A licensed engineer was charged Thursday with filing fraudulent plans with the city’s Department of Buildings in connection with a Brooklyn construction site where the collapse of earth and debris killed a day laborer in March.
The owner of the site was indicted on June 12 on manslaughter charges in connection with the collapse. The charges come at a time when the authorities are placing intense scrutiny on construction safety after a string of fatal accidents at building sites.
The engineer, Abraham Hertzberg, 86, of Kings Point, N.Y., faces nine first-degree counts of offering a false instrument for filing, a felony. If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison on each count.
Mr. Hertzberg’s lawyer, Kevin Keating of Garden City, N.Y., said his client would plead not guilty. “The D.A. conceded in court today that Abe Hertzberg has no responsibility for the tragic death of this individual,” Mr. Keating said. “He was not charged with manslaughter or any other charges like that.”
According to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, William Lattarulo, the owner of the construction site, hired an architect in 2005 to design plans to build a laundry at the site, at 791-793 Glenmore Avenue in East New York. The architect subcontracted the work to Mr. Hertzberg, a professional engineer with Sanchez Associates.
According to the indictment, Mr. Hertzberg had previously lost his authority to self-certify architectural designs and used a stamp belonging to his partner, Louis Sanchez, to certify them in Mr. Sanchez’s name. He also placed Mr. Sanchez’s signature on several documents filed in support of Mr. Lattarulo’s applications for building permits, according to the district attorney.
At the time, Mr. Sanchez was recovering from a severe brain injury and “lacked the physical ability to review or certify architectural designs,” Mr. Hynes’s office said Thursday in a statement.
After getting the necessary permits, Mr. Lattarulo began construction of the building. On the morning of March 12, a worker, Lauro Ortega, 30, was digging the foundation in a trench beside a house that Mr. Lattarulo also owned. The laundry’s foundation was to be much deeper than that of the house, requiring that the house’s foundation be underpinned to prevent a collapse.
According to the authorities, Mr. Lattarulo was warned by a consultant that the new foundation was unstable. Instead, the authorities said, Mr. Lattarulo told Mr. Ortega to keep digging.
Moments later, part of a wall from the house collapsed and spilled rubble onto Mr. Ortega, killing him. A second worker was injured.
Last week, Mr. Lattarulo was charged with manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in the case.
Robert D. LiMandri, the acting buildings commissioner, said in a statement on Thursday: “We will not tolerate anyone who puts the safety of others at risk by filing false documents and deliberately misleading the buildings department. Today’s arrest demonstrates that those who do so will face serious consequences.”Related IMBY posts:
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