The demolition of Shea Stadium as well as the electrical work and some of the excavation and concrete work on the new Yankee Stadium were performed by companies accused of corruption and links to organized crime, The New York Times reports.
Toby Romano, a vice president of the company which performed the $17 million demolition of Shea Stadium, was convicted on federal bribery charges in 1988. Santo Petrocelli Sr., owner of the company that performed electrical work at the new Yankee Stadium, was indicted on charges that “he had been bribing a leading union official for more than a decade.” Interstate Industrial, which excavated the Yankee Stadium site and performed cast-in-place concrete work, was the subject of a city investigation which found ties between the company and organized crime.
Interstate Industrial also had the distinction of secretly paying for a $150,000 renovation of disgraced former police commissioner Bernard Kerik’s apartment.
New York City had previously blacklisted all three contractors, barring them from competing for city contracts. Though neither ballpark was funded entirely by the city, both received public financing and were overseen by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
The Development Corporation does not review projects’ contractor selections unless they are paid directly with city funds and hired as either a general contractor or subcontractor. Between these two requirements all three companies escaped the Development Corporation’s scrutiny.
Working with New York construction accident lawyers, I found it worrisome that the city had such lax rules policing blacklisted companies. Once a company has been blacklisted (and New York City should make every effort to ensure it deserves that classification), it should be kept from working in any capacity on any project that receives public funds.
Companies which have earned condemnation from the city for corruption or other illegal activities are less likely to closely follow safety regulations. They’re more likely to hire cheap, poorly trained and uncertified workers. This puts everyone’s well being at risk.
Rules that require direct public financing of particular work on a publicly-financed project are silly. That argument is similar to AIG claiming its bonuses were paid from separate, non-bailout money. If a project receives any city money, all of its contractors should meet the city’s requirements.
Complaints from the city that its office is inadequately staffed to police a broader jurisdiction are more valid. Perhaps an electronic database in which publicly financed projects register potential companies could help them accomplish more without a drastic staff increase.
The city should expand the rules that limit the work corrupt companies can do in New York. It will make the city a safer place.