Superstorm Sandy has been full of dramatic events, from the fire in Breezy Point to the flooding of all those tunnels, the explosion of the Con Edison plant, submersion of the Rockaways… it has been a terrifying 24 hours. But perhaps no moment typified the New York-iness of this storm quite like the crane accident at One57. Where but here would you find a death-defying incident 1,000 feet in the air involving a home for the world’s billionaires?
With that in mind, many New Yorkers have been wondering just what the fate of the crane boom that has been hanging precariously for more than a day would be. According to the Department of Buildings, inspections reveal that the crane should be safe for now, but given the difficult conditions from the storm, it has been very difficult to inspect the damage directly.
“Our engineers have been on the scene all day now with the crane,” Tony Sclafani, the DOB spokesman, said in a phone interview. “Up until this point, they have not been able to access the building due to high winds. But last night, two inspectors made their way up to the 70th floor, floor by floor, step by step, to make sure all the connections to the crane were secure. They were accompanied by firefighters along the way.”
The crane currently sits near the 90th floor of the building, which is the penthouse, so it was difficult to inspect everything, but the department remains confident that the boom will not be falling barring some unforeseen disaster. Mr. Sclafani stressed that the inspection was in the early stages and the department was more concerned with securing the crane than determining what caused the accident, though it appeared to be a wind-related issue.
“Right now, the concern is stabilization, and we are working on a plan to fully stabilize the crane,” Mr. Sclafani said.
He said that it could take a few days before the crane is secure, but the exact measures required would become more clear “in the next few hours.” He said the Department of Buildings, along with the Fire Department, would be working around the clock to secure the crane and one possible solution would be to tether the boom to the building or the body of the crane until a new crane can be erected to disassembled the damaged crane. Such an operation could take days or even weeks according to industry experts.
For the time being, construction will be halted at the site and an evacuation order for the surrounding area remains in effect. Mr. Sclafani said Extell Development, the firm behind the city’s tallest apartment building, and its contractors are fully complying with the investigation.
In a brief phone call with The Observer, Mr. Barnett said simply, “It is what is is and everything is being dealt with. It’s going to be O.K.” He said his p.r. firm, Rubinstein Associates, had prepared a statement, but that was more than an hour ago and none has materialized.
Mayor Bloomberg did not mention the accident in his morning press briefing, but it was mentioned in a statement sent out by his office after the event: “Yesterday a partially damaged at a site on West 57th Street required evacuation of the immediate vicinity. The Department of Buildings has determined that the crane is currently stable, however we can’t fully secure the crane until the wind dies down. The procedure there, when the winds die down, will be to try to get the boom and strap it to the building, and then we could reopen the streets, and then over a period of time the contracting company will have to figure out a way to build a new crane on top and take that one down.”
We may be in the clear, but the wait continues.
Update 6:20: Extell just released the following statement:
Responding to press questions, we can confirm that LendLease took all recommended measures to position the crane in anticipation of a hurricane. This was inspected and approved by the Department of Buildings and is the standard for hurricanes.
LendLease together with members of the Extell construction team and with supervision and direction of the Fire Department, OEM, DOB, along with other city agencies, are planning a recovery procedure to secure the crane. As soon as the Fire Department deems it safe, that procedure will begin.
We apologize for the considerable inconvenience experienced by our neighbors, but safety is paramount. We are thankful that no one has been hurt.