On a late spring morning in 2018, laborer Abbos Abbosov was walking across the roof of an old Brooklyn warehouse scheduled to be demolished to make way for an Amazon facility when a hole suddenly opened up beneath his feet.
He dropped 25 feet to the concrete floor of the warehouse below, suffering severe trauma to his head. He spent two months in a medically induced coma and, at age 36, he could no longer perform the work that brought him a paycheck each week.
Not surprisingly, Abbosov and his wife sued. And then the story got a lot more complicated.
Records uncovered in Abossov’s lawsuit raise serious questions about what kind of site safety was in place the morning Abbosov fell, including evidence that the demolition contractor, Bordone Contracting, produced site safety logs signed by a licensed construction superintendent that the superintendent swears are fabricated.
A week ago the construction superintendent, Lisa Bagnoli, notified the city Department of Investigation about the log entries, alleging that her signature was forged and that she was nowhere near the warehouse when Abbosov fell through the roof.
In a motion filed Friday, Abbosov’s attorney, Andrew Laskin of Subin Associates, alleged that Bordone’s statements about Bagnoli being on site were “outright fraudulent fabrications” and that the safety logs “are forgeries.”
“My husband’s accident in 2018 shattered my family,” said Abbosov’s wife, Albina Abbosova. “Abbos was once a strong loving husband and a caring father to our young children. Now it is as though I have a third child — one who will never grow up and will always need to be taken care of. I hope to one day have answers from the contractors on that site.”
The questions that have arisen in the lawsuit focus on two contractors — Bordone Contracting, the demolition company, and GSC Services Corp., the asbestos abatement firm that employed Abbosov.
The job required removing a significant amount of asbestos from the roof of the aging warehouse at 578 Cozine Ave. in East New York before it could be demolished and replaced with a giant Amazon distribution center.
By May 18, 2018, the morning of the accident, much of the removal had already taken place, but a limited amount of work remained and workers — including one operating a small Bobcat — were pulling it up and bagging it for containerized removal. Abbosov was one of those workers.
A supervisor for GSC Services would later testify that because it had been raining over the prior two days, he worried about the roof’s integrity. So that morning, he said, he tested it by jumping up and down on it. A DOB inspector who investigated the accident later made clear this was not a “sufficient” method to check the roof’s condition.
At one point after the GSC supervisor “tested” the roof’s integrity, Abbosov was walking to another part of the roof when a section where the membrane had already been removed suddenly opened up under his feet.
He was rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition, his prognosis listed as “guarded.” He’d suffered a skull fracture, multiple rib fractures and a collapsed lung.
According to his medical records, he was placed in a medically induced coma for two months and underwent multiple surgeries to his skull and spine. Since then he’s suffered several seizures and has experienced both hearing and vision loss. He can no longer drive and needs help getting dressed. On occasion he has wandered off into his neighborhood and gotten lost.
Obvious Safety Risks
Abbosov filed suit against Bordone and the site’s owners, WF Industries LLC, in 2018. About a year later, Bordone filed affidavits and a dozen New York City Department of Buildings construction superintendent log books covering the period before, during and after the accident. DOB mandates that all contractors keep these records for inspectors to review in the event of an accident.
The affidavits and log entries claim Bagnoli was on site throughout May 2018, assiduously documenting site conditions and safety precautions each day. One entry dated a week before the accident stated “Roof — wear harness tied off to beams.” All the entries, according to Bordone, were filled out and signed by Bagnoli.
The contractor’s CEO, Joseph Bordone, and Frank Mazzurco, the firm’s foreman on site that day, swore in affidavits in the Supreme Court case that Bagnoli had checked out the roof before the accident and found no safety issues.
Bagnoli begged to differ.
In a sworn deposition last month, she testified that the logbooks Bordone produced were fake and that her signatures were forged. She stated flatly under oath that she was nowhere near that job at the time Abbosov fell through the roof, and that her site safety firm didn’t begin monitoring Cozine Avenue until that August — months after the accident.
Abbosov’s attorney, Laskin, asked her, “Were you working at 578 Cozine in May 2018?”
“No,” she replied.
“Are you certain?” Laskin asked.
“One thousand percent,” she replied.
Bagnoli even produced airline ticket records showing she was in Florida during five of the days Bordone claimed she was on site. And her attorney, Mark Cipolla, said that during the deposition, Bordone tried calling her on her cell phone. She did not answer.
Bagnoli’s attorney, Mark Cipolla, said his client would have no comment.
