Mayor Bill de Blasio implementing new plan to improve crane safety in New York City

TRIBECA, Manhattan (WABC) -- Most of the area affected by Friday's deadly crane disaster re-opened in TriBeCa Monday following the collapse, but repair work by Con Edison crews continues as Worth Street remains closed to traffic.

Over the weekend, the 565-foot crawler crane was dismantled and taken away by truck to a secure location, which allowed people who work in the area to return to their jobs and some sense of normalcy. Tanishia Williams was coming back to her office.

"I had seen it, and it didn't sit well with me," she said. "I didn't like the way it was looking in the first place, and then this happened."

After two back-to-back crane accidents killed nine people in 2008, stricter regulations for protecting the public were adopted. So how has another deadly crane collapse happened again, and was the operator following the new guidelines to keep the streets below safe?

When the massive boom crashed down across two city blocks, it appears that only the block where the crane cab was located had been closed off. The second block, where nearly half of the boom fell and where David Wichs was killed, was not completely closed. Forty eight hours later, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised better protection.

"We'll be requiring more sidewalk protection for pedestrians," he said. "DOB, DOT, NYPD and FDNY will all be working together on this effort."

It's unclear how he will enforce this, since building code already requires strict protection. The code states, "warning signs, personnel or barriers shall be provided to protect the public from hazards generated by construction." It also states protection of traffic shall be provided as well.

"To now say you are going to ramp up safety by having the streets closed, pedestrians off the streets, is laughable," construction safety attorney Susan Karten said. "This is something that should have been in effect since day one."

Karten won a $32 million settlement for a family whose son was killed when a crane with a faulty part collapsed in 2008. That accident ushered in new safety requirements for raising and dismantling of cranes. But some say the city still has a long way to go to protect city streets and sidewalks.

Last year, a huge boom nearly crushed people when a sidewalk was not closed as the boom was being moved. And video from last fall shows a busy 57th Street left wide open as a crane lifted heavy steel bars above traffic.

"We seem to go from crane incident to crane incident without anybody sitting down and figuring out how to prevent cranes from falling from the sky," Karten said.

On whether the crane operator met the requirement for street and sidewalk protection, a DOB spokesman said that is part of the ongoing investigation into the crash.

The mayor said there will be new restrictions on crawler cranes during wind conditions, and fines for failure to safeguard equipment will be doubled. The city will require crawler cranes to go into safety mode whenever steady winds of at least 20 miles an hour or gusts of at least 30 miles an hour are forecast. There will also be increased enforcement of pedestrian safety alongside crane sites, and neighboring buildings will get more notifications about crane activities.

The crane's removal had to be done without compromising its integrity, so investigators can examine it for clues.

Investigators say the crane's movement recording computer has also been removed. The expectation is the data it stores will contribute a significant amount of information to inspectors, but officials warn it may only provide basic insight.

"I don't want to set expectations too high," Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler said. "It's not going to give wind speeds or actions of the operator of that matter."

In the meantime, several buildings next to the site remain partially vacated, and about 75 residents will not have drinking water until next week.
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