This story was originally published by ProPublica.
A private construction-waste truck struck and injured a pedestrian in Manhattan on Tuesday morning, the second crash for the vehicle’s owner in 2018.
The crash occurred outside an event in Chinatown attended by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and a member of his security detail helped the injured pedestrian in the minutes before an ambulance arrived, according to the mayor’s press secretary. The unidentified pedestrian, a 60-year-old man, was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.
De Blasio has touted pedestrian safety as a core aim of his mayoralty, and the crash comes as his administration is pushing a major reform that it says will improve the safety records of the army of private commercial garbage trucks that crisscross the city’s streets. The proposed plan from the Department of Sanitation calls for dividing the city into zones, with only three to five trash companies in each, and legislation could be introduced in the City Council as early as spring 2019.
The city agency charged with regulating the private trash and construction waste industries has been the focus of reporting this year by ProPublica. That reporting has shown the private trash-hauling industry — the nightly collection of garbage from tens of thousands of commercial enterprises across the city — to be dominated by companies with poor safety records, and the reporting has raised questions about how aggressively the oversight agency, known as the Business Integrity Commission, or BIC, has cracked down on those companies.
The BIC is also responsible for regulating construction and demolition haulers. The company involved in the accident on Tuesday is K&A Construction Services, based on Staten Island and registered with the BIC. Federal Department of Transportation records show that the company only has a single truck, and K&A was involved in another crash with one injury in January. No arrest was made or summons issued in that incident.
The BIC had no immediate comment on the accident. Calls to K&A were not immediately returned. The police said the driver remained at the scene of the accident and was being interviewed.
Justin Wood, director of organizing and strategic research for the advocacy group New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, said the accident was more evidence of the need to enact the city’s proposed zoning plan.
“Thousands of private waste trucks operate on local streets every night and day, many operated by companies that perform both trade waste and construction and demolition services,” Wood said. “The transition to a commercial waste zone system will enable the city to hold many of these operators to higher standards by awarding waste zone contracts only to haulers that maintain a good safety track record and submit a credible plan to adopt the newest safety technology on their trucks and rigorous worker training programs.”
The trade group for private commercial trash haulers is staunchly opposed to reform of the industry through zoning, and it has lobbied city lawmakers to instead give the BIC more authority.
The trade group’s executive director took issue with an initial public comment made by the mayor’s press secretary, Eric Phillips. Phillips, in a statement on Twitter, had described the truck involved in the accident as a private trash hauler, but the trade group argued that construction and demolition is a separate industry. “A private trash hauler struck a pedestrian moments ago outside the Mayor’s Chinatown event,” Phillips wrote. “The pedestrian is heading to the hospital in critical condition. Members of the mayor’s security detail were among the first to respond, one applying a tourniquet to the man’s arm.”
Kendall Christiansen, executive director of New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management, said: “Today’s comment by Mayor de Blasio’s press secretary represents a false accusation at a time when the de Blasio administration is seeking support for its commercial waste zone proposal, which would restructure our industry in ways that are largely opposed by the broader business community. We support sensible legislative proposals to more stringently regulate the commercial waste and recycling industry, but we oppose the administration’s waste zone proposal.”
Many city lawmakers and street safety advocates say giving the BIC more authority is not the answer for an industry where as many as 50 carters service a neighborhood on a single night. Those officials, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, are pushing for comprehensive reform of the industry through zoned waste collection, while calling for the BIC to more aggressively use its existing authority.
ProPublica’s reporting has showed nearly three dozen fatal private garbage truck crashes in New York City since 2010, with little sanction for the companies involved. As ProPublica and Voice of America reported in June, for the most part, the BIC’s responses to the deadly accidents have been limited: sending companies what the agency calls “safety letter directives.”
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