Mayor Bill de Blasio Announces New Crane Safety Plan, Effective Immediately

View of Worth Street from New York Law School. Image credit: CityLand

View of Worth Street from New York Law School. Image credit: CityLand

New plan subjects crane operators to additional safety regulations and increased fines for non-compliance.  On February 7, 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a four-prong safety plan to be taken by large crane operators.  The new set of safety measures arose in response to a fatal crane collapse incident, which occurred on February 5, 2016 in the TriBeCa neighborhood of Manhattan.

On February 5th at approximately 8:30AM, a large crane collapsed onto Worth Street, spanning two blocks between Hudson Street and Church Street, damaging at least one building, including New York Law School, injuring three pedestrians, and causing one casualty.  Due to increased wind speeds, the work crew responsible for operating the crane refrained from beginning construction work and was in the process of moving the crane into a secure position when it collapsed.  Immediately after the incident occurred, Mayor de Blasio halted the activities of all remaining active crawler and tower cranes and required that they remain in a secure position until the winds died down.

Officials remain unsure of what caused the crane to fall.  The Department of Buildings personnel had deemed the construction site proper after conducting a site visit the morning previous to the anticipated construction work, and the crew had been acting appropriately under the circumstances.

While investigations remain underway, Mayor de Blasio announced a four-part crane safety plan, which went into effect as of February 8, 2016.

First, crawler cranes will be required to enter safety mode in the event that wind speeds exceed 20 miles-per-hour or gusts of wind are expected to exceed 30 miles-per-hour.  DOB will notify   crane engineers when such conditions require operations to cease, and the engineers will be required to certify their compliance with the DOB.  Engineers who fail to certify compliance with DOB will be subject to paying a “failure to safeguard” fine, which has been increased from a base penalty of $4,800 to $10,000.

Second, pedestrians will benefit from enhanced protections while traversing City sidewalks.  As required by the Department of Transportation, pedestrian traffic managers will now be required to assist in enforcing sidewalk and street closures when large cranes are used in areas of heavy foot-traffic.  DOB will be in charge of inspecting affected construction sites for compliance and issuing violations to non-compliant construction companies and personnel.

Third, crane operators will be required to provide notice to local residents and businesses before they move a crane, in addition to the operators’ pre-existing duty to notify such residents and businesses upon installing the crane in the first place.

Fourth, a task force on crane safety will be organized to conduct a 90-day evaluation of the circumstances and conditions that caused the crane to collapse on February 5th.  The task force will also be in charge of developing additional strategies, best practices, and regulations to improve crane safety in New York City.

“No building is worth a person’s life. We are going to ensure the record boom in construction and growth does not come at the expense of safety,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“I attended the funeral service for David Wichs who was killed by the crane. He was an extraordinarily wonderful human being and his death is a tragedy. Construction sites must be safe and I applaud Mayor de Blasio for announcing additional measures that will make construction that involves cranes even safer. No one should die or be injured at or near construction areas,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A Brewer.

“I extend my condolences to the victim in this accident, as well as those injured, and thank our first responders,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “This is a tragic reminder of the need for construction coordination in lower Manhattan, as LMCCC and the more recent DOT coordination have done so well since 2004. I thank the Mayor and city for their transparency, responsiveness and fast action in the wake of this tragedy. I will continue to work closely with CB1, colleagues, and the city as details regarding this incident continue to emerge.”

“In the wake of the tragic incident on Worth Street, I applaud these common sense safety measures, including the requirement that crane operators secure their equipment before, and not during, a high wind event. I thank the Mayor for acting quickly to help protect New Yorkers from an increasing amount of crane activity in our densely populated neighborhoods,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.

By:  Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein (Jessica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2015)

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