For the past few hours, New Yorkers’ eyes have been trained on the skies, or at least their TV and computer screens. No, they are not watching out for the eye of the storm but the crane that Hurricane Sandy has dislodged in Midtown Manhattan. The boom of the crane attached to the billionaire-beloved One57 snapped back earlier today and has been hanging precariously ever since, but it has yet to break free, and the hope is that will be the situation until the storm passes.
At a press briefing this evening, Mayor Bloomberg said all buildings on West 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues have been evacuated, as well as “exposed buildings” on the same block of West 56th Street. Among the buildings evacuated were a hotel and some apartment and office buildings. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but better safe than sorry,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
The accident occurred at 2:35 p.m. today, according to a statement from Lend Lease, the general contractor on the project, the tallest apartment building in the city, at 1,005 feet, and also home to the most expensive sale ever, more than $90 million for the penthouse.
Mayor Bloomberg said the surrounding area had been secured, with steam, electricity and gas all being shut off to prevent any additional damage should the crane’s boom come loose.
“Nobody really knows” what could happen to the crane, Mayor Bloomberg said. “The last report I’ve gotten is the main tower seems to be well secured to the building, the only part that is in danger of falling, we think, is the boom. If it were to fall, the street is being kept clear, we’ve taken precautions with the pipes and everything is off, so if it does fall, it doesn’t do anything more.”
The mayor said that the crane had been inspected on Friday and everything seemed fine, and also that he and Deputy Mayor Robert Steele had spoken with Gary Barnett, the head of Extell Development, the firm responsible for building the tower. “He and his staff are cooperating fully,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
“It’s conceivable there wasn’t even a malfunction,” he added. “It was just a strange gust of wind. If you look with binoculars, you can see the boom–it didn’t fall down, it went right up and bent right over and is still attached where it was before. That’s the good news, because maybe it won’t fall; there are points where it’s still attached.”
He also said the the incident could very well have been an act of God.
Lend Lease has had a history of troubled projects, from the former Deutsche Bank Building that caught fire during deconstruction a few years ago to a 2008 crane collapse that killed a number of people on the Upper East Side. It was also involved in an over-billing scandal that was revealed last year, where both public and private firms were overcharged for services.
“We are working with structural engineers and the DOB on evaluating any additional measures that can be taken to secure the boom and crane structure,” Lend Lease spokeswoman Mary Costello said in a statement. “Current weather and wind conditions remain very severe.”
Extell has yet to release a statement.