Crane crackdown in wake of collapse

March 25, 2008 8:21:22 PM PDT
There are significant and sweeping changes in the way buildings are inspected in New York City in the wake of last week's deadly East Side crane collapse. From now on, before a tower crane can be raised or lowered, a building inspector must be on site. An engineer must conduct a full inspection and also must provide written protocol for everyone on site.

And a safety meeting must be convened between contractors, inspectors and the construction crew before the crane is raised.

But before those changes take place, there have been widespread inspections. And problems have been discovered at several other sites.

Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Pegues has more.

At the scene of the crane accident, they work into the night.

The address is 303 East 51st Street. It is the construction project and future high-rise now forever linked with the deaths of seven people and perhaps tougher building standards throughout the city.

"It would be nice to know the city is looking at other cranes," area resident Pethene Trexel said. "They're all over.''

Officials say there are 30 tower cranes, like the one that collapsed, across the city. They help build condos and office buildings, and in the last week and a half, city building inspectors have been doing a sweep of all of them.

"What we want to do is send a clear message to contractors that they have to keep their sites safe," buildings commissioner Patricia Lancaster said.

In the last week, at least three stop work orders have issued at construction sites in Manhattan.

In Lower Manhattan, at 20 Murray Street, a crane did not comply with the permit issued. At 123 Washington Street, an important steel peg was missing from the crane's base. And at 246 Spring Street, crane operations stopped for the construction on the Trump Building in SoHo. Officials said there were hairline cracks in a 32nd floor slab, on which the crane was tied to the building.

Officials say many of the violations were quickly fixed and allowed to resume construction.

"We want the engineers to inspect the tower cranes," Lancaster said. "We want to make sure they are built according to plan. And if they're not, we're going to shut the darn job down.''

It is tough talk from the head of a department embarrassed by the arrest of an inspector who allegedly wasn't doing his job.

Inspector Edward Marquette admitted to the Department of Investigation that he did not inspect the crane, although he claimed to have done so on March 4, days before the deadly collapse. He was charged with falsifying a business record and offering a false record.