Real Estate Weekly
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Time for New York to scrap old scaffold law

New York’s Scaffold Law holds property owners, employers and contractors strictly liable for all gravity-related construction accidents.

Enacted in 1885, it is among the oldest laws in the state and an ever-present reminder of the need for New York to modernize its laws to reflect new realities. Every other state in the United States has modernized their approach to construction site liability by adopting comparative negligence statutes that takes into account the worker’s actions – an example New York must follow.

In New York State, an antiquated and simplistic approach means that a court cannot consider a worker’s intoxicated state or gross negligence in the event of an injury.

Even more alarmingly, the parameters of liability under the Scaffold Law are expanding, not contracting.

For example, parties that have no supervisory control over the work have been found liable; and in a recent court decision, liability was extended beyond the construction site at places where materials are produced and brought onto the site.  This has wide-ranging potential: many unsuspecting individuals and parties may now be under the scrutiny of the Scaffold Law.

Reputable, non-partisan research institutions have shown that the Scaffold Law drives up general liability insurance premiums, discourages insurance carriers to enter and remain in the New York market, and directly costs taxpayers $785 million and private businesses $1.49 billion every year.

Major projects – already expensive – have become even more cumbersome. The new Tappan Zee Bridge, for example, cost $200-400 million more than it would have because of the Scaffold Law.

Reformers have tried for years to modernize the legislation in Albany, but have never been successful.

There is, however, another option. US Representative John Faso (R-NY) recently introduced the Infrastructure Expansion Act to Congress. If enacted, the bill would impose comparative negligence on all construction projects that receive federal funding.

On the heels of a major federal infrastructure initiative, Rep. Faso’s bill is welcome news – enacting it would drive down costs of proposed infrastructure projects like the vital Gateway tunnel project between New York and New Jersey.

Just to be clear: the Infrastructure Expansion Act does not prevent a worker from pursuing a lawsuit if he or she is injured on the construction site. Instead, it introduces a common-sense approach in determining and apportioning liability that works to the benefit of both worker and property owner.  It is a model that should be applied to all projects.

This is precisely why REBNY joined a diverse group of organizations including the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, Habitat for Humanity, the Associated General Contractors of New York State, and the New York City Partnership, among others, to voice its full-throated support of the Infrastructure Expansion Act.  The Act makes sense and should be heard at the earliest opportunity.

In Other REBNY News:

REBNY’s Residential Management Council (RMC) is offering a Fall Seminar Series for REBNY members and non-members. The seminars, which will be held from 8:30-10:00 a.m. at REBNY, will feature current members of REBNY’s RMC, which is comprised of leading directors and managers of top residential management firms throughout the City, who will present on industry best practices.

The seminars are suitable for residential property managers, interested brokers, as well as the broader residential management community interested in these topics. Each seminar is free for REBNY members and $25 for non-members. To register, visit


On Friday, October 27th, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at our next REBNY Rental Clinic, Jesse Rhinier of City Connections will moderate a discussion among panelists Daniel Itingen of Bold New York, Gary Kiyan of Perfect Solutions Real Estate, and Karla Saladino of Mirador Real Estate on navigating the increasing owner-paid commissions market. This free-for-members event will take seasoned and new agents through the process of working in this OP environment. Register on

REBNY members: bolster your public speaking and presentation skills by completing the Residential Education Committee’s Public Speaking & Presentation Skills Six-Week Course for $75 this fall. There are still open seats in the Manhattan Course, which kicked off this past week at REBNY’s Mendik Education Center. Interested members who missed the first session may still sign up to attend the Manhattan six-week course continuing this Monday, October 30th. Classes in both Manhattan and Brooklyn are held from 6-8 p.m. on select dates. The Brooklyn course will be held on select Mondays and Tuesdays from November 14th to December 18th at 1 Metro Tech Center, 22nd Floor. For all class dates and to register for the Manhattan or Brooklyn course, taught by REBNY Senior Vice President Joe Barbaccia, visit

Rocco Laginestra, Senior Vice President, Global Brokerage of CBRE, Inc., will moderate our Commercial Seminar, “Shared Office Space or Scared Office Space,” on Tuesday, October 31st, 8 – 10 a.m. at the REBNY Mendik Education Center. The panel will explore the future of co-working as a vital component of the commercial office market in New York City. To reserve tickets, email

The REBNY Residential Brokerage Education Committee’s next free-for-members Breakfast Club Seminar, “The Secret Weapon to Winning a Listing,” to be held on Tuesday, November 7th from 9:30-11:00 a.m., will feature speakers Antonio Del Rosario of Town Real Estate and Jeff Feuer of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. REBNY members can register to attend this free-for-members event by visiting


Scott Rechler, Chief Executive Officer of RXR Realty, will headline our Annual Commercial Holiday Luncheon on Monday, December 4th from 12 – 2 p.m. at the New York Athletic Club (180 Central Park South). This lunch gives owners, brokers, and other commercial professionals a chance to celebrate the work of our committees and discuss plans for the New Year. Join us for this exclusive opportunity to build relationships with industry peers, and gain invaluable insight from one of Commercial Real Estate’s most notable leaders. Register online. For more information about this event, including available sponsorship opportunities, contact


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