Bharat Gami, a former chief plan examiner for the city Department of Buildings, told THE CITY that Bagnoli’s under-oath assertions about the falsity of the affidavits and logbooks are a clear indication of fraud.
Because building inspectors rely on safety logs in determining whether contractors are adhering to the city’s building code, Gami said, “That is something that the DOB needs to investigate.”
A spokesperson for DOB, Andrew Rudansky, said if Bagnoli believes the log books were fraudulent, she could file a complaint with the Department of Investigation.
According to Abbosov’s attorney, Laskin, she did. DOI spokesperson Diane Struzzi declined to discuss the matter.
On Sunday the law firm representing Bordone withdrew from the case. A spokesperson for the firm, Lewis Brisbois, said the firm was “committed to acting with integrity in every matter we handle. Opposing counsel’s allegations against Lewis Brisbois are completely without merit. The firm will be filing a motion to withdraw as counsel from this case.”
Speaking briefly with THE CITY, Joseph Bordone insisted that the log books were legitimate and that Bagnoli was there.
“Nothing was fugazy. That job went so perfect, unfortunately for that accident,” Bordone said.
Another issue that arose in the lawsuit focused on the application for an abatement notice that GSC Services of Wayne, N.J. filed.
GSC checked “NO” to the question of whether they would be performing asbestos removal on any “structural element” of the building. As a result, GSC did not have to obtain a permit that would have required them to put a site safety plan in place.
The application, filed with the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), made clear that more than 31,000 square feet of asbestos would be removed from the building’s roof.
Edward Timbers, a spokesperson for DEP, said the work as described in the abatement notice application did not require a permit. But the former DOB chief plan examiner, Gami, disagreed.
Gami reviewed the DEP records as an expert witness hired by Abbosov’s lawyers and said GSC should have checked “YES” because “removal of the membrane resulted in the compromised integrity of the building.”
“In this case they have a fireproof structure. They are basically removing portions of the structure at the roof level. They also damaged a structural portion in the process,” he said. “They should have answered yes to that question, which would have triggered more oversight of the project.”
DOB staff also raised questions about the structural integrity of the roof during a hearing on a building code violation filed against GSC after the accident.
During the November 2018 hearing, a DOB inspector testified about the compromised nature of the roof, producing a photo he took the day of the accident showing multiple holes in the roof.
“My feeling was that there were elements where the roof was not 100%. There were either gaps or deterioration,” the inspector said. “So workers working on this area, to me personally, I don’t know if they saw where there were deficiencies beneath them.” He added, “If you walk around and all of a sudden you hit a weak spot, you may come through.”
Asked by the hearing judge what the building code violation is, Andrew Burger, a lawyer for DOB, responded, “If workers are going to be working on any sort of surface, a platform, an elevated surface, the structural integrity of the surface has to be secure. They have to make sure. They have to test it beforehand and ensure that it’s secure, that it can hold a worker, that they’re not just going to fall through 20 stories and become critically injured.”
Referring to the photo the inspector took, Gami said, “Anyone who looks at that picture of the roof with holes would know there is an issue of structural safety.”
Asked about this, Timbers of DEP stated, “If there is an allegation that the contractor filed false paperwork the matter should be referred to the Department of Investigation. DEP is responsible for enforcing NYC’s Asbestos Rules and Regulations, which lay out procedures for building owners and contractors to follow during asbestos abatement work. Property owners are responsible for the structural integrity of their buildings and for the safety of workers on site. OSHA [the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration] ultimately oversees worker safety.”
In fact, the demolition firm, Bordone, which hired GSC, filed a counterclaim in Brooklyn Supreme Court against GSC calling the firm “negligent in the hiring, training and supervising of its employees” at the site. GSC has denied wrongdoing in their formal response. GSC’s attorney, Mark Kundla, did not respond to THE CITY’s call seeking comment.
Bordone’s representations about Bagnoli and the log books were entered into the court record and in February became part of Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Carl Landicino’s order regarding Abbosov’s claims against Bordone and the site’s owner, WF Industrial.
Laskin’s motion filed Friday asked Landicino to grant Abbosov a judgment against Bordone, based on the allegedly fraudulent statements and documents Bordone filed with the court. He also requested the court hold a hearing to discuss possible sanctions against Bordone and his lawyer, Kotec.
To date no contractor has had to pay a dime in penalties for this accident.
But a city Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) officer dismissed all of them, finding that the Department of Buildings did not have jurisdiction over the site until actual demolition started. The OATH judge decided that the day of the accident, the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was in charge, and because DEP had issued no violations, there would be no sanctions for what happened to Abbosov.