Crane Accidents

Army of Cranes Hover Over Streets in Every Borough

03/23/08

New York

Original Story (3/15/2008):  Crane Topples in Manhattan, Killing at Least Four People

Monster cranes like the one that collapsed on the East Side rise over 40 locations around the city, almost all of them in Manhattan, records obtained by the Daily News show.

Most of the cranes – massive enough to ferry tons of construction material to the top of the highest skyscrapers – are clustered along Manhattan’s West Side, particularly in Hell’s Kitchen and Tribeca, the city records show.

But no neighborhoods are completely spared – leaving New Yorkers looking skyward with trepidation at the gigantic steel hoists rising from dozens of construction sites.

“It’s scary, and it makes me nervous, especially when you’re walking outside,” said Shaira Yusupova, 27, who works two doors down from a towering crane on W. 57th St. “But there’s nothing we can do.”

The 20-story crane that toppled on March 15 killed seven people, pulverized a four-story brownstone and damaged at least seven other buildings. Eighteen buildings in the neighborhood were evacuated.

Similar tower cranes now hover above the tony upper East Side and in places where development was unlikely before the current building boom: Harlem and the lower East Side, according to the city Buildings Department.

The cranes also are operating in Brooklyn, at two sites in Queens and one in the Bronx. Citywide, 250 cranes of varying types are in use.

New Yorkers’ crane-phobia is not without foundation. Some buildings have more than one of the huge cranes operating – and some of those sites have suffered repeated problems.

At 200 Murray St., the new Goldman Sachs headquarters near Ground Zero, seven tons of steel fell from a crane onto a construction trailer in December. The architect inside was pinned and paralyzed.

On Thursday, the Buildings Department halted work at the site again because the crane operator was not named on a city permit.

After the deadly March 15 collapse, Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster promised to reinspect all 250 cranes for safety.

The inspections are conducted by the department’s cranes and derricks unit, where now-suspended inspector Edward Marquette had been assigned. Marquette was arrested last week after allegedly admitting he ignored a warning about the E. 51st St. crane and never inspected it on March 4.

“The Buildings Department’s inspection capabilities are in question,” said Jeff Matusow, 51, who lives next door to a Columbus Ave. construction site. “And the accident in midtown highlights the whole absurdity about how they go about their business.”

The death crane was inspected one day before the fatal accident, and authorities said it was unlikely Marquette could have stopped the accident by doing his job 11 days before the 300-foot crane toppled. Several City Council members are not convinced.

Marquette, 46, was charged with falsifying documents to show the inspection was done. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

The giant piece of machinery toppled when a 6-ton steel collar used to secure it to the building came loose, plunging with horrific force into another collar that acted as an anchor, ripping out all supports. What caused the collar to fail is under investigation.

Lancaster said she has ordered a complete review of all Marquette’s inspections and “a full operational review” of the cranes and derricks unit.

Category: Famous, Report Update

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