicted in 1988 of bribing a health inspector to overlook violations at an asbestos removal job.

The firm, which has logged several safety violations and had two of its workers killed on the job, is now headed by Romano’s son, Toby Jr.

"I think it's an inappropriate choice of a demolition company to be working in our neighborhood."

“I think it’s an inappropriate choice of a demolition company to be working in our neighborhood,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Morningside Heights), whose district includes the site and has not supported the Cathedral’s latest development scheme.

Breeze National was booted off Columbia University’s West Harlem expansion project in 2012 after worker Juan Ruiz was killed and two others were injured during the demolition of a W.131st St. warehouse. The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration slapped Breeze National the firm with a $9,800 fine, which the firm settled for $4,900 last September.

The demolition firm hauled Columbia to Manhattan Supreme Court later that year, seeking payment for its work and damages for alleged defamation.

Brodsky Organization tasked with developing two apartment buildings alongside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine tapped Breeze National Inc., a demolition company with mob ties and a deadly safety record.

Residents were shocked to hear about the god-awful choice.

“They couldn’t believe (the developers for) the church would hire a company with that type of reputation,” said Brad Taylor, a Community Board 9 member. “I was disappointed; it didn’t seem like the developer for the Cathedral project did its due diligence and homework.”

Laura Friedman, president of Morningside Heights Historic District Committee, which has opposed the development for years, said hiring of Breeze doesn’t bode well.

Juan Ruiz was crushed to death when construction collapsed on him at a Columbia University site.

“Perhaps it’s reflective of how outrageous this entire project is,” said Friedman. “Who knows what will occur?”

The first fatality occurred in 2010, when a 51-year-old worker fell to his death while demolishing a Columbia-owned building. The city had already required Breeze National one year earlier to hire an anti-corruption monitor. OSHA slapped the firm with a $2,250 fine, which it settled for $1,688.

“It’s very disheartening, but hardly surprising,"O'Donnell said of the choice of Breeze, calling the contractor a "developer that doesn’t care about the safety of its workers.”

Brodsky Organization tasked with developing two apartment buildings alongside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine tapped Breeze National Inc., a demolition company with mob ties and a deadly safety record.

The Brodsky Organization and Breeze did not return requests for comment. The Episcopal Diocese of New York also declined to comment, as did the Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, the chairwoman of Community Board 9.

Despite its checkered past, Breeze has been hired this year to complete at least 17 demolitions, city data shows.

The Cathedral is leasing the Brodsky Organization a stretch of land between W. 110th and W. 113th Sts., along Amsterdam Ave., in hopes the 428-unit apartment complex will generate roughly $1 million a year that can go toward repairs of the cavernous, cash-strapped church. The community board hammered out a compromise that allowed the project to move forward and paved the way for the remainder of the Cathedral grounds to be landmarked.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/uptown-community-damns-contractor-shady-deadly-track-record-article-1.1737276


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