TRIBECA — A 73-year-old man who suffered spinal and skull fractures after a 565-foot crane in TriBeCa crashed down on him while he sat in his parked car last month is planning to sue the city for $30 million, claiming the city was negligent and reckless.
Thomas O’Brien filed a notice of claim against the city Friday — the first step in eventually suing the city — saying the city is responsible for the massive Feb. 5 collapse on Worth Street that left one man dead because of its “negligence, recklessness and carelessness” in overseeing the safety of the giant crawler crane.
“[The City] knew perfectly well that there were very high winds in the forecast,” said O’Brien’s lawyer Jonathan Damashek. “They knew this was a potentially dangerous crane and they should have taken down that crane early, and fully closed down the street.”
According to city officials, construction workers were trying to lower the Bay Crane Company crawler crane and secure it as 25 mph winds gusted through the area about 8:24 a.m., when it toppled over, sending its 565-foot-long arm smashing onto Worth Street stretching from West Broadway to Church Street.
Department of Buildings officials had been at the site the day before the accident, officials said, and approved the work being done at 60 Hudson St. The crane had been extended to replace air conditioners and generators on the roof of the building, the former Western Union headquarters.
In the immediate aftermath of the collapse, Mayor de Blasio issued emergency crane regulations in the city, calling for cranes to be secured when winds were forecast to consistently exceed 20 mph or when gusts were predicted to exceed 30 mph, while a special task force studied best practices for crane operations.
But less than two months after the change, the task force recommended relaxing the restrictions, allowing for cranes to once again operate at 30 mph winds — the city's original limit — in what critics reportedly saw as a bow to pressure from construction companies.
The group also recommended that cranes unsafe to operate at 30 mph should not be allowed to be used at all.
In the notice of claim, first reported by the New York Daily News, O’Brien, who lives in Massachusetts, says he suffered spinal cord injuries and skull fractures when the crane crushed his car.
The enormous collapse killed 38-year-old Upper West Side man David Wichs and injured several others.
O’Brien’s lawyer said his client is still being evaluated for brain injuries and he may need surgery for his two spinal fractures.
Damashek said they also plan on suing the crane owner, its operator and the owner of 60 Hudson St.
A spokesman for the city law department said the city is reviewing the claim.
A DOB spokesman told DNAinfo New York in a statement that "the cause of the crane collapse on Worth Street remains under active investigation."
The spokesman added that even though the city has "the most robust crane and construction regulations and inspection requirements in the country," a task force investigating the accidents is slated to "propose additional best practices and regulations where necessary."