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A History of New York City Crane Accidents Over the Last 10 Years

By Nicole Levy | February 5, 2016 1:51pm
 The site of a crane collapse Friday morning in TriBeCa.
The site of a crane collapse Friday morning in TriBeCa.
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DNAinfo/Megan Cerullo

A crane collapse at a TriBeCa construction site Friday morning has killed one person and injured three. 

The crane was being lowered to secure against the 20 mph winds when flipped it over and sent its 565-foot-long arm flying onto Worth Street, between Church Street and West Broadway.

The Department of Buildings has instituted a number of reforms to the regulation of crane projects in the past decade, but a 2014 audit of the DOB's implementation of the new procedures revealed that 12 percent of the safety recommendations had been enforced, City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office reported.

The increasing proliferation of high rises in the city makes the issue of crane safety one worthy of everyone's attention. Stringer's office estimates that at any one time, about 300 cranes are operating within the city.

We've taken a look back at notable crane accidents over the last 10 years below:

2007: On Oct. 7, a 5-foot steel bucket being lifted by a crane to the roof of the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park fell. It shattered windows, spilled shards of glass onto the sidewalk and injured eight people. 

On Dec. 15, a nylon sling hauling seven tons of metal studs broke, seriously injuring an architect at the site of the 43-story Battery Park City building that was being erected for Goldman Sachs.

2008: In March, a crane above a high-rise construction site in Midtown East collapsed, taking a brownstone and tenement facade with it. Seven people were killed, 24 more were injured and 18 homes in the area were evacuated. Rigging contractor William Rapetti and his company were charged with manslaughter (but later acquitted), and a former building inspector faced the charge of tampering with public records after authorities accused him of lying about examining the crane 11 days before it collapsed.

In May, an accident on the Upper East Side killed two workers when the top of a 200-foot-tall crane crashed into and destroyed a penthouse apartment. The workers had been building a 32-story condominium. A third construction worker was seriously injured. The owner of the company to which the crane belonged, James Lomma, was indicted two years later and ultimately acquitted for failing to fix it properly after it had been struck by lightening. The families of the six construction workers killed won financial settlements from the construction companies involved four years later.

The two deadly crane accidents prompted the resignation of NYC Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, who faced criticism of her department's handling of construction violations. It also fueled new safety measures for crane projects, such as the hiring of more inspectors and the expansion of inspection checklists. The DOB began stipulating that construction companies file plans before erecting or dismantling a crane, and that crane operators had to complete 30 hours of training, following up with eight-hour refresher courses every three years. 

2012: In April, the upper section of a crane broke off during work on the 7 train extension at 34th Street, killing a construction worker and injuring four other people. A day after the incident, the MTA shut down all activity at the site. The crane's operator came under scrutiny, at least from the press, after the Daily News reported he had been questioned in two previous lawsuits involving co-workers who had been injured while he was behind the controls.

On Oct. 29, the city had evacuated the neighbors of a mid-construction 90-story apartment building, destined to become the Big Apple's tallest residential structure, after the top of a crane collapsed in high winds of 80 to 100 mph from Hurricane Sandy. Its arm dangled 1,000 feet above West 57th Street until the city secured it a little less than a week later.

On Nov. 26, a crane that had been lifting heavy air conditioning units in Hell's Kitchen collapsed onto the flatbed truck loaded with them. No one was hurt, but it was the second crane accident within a month.

2013: On the afternoon of Jan. 9, a crane in Long Island City collapsed, pinning three workers and injuring four others. 

The crane, which toppled at the site of a Long Island City luxury development called Queens West, belonged to James Lomma's company, which was connected to the 2008 incident mentioned above.

A source told the Daily News that Queens West's property developer, TF Cornerstone, didn't know its subcontractor had leased equipment from Lomma's company.

Later that month, the city's buildings department cited crane operator Paul Geer and the subcontractor with five violations for failing to inspect equipment, take proper precautions and run the rig safely. They each faced at least $64,000 in fines. Geer's license was suspended.

2015: On the morning of Sunday, May 31, the cable of a crane hoisting an industrial air conditioner to the top of a midtown building snapped. 

The AC unit plummeted nearly 30 stories, shearing the side of the building and injuring two construction workers and eight pedestrians. 

At the time, Buildings Department Commissioner Rick Chandler said all the work involving the crane had been properly permitted and there were no official complaints.