Safety Experts Consider Dangling Crane Removal in Manhattan

In the wake of massive super storm Sandy, a partially collapsed construction crane continues to dangle from the top of an unfinished luxury high-rise building.

Sandy’s winds may be responsible for the partial collapse 700 feet above midtown Manhattan, said CBS News, which led to the evacuation of a number of New York City blocks and the closing off major intersections over concerns about falling debris.

The crane had been set in a so-called “weather vane” position for Sandy, which is usual protocol during a storm and which also enables the crane to follow heavy winds and not snap, explained CBS News senior correspondent John Miller. It seems this was just one of a number of tower cranes that can be seen throughout Manhattan and which were not removed for the impending hurricane over time and cost issues.

Meanwhile, city officials, in anticipation of the Sandy, issued a mandatory stop work order on all construction sites in Manhattan and conducted surprise inspections on Friday, before the storm hit, said CBS News. The site of the now-dangling crane was among those inspected.

Construction safety expert, Peter Amato, a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, told CBS News that it is too soon to confirm the exact cause of the collapse. “There could be multiple factors,” he told Miller, “Human error, structural failure, weather conditions. In this case, based on the video I saw, it appears quite evident the most devastating factor … was the wind.”

Now, city officials are trying to figure out a way to safely remove the crane with options that include attempting to secure the boom, strapping it to the building, reopening the streets, and building a new crane to remove the broken crane, said CBS News. Other options involve dismantling the crane from the bottom or tying the crane to the building and dismantling it there.

According to Miller, said CBS News, once officials and the contracting company—Lend Lease—settle on a process, the job should only take a few days.

Meanwhile, construction at the site at 57th Street has prompted 110 complaints to the New York Buildings department, with 21 this year alone; seven involving the crane. The most recent complaint, said CBS News, was made on September 21, for leaking oil. Miller reported that Lend Lease has been the subject of several safety and integrity lawsuits in recent years, said CBS News.

A report by NBC News states that inspection reports reveal the crane’s owner—Pinnacle Industries—has been fined several times over safety issues and engineers say it could take weeks, not days, to remove the 80-ton damaged, dangling machinery.

Although Sandy’s winds knocked the crane down, the country’s most renowned expert and a crane accident investigator, Thomas Harth, said human error, not Sandy’s winds, cause the accident. The crane was not secured in the correct position and was at “a high boom angle. They know it can blow over,” Harth told NBC News.

Pinnacle was cited this March for failure to safeguard persons and property; this April, for operation of crane in an unsafe manner; and, in August, for the crane leaking hydraulic fluid. All these issues have now been resolved, said NBC News.

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