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Crane Dangling from Midtown High-Rise Forces Area Evacuation

By  Mary Johnson and Alan Neuhauser | October 29, 2012 3:23pm | Updated on October 29, 2012 7:12pm

MIDTOWN — A crane collapsed and was dangling precariously from the roof of a high-rise building slated to become a 90-story tower with a swanky hotel and luxury condos on West 57th Street Monday afternoon, fire officials said.

The crane, which was sitting atop developer Extell Development Company's ONE57 building, sparked a mandatory evacuation ordered for the surrounding area in case the crane falls from its perch near the roof of the building, a fire department spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crane's boom to collapse onto itself. The Department of Buildings did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

No one was inside the under-construction building at West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues. But city officials said the rest of the block has been evacuated. Police on the scene said that 10 city buses were waiting to get people to safety.

A representative for the West 57th Street by Hilton Club hotel confirmed the hotel, located on the same block as the crane collapse, had been evacuated. All guests were moved to the Hilton New York, located on Sixth Avenue near West 54th Street.

All other civilians were advised to avoid that area of the city entirely.

At a press briefing Monday evening, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said nothing would be done to secure the crane while the storm descended on the city.

“We just don’t want to risk the lives of anybody trying to be a hero and secure it at the moment,” Bloomberg said. “We just cannot secure it. Best we can do is take precautions.”

Bloomberg said that the process of securing the crane could involve building a whole new crane next to it in order to disassemble it — a process that could take time.

He added that steam had been shut off on the block and that water and gas in the area would also be shut down.

Natasha Tauber, who lives on West 57th Street near Seventh Avenue, said she was evacuating the area voluntarily with her husband and daughter.

“It sounded like thunder when the crane fell. We thought it was the storm,” Tauber said.

“We were watching them set up medical triage, so we thought we would leave,” she added. "When you see people in formation in the street, it’s time to leave.”

Brad Baker, who lives with his wife and Cavalier King Charles spaniel on the 13th floor of a high-rise on West 58th Street and Seventh Avenue, said his building was not immediately ordered to evacuate. But Baker said he and his wife decided to pack go bags and camp out with friends on the sixth floor of their building while they waited to hear more from building management.

“[The crane is] moving, but it’s not swaying,” Baker said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen when the wind increases.”

“So far, it’s wait and see,” he added. “Hopefully we’ll just get through it and they’ll just take care of it on Wednesday. But the alternative is kind of scary.”

Gary Toft, 44, who was visiting New York with his wife, Kylie, 40, from Manchester, England, was near the area when the crane collapsed.

"The weather's fine. We're used to the rain — just not cranes collapsing," Gary said.

Kylie was similarly stunned by the incident.

"I've never seen anything like this. It's like watching TV," she said.

Earlier on Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the city has “worked very hard to make sure all cranes and construction sites are battered down.”

While there were no issues at that time, he said, “as the winds get worse, our precautions get tested more. And you never know. There’s no reason to jeopardize your lives.”

The building is scheduled to be completed in 2013. The bottom 39 floors will become a high-end hotel, with the top floors reserved for luxury condos.

The starting price for one of the units is $6.375 million.