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Crane Collapse Shows Dangers of Construction Next to UWS School, Pols Say

By Emily Frost | February 8, 2016 2:02pm | Updated on February 8, 2016 4:27pm
 Elected officials are citing the TriBeCa crane collapse as more evidence the JHL plan next to P.S. 163 is a terrible and dangerous plan.
Elected officials are citing the TriBeCa crane collapse as more evidence the JHL plan next to P.S. 163 is a terrible and dangerous plan.
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Last week's TriBeCa crane crash, which killed one person and injured three others, has reinforced opposition to a construction project slated to rise next to an Upper West Side school.

Parents and elected officials warned long before Friday's crane collapse that they had serious safety concerns about Jewish Home Lifecare's plan to build a 20-story nursing home next to P.S. 163, an elementary school.

Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell said Friday he was more convinced that the project, which would last years, should be revised.

At a Jan. 27 education hearing in Albany, O'Donnell told city Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña that JHL's plan to use a crane that would swing over the school during construction for between 26 to 30 months could "destroy" the school. 

"P.S. 163 may be physically destroyed if some accident occurs," and the community will be affected because parents "are gonna bolt" and send their children elsewhere if they can, he told Fariña. 

While a group of parents and tenants recently won a lawsuit requiring the state to redo its environmental review of the project's impacts on the health and safety of the surrounding community, O'Donnell and others haven't been able to get the city to stop the project altogether. 

"In terms of stopping them from building, that's not within our jurisdiction," Fariña said at the hearing. 

She added that the Department of Education could weigh in on construction protocols — like pushing to have construction done outside of school hours and offering a "[DOE] person to help oversee the construction" — but nothing beyond that. 

City Councilman Mark Levine, who has proposed a bill that would limit construction noise when projects happen next to schools, also opposes the project's location next to P.S. 163.

"Thankfully crane collapses remain exceedingly rare in New York City, but nonetheless Friday’s tragic incident is a source of worry for the P.S. 163 community, and a reminder that we have to take extraordinary measures to protect school children from major construction projects next to schools," he said in a statement.

A spokesman for Jewish Home Lifecare said in a statement that they are "wholly committed to building in the safest and most responsible manner."

"The crane planned for our site is a self-climbing tower crane which is supported on the ground and attached to the side of Jewish Home’s building," the spokesman added, saying after the state's environmental review, "the location of the crane was moved to a different area of the construction site. The crane will be programmed to limit its swing so that its arm never hangs over nearby buildings, including P.S. 163," he said.

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