The New York City Educational Construction Fund was named in a legal filing by the estate of a worker who was killed at the construction site of a school and apartment tower in May. The filing, called a notice of claim, is a preliminary step that must be taken before a claimant can sue the city, which was also named along with the city’s department of buildings.
Ramadan Kurtaj, 27, died from injuries caused from a crane collapse on the site. The notice claims that negligent enforcement of safety rules on the part of New York City and its buildings department helped create hazardous conditions on the site.
Kurtaj’s estate is seeking $75 million, according to the notice which was filed on Aug. 25. Another worker was also killed in the accident.
New York City Corporation Counsel spokeswoman Connie Pankratz said a claimant has a year to file a lawsuit but that the notice in and of itself does not mean that a suit will be filed.
The Eucational Construction Fund competitively sold $51.3 million of bonds in January 2007 to build an intermediate public school for 550 full-time students at the site, which is located at 1765 First Avenue in Manhattan.
Lease payments and payments in lieu of taxes by the developer are supposed to pay debt service on the bonds, but the city is obligated to pay if there is any shortfall.
The project is a joint venture by the DeMatteis Organization and the Mattone Group, which leased the property for 75 years from the ECF and had begun construction on a multistory complex designed to house a school, a residential tower and 15,000 square feet of commercial space.
Construction on the site was halted after the accident but resumed in July.
The school was scheduled to be ready for occupancy during the 2008-2009 school year, but New York City Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said that didn’t mean it would open during the current school year and that it had always been planned to open in the fall of 2009.
The city has been plagued by deadly construction accidents this year, which prompted the City Council last week to pass stricter rules governing crane safety. Also last week, a construction worker fell to his death at Silver Towers on the River, a 1,350-unit housing development financed with bonds sold by the New York State Housing Finance Agency.
The HFA sold $268 million of tax-exempt bonds for the project last year as well as $100 million of tax-exempts and $141 million of taxable debt this year. It plans to sell an additional $100 million for the project next year. The project, which is being developed by Silverstein Properties Inc., set aside 20% of its units for low-income tenants.