Someone has to do it! NYC ‘skywalker’ shows off his skills as he casually erects scaffolding 300 feet above the sidewalk – just like Native Americans did in the 1930s
- Terrifying videos show scaffolding on skyscrapers working 300 feet above Manhattan and Brooklyn
- Unlike their predecessors, the workers usually wear armor with single lines on their backs
- To move between the skyscrapers, Marcos Valencia and his colleagues swing over narrow planks
- They are reminiscent of the Native American Mohawk Skywalkers, prominent in NYC in the 1920s and 1930s
A series of videos shows New York City’s modern skywalkers working on tall buildings and erecting scaffolding more than a thousand feet above the ground.
The videos, uploaded by Marcos Valencia, show him and fellow construction workers scrambling atop towers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
One shows them passing tools to each other as they work on Manhattan’s 3 World Trade Center, at its tallest 3,079 feet. From that height, it’s possible to make out Governor’s Island and Staten Island behind it.
In another, they work above the Upper East Side, overlooking Brooklyn across the Hudson River.
His videos often pan down to reveal the terrifying heights on which the intrepid workers spend their days, as well as spectacular views of the city.
But it’s dangerous work — between 2009 and 2018, 78 construction workers died after falling in NYC, according to New York State data.
Valencia and his colleagues can be seen in boots and high-viz, crawling along narrow scaffolding planks and guiding aluminum building materials into place using cranes. It offers a view from the top of 3 World Trade Center. The black building (right) is the US Steel Building
Falls from heights are the leading cause of fatal accidents in construction. Over the past 10 years, such accidents accounted for about 50 percent of all deaths and that percentage is increasing.
Unlike their predecessors, who used limited safety equipment, Valencia and his colleagues are usually equipped with full-body harnesses with lines clipped to their backs. Even some of the tools and materials they use are strapped to prevent them from falling.
In most of his videos, Valencia and his colleagues can be seen in boots and high-viz, using cranes to crawl over narrow scaffolding planks and move aluminum building materials into position.
Such videos of high-rise workers have become a sensation on TikTok, with half of their viewers terrified of the heights and the other half asking in awe where they can get hired.
Valencia included the name Local Union 1556 in its video captions. The union’s website suggests that the scaffolders earn just under $50 an hour, while apprentices earn just $20.
Valencia shows himself at work as he shoots from the top of skyscrapers overlooking the Hudson River
A colleague passes Valencia construction materials as they stand on narrow shelves 300 meters above the ground at 3 World Trade Center
Native American Mohawk Skywalkers
The Mohawk Skywalkers were a group of Native Americans best known for their work on NYC skyscrapers in the 1920s and 1930s. They are from the Mohawk Nation, which was in upstate New York and parts of southeastern Canada.
Their connection to working on steel high-rises dates back to the late 1800s when men from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory volunteered their labor for the construction of the Victoria Bridge, not far from Montreal.
Their experience working on narrow logs impressed European settlers, so they were soon recruited for work on steel beams all over the state, but especially in NYC.
In 1907, the Skywalkers faced tragedy when 33 men died in the collapse of the Quebec Bridge. Mohawks even worked on the 300-foot Art-Deco Chrysler Building – completed in 1930. They were known for performing riveting on steel structures – a famously dangerous job.
Mohawk ironworkers continue to work on skyscrapers to this day, they famously helped build the Freedom Tower in 2015.
Native American Mohawk ironworkers at work on the Chrysler Building
Famous photo taken in 1932 shows workers having lunch in the 70-story RCA Building in Rockefeller Center
Mohawk ironworkers on Park Avenue in 1970 – they work on steel structures in the city to this day
A Mohawk ironworker on a construction site at the northwest corner of 86th Street and Lexington Avenue in New York City