Tina Fineberg for the New York Times

Construction accidents are getting to be pretty routine these days (in case you missed it, another day laborer died in an accident this week), but crikey, today’s accident is anything but routine. The picture above, from the Times, shows what was a four or five-story building. Until earlier today, the building housed a bar called Fu Bar. After a 20-story tall crane fell on it, its reduced to almost nothing. And in the process, at least four people are dead.

Expect lots of stop work orders, lots of fines, and probably a citywide shutdown of all cranes for an emergency inspection in the wake of this tragedy. But don’t hold your breath waiting for DOB to fix the underlying problem of lax construction supervision.

UPDATE (21:00): So far, no word on survivors inside the building. Also nothing on how people are homeless tonight, but as many as six building might have been affected. The Times has the construction site as 305 East 51st, but the jobs appear under 303 East 51st. The building that was demolished was a block to the south – according to the Post the crane itself flew over a tall building immediately south of the construction site, and landed on the building behind the tall building.

305 has 9 complaints, 303 has 39 complaints (1 open). Last week, one person called to complain about the crane, stating that it did not “appear to be braced to the building”, with the “upper whichis [sic] 100 ft up unsecured.” (According to the News, the complaint was filed by a retired contractor.) Two days later, an inspection revealed that the crane was erected according to filed plans. Also of note, a partial stop work order was issued for the project at 13:30 today, based on a damaged or missing safety net or guard rail. According to the papers, the crane collapse didn’t occur until 14:20.

The project under construction is a 43-story building designed by architect Garrett Gourlay.

The Times also says that the crane was recently inspected and that all permits were in place. Does that include a weekend variance? Its hard to tell, since DOB is still, circa 2008, unable to post weekend permits to its Building Information System (BIS). However, looking at the payment history for the project, it would appear that there was a permit for work last weekend, but not this weekend. (Caveat: This is a very inexact science; its entirely possible that the payments last week were for a permit this weekend, but there’s no way to tell from DOB’s vaunted “information” system.)

UPDATE (21:15): According to the City Room, DOB inspected the crane yesterday before granting a variance for operation of the crane today:

Mr. LiMandri said that Buildings Department inspectors had on Friday conducted an inspection of the crane before granting a variance permit for a crane operation that was to be performed today. No violations were cited as a result of that inspection, he said.

Again, there is no way to determine via DOB’s “information” system when weekend variances are issued. So, we’ll have to take DOB’s word for it.

One response to “Fubar”

  1. it’s hard to believe that the crane had an inspection and still toppled causing such damage and deaths. I question to what extent was it inspected and if it was thorough enough. Obviously something was missed.