New York’s skyline keeps soaring upward, but every once in a while, gravity catches up. The latest lethal crane collapse in downtown Manhattan was another sad marker of how the real-estate industry’s breakneck ascent can reach devastating extremes.
Following the collapse, which left one dead and three injured, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office announced that the tragedy was under investigation, but noted that the company had evidently followed procedures for properly securing the crane, and that it had been several years since such a deadly crane incident.
Shortly afterward City Comptroller Scott Stringer cited the crane incident as another indicator of the city’s lax attitude on construction safety. Noting various reports of construction accidents in recent years, Stringer accused the Department of Buildings (DOB) of lagging on implementing safety reforms first recommended under the last mayoral administration.
According to Stringer, a November 2014 audit showed the mayor’s office had yet to implement many of the 65 recommended reforms that came out of a safety review initiated in 2008 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor’s office countered that currently about 30 of 65 recommendations had been implemented and another 23 were pending.
But the optics of the collapsed crane have spurred action, at least for the moment. The mayor announced several new construction-safety measures, including requiring more precautionary measures for workdays with heavy winds, deploying safety personnel to crane sites, and hiking fines for failing to secure cranes appropriately, from $4,800 to $10,000. According to Construction Dive, the city will also initiate a “safety sweep” of construction sites, as part of a larger oversight plan for high-risk worksites.
Stringer’s office stands by its criticisms of construction safety oversight, citing what it sees as “an agency in disarray, failing to keep up with 21st-century safety and technology.” Recent reforms notwithstanding, in a follow-up e-mail, Stringer’s office stated, “Falling cranes cause falling confidence in how well people feel they are being protected”