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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—"Someone had one too many and fell in the hole," was how a city official described the accident on April 2 where the Fire Department had to rescue a Rutgers student trapped deep inside a construction site.
But two months later, officials admit nothing has been to improve safety at a non-union construction site on College Avenue, where the Rutgers Hillel plans to open the largest facility of its type in the country.
Atlantic Realty Development the company behind the site did not respond to a phone message from New Brunswick Today, and has not acknowledged the accident since it happened shortly after the end of the construction workday.
Officials in the administration of Mayor James Cahill told NBToday that they don't think any changes will be made, even after this reporter witnessed the College Avenue entrance to the construction site left wide open and unattended on June 12.
On that date, this reporter was able to gain access to the site, which was not marked with any "no trespassing" signs.
There were no workers near the College Avenue entrance and this reporter's presence on the site went unnoticed for several minutes.
"An inspector went out and looked at it this past Friday afternoon. I don't believe any changes are to be made to the site," said city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw, in response to our questions.
"The site is an active construction site, which is why it is 'open,' as workers and equipment are coming in and out, I am told," said Bradshaw.
Officials at a June 17 City Council meeting were similarly dismissive of concerns.
"I was told that when they're not working in the front area on College Avenue, that gate is closed and it's been closed," said fire official Dominic Quagliatta.
"The gentleman that you're talking about was drunk and fell in the hole. But he was trespassing," Quagliatta added.
The construction site came up at the prior City Council meeting, where the Council unanimously approved a relaxation of the city's noise ordinance to allow the construction company to get to work early in the morning on weekends.
Asked if this was the same site where someone had fallen into a hole, City Council referred the question to Fire Director Robert Rawls, who gave an odd answer.
"Not to my recollection. They had a guy that fell in the hole up by the Jewish building," said Fire Director Robert Rawls. "Any of those types of events are investigated by OSHA."
At first, City Council President Kevin Egan tried to convince this newspaper that the site was not subject to scrutiny from the city's inspectors because it was affiliated with Rutgers University.
"That's a Rutgers project… they go through DCA for all their inspections," said Kevin Egan at first. "They're not obligated to New Brunswick municipal inspectors," said Egan.
But minutes later, Egan admitted that the project is actually not directly affiliated with the university.
"I believe Mr. Kratovil is right. It's a private thing."
The new Hillel building is set to be named for Eva and Arie Halpern, two late members of the well-known family that owns Atlantic Realty and several other real estate ventures.