Residents of five buildings in the area where a 19-story crane collapsed over the weekend are being allowed back into their homes, and another lane of traffic on a nearby avenue has been reopened, city officials said Tuesday.
The city’s Department of Buildings lifted the vacate orders on the buildings at 314, 318, 320, 322 and 324 E. 51st Street, and was expected to reopen two other buildings on that street soon. None of the buildings were damaged in the collapse.
Meanwhile, authorities confirm that they are investigating at least one claim of theft from a vacated apartment.
The victim says cash and jewelry were stolen and the apartment was ransacked upon the resident’s return.
As for the investigation, officials say the prime suspect in the collapse is a $50 piece of nylon that broke while lifting a six ton piece of steel. Seven people were killed and 24 injured.
That nylon webbing was found still attached to the collar, and it could mean the disaster was set-off by this crucial piece of equipment.
The city’s buildings commissioner has ordered an immediate sweep of the 250 cranes now in operation across New York City. The concern is that the equipment and procedures in use may not be up to the job.
Six construction workers and a woman from Miami, in town for St. Patrick’s Day were killed Saturday when the 19-story crane broke away from an apartment tower under construction and toppled like a tree onto buildings as far as a block away. The last three bodies were found Monday.
Four of the workers killed in the accident were identified as 51-year-old Wayne Bleidner, of Pelham; 54-year-old Brad Cohen, of Farmingdale; 39-year-old Anthony Mazza, and 45-year-old Aaron Stephens, both of New York City. The fifth worker, recovered Monday morning, was identified as 37-year-old Santino Gallone, of Huntington Station. Police in the Miami suburb of Hialeah confirmed the woman found Monday was 28-year-old Odin Torres, but New York officials had not yet identified the bodies of the woman and a sixth worker found later Monday.
Twenty-four others were injured, including 11 first responders, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Eight people remained hospitalized, officials said.
A preliminary investigation found that the crane toppled when a steel collar used to tie the crane to the side of the building fell as workers attempted to install it, damaging a lower steel collar that supported the crane. With the elimination of that support, the counter-weights at the top of the crane’s tower caused it to fall, investigators said.
More than 300 tenants were evacuated Saturday from 17 buildings. Some are already home, and officials expect the rest will be allowed back by the end of the week.
“It seems to me they’re trying to do everything they can to rectify the problem, which is pretty bad, based on what I can see,” one resident said. “It’s worse than I thought.”
“We have a ton of friends in the city, we’re kind of bouncing around between friends places. Today we were allowed in the building to get as many clothes as we can…go back to work tomorrow, and sleep on some couches,” another tenant said.
Crews are able to continue this cleanup work much more quickly because all the bodies have been recovered.
Obviously, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. Two construction industry groups and a safety consultant is now being hired to check out crane installation procedures as a precaution.
Just hours after the collapse, the property owner released a statement.
“There are no words to describe the level of devastation we feel today as a result of this tragic event. Our heart and prayers are with the families of those who died in this horrible accident. We are also praying for a full recovery for the individuals who have been injured today. Our first priority is to support the police and fire rescue operation to ensure that all victims are accounted for and the site is rendered safe as quickly as possible.
We hired Reliance Construction Group (RCG) as our Construction Manager because not only do they have a strong reputation as quality builders, but also for their outstanding safety record. In addition, RCG has hired subcontractors of similar record and reputation. New York Crane, to the best of our knowledge, has earned a reputation as the pre-eminent crane company in the region.
We expect RCG and New York Crane to cooperate fully with any and all investigations into this tragic accident. We must find out why and how this happened as soon as possible.”