DEATH TRAPS

DEATH TRAPS

TWO recent “accidents,” as they are conventionally termed, which happened this week in this city, causing the loss of two lives and serious injury to other persons, serve to emphasize our contention that the oversight of buildingand kindred works in New York city is very defective—culpably so, considering all that is at stake. In the case of the crash at Madison avenue and Eighty-first street, where a building which was being put up in Buddensiek fashion, collapsed, with fatal results, it has been proved, and Superintendent Constable openly acknowledges, that the bricks which had to support the superimposed weight were laid in dishonest mortar—stuff made up of the minimum of cement and the maximum of very inferior sand. Yet, though these walls were supposed to be constantly inspected by city officers appointed for that purpose, these men had never sent in any report of their insufficiency or the inferior materials used in their construction ! Now, let it be suppose^ that the house had been completed in that fashion and a fire had broken out in it when occupied by the family. Under ordinary circumstances the department would probably deal very quickly and effectually with a fire of that sort, or, if it proved to be extra serious, would, at all events, succeed in getting all of the inmates out safely. In a Buddensiek-built structure, however, there would be very little chance of saving either the house or its inhabitants, since, owing to the flimsy nature of its construction, the flames would make such rapid progress as to embrace the whole building in their grasp in an inconceivably short space of time; or, if they failed to do that, would bring about a collapse of the walls which would deal out death and destruction not only on those living within them, but also on the men employed in fighting the fire. It, therefore, seems to us that the fire departmeet should have a much larger share in the inspection of the plans and specifications of all buildings, and subsequently of the work as it is being done. As things go, at present, however, the fire department is pretty much left out in the cold, while the building department —already short-handed and unable to cope with the work of inspecting even cursorily the hundreds of houses, etc., going up daily in the city—is evidently too lazy or too careless to take any heed as to the character and goings-on of its inspectors to inspire any confidence in the minds of the citizens. The other accident, that in which a life was lost and the lives of others imperiled by the caving-in of a trench in which new water mains are being laid, was due to similar carelessness on the part, primarily, of the foreman in not shoring up the sides with wood, and secondarily, of the inspectors employed by the department of public works in not seeing that the proper steps were taken to render safe an excavation which was so manifestly unsafe that even the unprofessional eye of a policeman could detect it. In both these cases the fire department and the water department of this city were directly interested. Surely, then, it is time for their officials to take a hand in the matter of insuring, so far as it is humanly possible to insure the lives of their employes against the consequences of criminal carelessness on the part of greedy contractors and the equally criminal negligence of those in high places,whose duty it is to see that the occurrence of such “accidents” —crimes we prefer to call them—should be rendered impossible, and, furthermore, that speedy punishment passes upon those who are to blame. And in this connection it must not be forgotten that, though it is now over a year since the Ireland building collapsed, causing the loss of nearly a score of lives, no one has yet been brought to trial for the catastrophe. Why not? Will it be the same in these two most recent cases?

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