Exclusive: Construction Worker Was Killed During Building of Troubled Bronx Courthouse

By Kevin Deutsch

A 22-year-old worker died during the construction of the Bronx Hall of Justice—his death triggering more litigation involving the troubled courthouse, Bronx Justice News has learned.

Joao Goncalves was pouring concrete at the East 161st Street site on June 10, 2003 when he fell down an elevator shaft, plunging from the seventh floor onto a second-floor landing, suffering terminal injuries.

The Mineola, Long Island resident was rushed to Lincoln Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.

Goncalves’ death garnered only a brief press mention at the time. The fact that he died while helping to build the problem-plagued courthouse has never been publicly revealed, until now.

The disclosure comes amid increased scrutiny of the government building following a Bronx Justice News investigation revealing millions in squandered tax dollars and lack of oversight at the property.

City Councilman Ritchie Torres, Chairman of the New York City Council Oversight and Investigation Committee, said Saturday he is weighing an official probe in response to the revelations.

The Bronx Councilman’s vow marks the first time a city official has said they would examine the litany of issues plaguing the postmodernist courthouse, which opened in 2008 after more than $100 million in cost overruns and three years of delays.

The lowest-bidding contractor on the project was disqualified for suspected mob ties, and problems have been piling up ever since. Among them: a structurally compromised, underground parking garage inspectors once said was in danger of collapse; supposedly bomb and bullet-proof glass panels that routinely break; roof and sewage leaks, flooding, mold, power outages, a mice infestation, broken elevators and escalators; and involvement in a host of lawsuits involving more than 30 parties, from state agencies and architects to engineers and construction contractors.

In an investigation published last week, Bronx Justice News revealed the latest example of government waste at the property: The building’s civic plaza—conceived as an “open and engaging” public space where visitors could take a break from legal matters—remains closed to the public. The unused space is costing taxpayers millions in maintenance and repair expenditures, and is unlikely to ever see public use unless an array of safety issues are addressed, critics say.

Bovis Lend Lease, the company that replaced the disqualified contractor, admitted to a decade-long overbilling scheme in 2012, agreeing to pay $56 million in fines and restitution costs. Bovis worked on a number of major New York projects in addition to the Hall of Justice, including the September 11 Memorial and Citi Field.

Goncalves‘ family sued following his death. Records reflecting the outcome of the lawsuit were not immediately available.

About Kevin Deutsch 237 Articles
Kevin Deutsch is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering the criminal justice system, drugs, and DNA use by law enforcement. An award-winning journalist, Deutsch is the author of the true crime books "Pill City" and "The Triangle." He has worked on staff at the Daily News, Miami Herald, Newsday, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Forward, The Independent, Huffington Post, Orlando Sentinel, and the New York Post, among other publications. His numerous television appearances include spots on CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN's BookTV. He has also been featured in The New Yorker. A Bronx resident, Deutsch hosts the true crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.