Seven people were killed in mid-Manhattan March 15 when a crane 19 stories high collapsed and crashed into buildings as far as a block away. The collapse occurred as workers were attempting to raise the height of the crane, an operation called “jumping.”
Five of those killed were construction workers who were members of Local 15 of the Operating Engineers Union. They were Wayne Bleidner, 51; Brad Cohen, 54; Anthony Mazza, 39; Aaron Stephens, 45; and Clifford Canzona, 45. One construction supervisor, Santino Gallone, 37, also died, as did a tourist, Odin Torres, 28.
As soon as word spread about the collapse, construction workers from many other sites in the city came to the scene. Many maintained a vigil as rescue workers searched for victims in the debris.
The city buildings department had received 32 complaints since December about safety at the construction site and had issued 13 violations, 10 against one contractor, Reliance Construction Group. The violations included failure to safeguard the public and property, and failure to provide roof protection on adjacent property.
As recently as March 4, a retired engineer had filed a complaint with the city that the crane was not braced to the building and that the upper 100 feet was “unsecured.” But an inspector found no violation and ruled that the crane was erected properly.
The company that owns the crane, New York Crane, was involved in a nearly fatal accident in September 2006 when an 8,000-pound piece of crane fell, crushing a taxi cab with two occupants, who later sued. The buildings department found in that case that the operator did not install the equipment adequately during a “jump,” the same operation workers were attempting March 15.
The recent deaths bring to 19 the number of construction-related fatalities in New York City in the last 12 months. While there is a slowdown in construction of homes nationally, New York has seen a boom in high-rise development in 2006, with $26.2 billion spent on construction.
In 2006, 43 construction workers died from job-related injuries in New York, of which 26 were laborers. This was the deadliest in a decade and an 87 percent increase over 2005, when 23 people were killed.
According to data released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cause of 31 of the deaths in 2006 resulted from falls.
Nationally construction is among the most dangerous occupations, accounting for 1,266 fatalities in 2006, or 21 percent of the 5,703 deaths of workers overall.
The number of Latino construction workers killed in New York increased from 6 in 1997 to 22 in 2006.
Luis Martínez, a garment worker who previously worked in construction here, told the Militant, “There is no real safety on the job. The bosses take advantage of illegal immigrants. The inspectors are in cahoots with them.”