By JAMES RUTENBERG
Daily News Staff Writer
The company targeted by yesterday's massive
demonstration is a growing force in the construction industry
that recently has come under fire for allegedly doing shoddy work
and violating safety regulations.
Known for relying on nonunion labor, Roy
Kay Inc. is under investigation by the state Labor Department
for allegedly failing to set up an apprenticeship program required
under state law.
But that is just one in a laundry list of
controversies dogging the 27-year-old Freehold, N.J., company,
which still has been able to win big-money state and city jobs.
Two months ago, a Roy Kay backhoe being hauled
by one of its workers struck an elevated subway station and tore
its bed to shreds.
In recent years, Roy Kay was blamed for an
NYPD police lab flood caused by a faulty boiler installed by the
company, according to a report prepared by City Councilman Anthony
Weiner (D-Brooklyn) last year titled "Anatomy of a Bad Contractor."
Roy Kay was also the general contractor on
a Rutgers University job where a gas line ruptured, forcing the
evacuation of hundreds of students, Weiner's report says.
The company has racked up $30,000 in fines
for 35 Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations
since 1981, and scored 17 unsatisfactory project evaluations.
But an OSHA spokesman said the $30,000 in
fines Roy Kay paid the agency over 16 years is not a lot.
"In terms of violators of OSHA standards,
these guys are small change," said the spokesman.
In April, the company won a $32.6 million
megacontract to build the West Side Transit Authority communications
center at the heart of yesterday's protest.
Virgil Conway, chairman of the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority, the TA's parent agency, said an MTA
investigation of the bid showed "they were responsible and
indeed they performed numerous contracts for state agencies."
Conway said he is aware of the Labor Department
investigation, and "the charges are serious."
A state Labor Department spokesman said it
is investigating whether the company had in-house apprenticeship
programs in place, as required to win many government jobs.
Union leaders who organized yesterday's protest
said the firm represents a growing government trend of hiring
"We don't want anyone to think this
is an isolated project there are a whole host of contractors
like Roy Kay," said Building & Construction Trades Council
spokesman Paul Fernandes.
State law, according to Conway, mandates
that the MTA accept the low bid on a project whether it involves
union or nonunion workers.
Roy Kay would not take press calls yesterday.
The company routinely has received satisfactory
marks when projects were completed for the city. In one case,
the company earned an excellent rating under a grading system.
But Weiner yesterday said he had his doubts
about some of those ratings.
"It seems like it's a case where people
look the other way because they're the low bidder," he said.
With Michael Daly and Kevin McCoy