HABITAT FOR HUMANITY URGES NEW YORK LAWMAKERS TO FIX THE SCAFFOLD LAW
State chapter president points to Scaffold Law as obstacle to Superstorm Sandy recovery, affordable housing
ALBANY – Calling the Scaffold law “one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to affordable housing and disaster relief,” the president of Habitat for Humanity of New York State sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders urging them to support A.5624, a bill introduced by Assemblymember John McDonald (D-Cohoes) aimed at modernizing the law’s controversial liability rules.
The letter addressed to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn), as well as the Executive Chamber and Senate coalition leaders, states that the Scaffold Law’s impact on construction insurance premiums jeopardized Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to rebuild following Superstorm Sandy.
“Due to the Scaffold Law’s ‘absolute liability’ standard, no insurer would write the policy to cover our volunteers,” wrote Judith Nelson, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of New York State, “We urge you to consider changing these archaic laws and assist affordable housing providers with more viable and economical solutions to the housing needs of New York families.”
Introduced last month to be considered by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, bill A.5624 applies New York’s existing negligence standards to lawsuits brought under the only-in-New York Scaffold Law. Judges currently apply “absolute liability” to these filings, a standard unique to the Scaffold Law, which faults only the property owner and contractor for worksite accidents, regardless of the contributing conduct of the employee.
“Most importantly,” the bill’s justification memo concludes, the proposed reform “would not weaken the law’s safety provisions.”
Scaffold Law reform is supported by a diverse coalition including the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, New York State School Boards Association, New York State Farm Bureau, Business Council of New York State, the New York Conference of Mayors, Associated General Contractors, Unshackle Upstate, National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Manufacturers Association, and chambers of commerce across the state.