Once again the complaints poured in. Once again inspectors wrote up the violations. And once again there was death at a New York City construction site.
Since December, the city Buildings Department has received a stunning 32 complaints about site safety at the ill-fated 43-story tower under construction on E.51st St.
Since Jan. 17, the department has repeatedly visited the site, issuing 13 violations to contractors and owners. That’s about one violation every five days.
On March 4, a retired engineer specifically warned the city that the “crane does not appear to be braced to the building” and that the upper part 100 feet up “is unsecured,” records show.
An inspector found no violation, writing, “Crane is erected according to approved” plans.
On Friday, a city inspector making a scheduled inspection found no problem with the crane.
And yesterday, about an hour before the 2:20 p.m. crane collapse, a city building inspector was on site, answering yet another complaint about “hazardous conditions” at the job site, records show.
“Enough is enough,” fumed Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “We’ve closed restaurants that have fruit flies, but we don’t close construction sites that have major safety violations. We have to revamp the construction protocols.”
“We have failed this borough and the people of the city. It is unacceptable and it has to be stopped.”
The Daily News – in stories and editorials – has documented the dark side of the dramatic 12% jump in high-rise development last year that has resulted in a staggering 83% spike in construction accidents.
Yesterday’s accident brings to 16 the number of construction deaths in the past 12 months.
One of the worst catastrophes occurred Jan. 14 when two workers fell from a SoHo luxury condo being developed by Donald Trump and others. One died and the other was seriously injured.
The crane owner in yesterday’s disaster was New York Crane, the same company that owned the crane in a bizarre Sept. 29, 2006, accident in the East Village.
In that incident, an 8,000-pound piece of crane hurtled to the ground and crushed a cab with two occupants. They have since sued.
The Buildings Department later found the crane operator had failed to install equipment properly while “jumping” the crane – the same operation underway yesterday.
Since December, the city has received complaint after complaint about this site, starting with repeat allegations of after-hours work.
On New Year’s Eve, a caller warned of lumber and metal that could fall. No violation was issued. A week later on Jan. 7, a stop-work order was issued after inspectors fielding yet another complaint found unsafe conditions.
By Jan. 11, a neighbor complained that construction was making her apartment building shake. No violation was issued because the inspector was “unable to gain access” to the adjacent building.
On Jan. 19, a caller contended workers were assembling the crane 18 stories above ground without proper safety measures. By the time inspectors arrived, work was over and no violations were issued.
The Buildings Department cited the owners and contractors repeatedly, including failure to have a site safety inspector, failure to protect the building’s standpipe from winter weather and general unsafe work conditions.
Yesterday, James Kennelly, lead partner of the building’s owners, East 51st Development Co., expressed sympathy for the victims and insisted the contractors on site had impeccable safety records.
“We hired Reliance Construction Group as our construction manager because not only do they have a strong reputation as quality builders, but also for their outstanding safety record,” Kennelly said.
“In addition, [Reliance] has hired subcontractors of similar record and reputation. New York Crane, to the best of our knowledge, has earned a reputation as the preeminent crane company in the region,” he said.
New York Crane and Reliance did not respond to phone and e-mail messages from The News.