On Friday, one person was killed and three were injured when a giant crane toppled over and crashed onto Worth Street between Church Street and West Broadway in Tribeca. The Police Department and the Buildings Department are both investigating the collapse, trying to understand exactly what went wrong as the 565-feet-tall crane was being lowered to safety during 30 MPH wind gusts. And it seems that the company who owned the crane has been involved in at least two other serious accidents last year.
The crane collapse occurred just before 8:30 a.m. yesterday. The crane was stationed outside a building at 60 Hudson, which takes up an entire block between West Broadway and Hudson. The crane was inspected by the Buildings Department Thursday because the operating company, Galasso Trucking & Rigging, had requested permission to extend it to its current height. There are some 376 of this type of crane, called a "crawler crane," in use throughout the NYC, and de Blasio ordered all of them to be lowered and secured in the wake of the incident. Seventy-six taller "tower cranes" have also been ordered secured.
"The wind was blowing very strongly from the west down Worth street," Kurt Nelson, who works inside 60 Hudson, told us yesterday. He did not see the crane fall, but tells us, "as soon as I got up to our floor and in the office, the whole building shook violently for a couple seconds, and then I ran back down to the street." Other witnesses told the Times that they could feel the vibration from the crash.
“I thought it was a bomb,” Anatole Kostak, a construction worker, was standing just a block away, told the New Yorker.
While de Blasio said Galasso "was doing the right thing" by attempting to lower the crane yesterday, the Post reports that crane owner Bay Crane is being sued over an accident last May in which a crane dropped a massive heating and air-conditioning unit atop a building in Midtown. “It’s the same crane company?” Gregory Welch, one of the people suing the company, told them. "I hadn’t realized!” Bay Crane worker Timothy Foucher, also suing the company, lost two-thirds of his hand in an accident at La Guardia Airport in March.
Altogether, Bay Crane has been sued five times over accidents in the last four years. The News reported on a similar incident involving the company in 2010:
In March 28, 2010, a 280-foot crane at 80 Maiden Lane smashed into an office building after hours because a hydraulic pump in the rig failed. DOB investigators learned the crane itself was faulty, and OSHA cited Bay Crane for not complying with manufacturer's specifications and limitations.
OSHA hit Bay Crane with a $2,500 fine, but the firm settled without having to pay a dime when OSHA cited Skylift Contracting Corp. of Brooklyn for not instructing workers to recognize unsafe conditions.
The deceased was identified as 38-year-old Upper West Side resident David Wichs, who worked at the New York-based financial trading firm Tower Research Capital. Wichs had just exited his parked vehicle and was standing next to it when the crane came down on him. His sister-in-law, Lisa Guttman, described him to the Post as “the most brilliant person ever,” saying he had immigrated from Prague, Czechoslovakia as a teenager and gone to Harvard University.
“He was an angel, an absolute angel,” a man who identified himself as the family rabbi, told the News. “He was a wonderful, wonderful person. He was the best, the absolute best, and that's what makes this tragedy that much greater."
One of the other people injured in the incident, Dawn Kojima, was on her way to work at the time of the incident. When she heard the screech of the falling metal, she pressed herself up to the nearest building: “I heard something coming down and I looked up,” Kojima told the News from her hospital bed. "I don't know what hit me. It could have been parts of the crane that fell, some of the building, I don't know. It’s hard to describe, it was really painful." She sustained head and leg wounds in the fall.
In a statement, The Historic Districts Council (HDC) sent their condolences to those who were injured in the crash, and said they had long had reservations about the expansions to the building:
60 Hudson Street is an individual landmark and the host building of this morning's disaster. The stewards of this structure have consistently deviated from their master plan and have repeatedly applied to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for piecemeal approvals for the structure's ever-growing industrial needs.
Formerly an office building, 60 Hudson now houses generators and other equipment to support the internet. It has run out of room on the inside of the building for this use. Thus, it keeps adding numerous accretions to the outside building envelope to keep its leases.
HDC testified against these continued enlargements to the 1928 Ralph Walker individual landmark in September 2015, as did Manhattan Community Board 1.
At some point, we must say “stop” to this kind of over-building. It is an avoidable shame when our historic buildings are lost to voracious development - it is an unacceptable tragedy when human lives are lost to the same vice.