Photograph from East 51st Street by gattogrosso212 at flickr

Here's a big WTF: Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster told the City Council yesterday that plans for 303 East 51st Street, the site where a crane collapsed into surrounding buildings and caused the deaths of seven people, were accidentally approved by the department. Apparently the 43-story building's design didn't comply with zoning requirements for the area, and Lancaster "blamed the error on the unnamed plan examiner."

At the time of the March 15 collapse, when a crane broke free of the building and fell south into other building and leveling one townhouse, the Buildings Department and developer James Kennelly were discussing the mistakenly approved plans. Of course, it's very possible the building could have been approved in another design, but this exchange between Lancaster and the Council is priceless. From the Times:

Ms. Lancaster said the building under construction had been approved “not in accordance with the zoning regulation.”

“Wow,” said Councilwoman Jessica S. Lappin, whose district includes the site of the crane collapse. “You’re telling me this building should never have been approved in the first place?”

“That is correct,” Ms. Lancaster replied.

City Councilman Tony Avella also ripped into Lancaster, "The leadership of your agency has to go. The agency is clearly out of control. Nothing ever changes. People are dying."

Lancaster explained after the hearing that the zoning issues were complicated, "It's a combination of building laws and tax laws and how you can combine them and how you can't." The Buildings Department also announced that 21 of 29 cranes passed inspection. The eight cranes that didn't were, according to Bloomberg News, at the Goldman Sach site, the Trump Soho building, 8 Spruce St., 123 Washington St., 453 West 37th St., 400 East 67th St., 80 Riverside Blvd., and 1431 Second Ave.