Residents wait to go home

Safety summit follows crane collapse; Two killed in deadly accident
June 2, 2008 3:19:23 AM PDT
Emergency crews worked Sunday to stabilize an Upper East Side building damaged in the latest deadly crane collapse, as residents displaced by the incident waited to see when they could get inside. Gina and Larry Bliss and their daughters Lainie, 22 months, and Sadie, 5 months, who live in the damaged building, had been told they could go in Sunday morning to check on their belongings. But when they got to the police barricade surrounding the accident scene, where two men were killed and another injured on Friday, they were told to come back later.

The family moved in a week before the crane hit the building and has no plans to leave. "As long as the building's safe, we're going back," Gina Bliss said. "We love the area."

The Blisses said their 13th-floor apartment was not damaged by the crane, which crushed a penthouse and clawed through the balconies below it.

Thecollapse happened when the cab of a 200-foot crane popped off its mast and scraped the balconies off the northeast corner of an apartment building across the street.

The crane operators were building a new condo tower on East 91st Street, forty blocks north of where a crane collapse killed seven on March 15.

On Sunday, a cherry picker hoisted workers onto the damaged top floor to survey the wreckage as tourists and neighborhood residents watched. The Department of Buildings said a forensic investigation into what went wrong has started, which includes examining the crane parts.

Emily Schottland, who said she can see the building the crane was working on from her kitchen, said the accident did not surprise her, given the hectic pace of construction.

"Within one day they had put up two floors," she said.

Friday's crane collapse extended a spike in deadly construction accidents around the city including the March 15 crane collapse in midtown. More than two dozen construction workers have been killed in the past year.

Developers, labor representatives, crane owners and others attended a closed-door meeting Saturday to discuss construction safety issues.

Street Closures

Several streets near the crane collapse still remain closed Sunday night. The following streets remain closed to traffic:

  • First Avenue between East 86th Street and East 96th Street
  • East 91st Street between York Avenue and Second Avenue

    Mayor Bloomberg, however, says the city hopes to have two lanes on First Avenue reopened by Monday morning.


    Eyewitness News has learned the construction worker killed in the collapse is the cab operator. He was still in the cab of the crane when it came down.

    He was identified as 30-year-old Donald Leo of Staten Island.

    Another construction worker on the street, outside of the cab, was taken to the hospital in very critical condition. He later died.

    The medical examiner's spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove, says the victim was 27-year-old Ramadan Kurtaj.

    A third person was in the building, possibly leaving at the time of the collapse. But he was not struck by the crane. He was also in critical condition.

    He was being treated at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

    The developer of the site, the DeMattias Organization, issued a statement following the accident:

    "First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected by this terrible tragedy. We are currently in the process of gathering all the facts surrounding this unfortunate accident and will provide more details as they become available."

    Reception Center for Evacuated Residents

    The City and the American Red Cross have opened a reception center for people who have been evacuated from their homes because of the collapse. The reception center is located at P.S. 198 at 1700 3rd Ave. OEM Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members are assisting the American Red Cross at the reception center.

    The American Red Cross is also providing immediate humanitarian aid, including housing, meals and counseling for anyone affected by the crane incident. You can help them help these New Yorkers by donating now at or calling 1-877-RedCross.

    The City of New York will remain on scene until recovery operations are completed. Updates on road closures, towed vehicles and vacated residential units will continue to be made available through 311 and OEM's Web site at