After Riis Houses crane collapse, city halts all company’s projects

BY GABE HERMAN | The company involved in two recent crane accidents in Downtown Manhattan has been fined, plus had all its work at nearly two dozen projects around the city halted by the Department of Buildings, the agency announced this month.

D.O.B. found United Crane and Rigging to be responsible for a July 30 crane accident at 749 F.D.R. Drive, at E. Seventh, in the Jacob Riis Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development. The agency’s investigation found that the crane operator lifted a load of steel beams weighing more than 4,400 pounds. The crane’s permitted lifting capacity, though, was only 3,700 pounds. The excessive load led to the crane’s boom bending and partially collapsing, the department said.

A crane that collapsed on July 30 at 749 F.D.R. Drive in the Jacob Riis Houses was left hanging in a bent-over position, above. (Courtesy F.D.NY./Twitter)

The boom’s collapse caused the operator to lose control of the steel load, which was being lifted to the top of the building. Instead, the massive pile of beams struck the building’s roof and side, then went hurtling to the ground. Thankfully, there were no injuries from the incident, though part of the building had to be evacuated.

D.O.B. issued five violations, totaling $110,000 in fines, against United Crane and Rigging for the accident, according to the announcement.

The violations include failure to designate a qualified and competent lift director, failure to make proper notifications to D.O.B. about work being performed, inadequate safety measures on the site, failure to safeguard the site to protect workers and the public, and failure to have proper construction documents on site.

The same company, United, based in Long Island City, was also involved in a fatal April 13 accident across town in Hudson Square at 570 Broome St., between Varick and Hudson Sts. In that earlier incident, the counterweight of a crane being assembled under United’s supervision fell to the ground and killed a worker. That accident remains under investigation, and further enforcement action might eventually be taken, D.O.B. said.

An agency letter was also sent to United, detailing the company’s 22 construction sites in the city that must be shut down for the time being. United also must install an independent monitor, who will give monthly reports to D.O.B. about the company’s safety compliance.

In addition, the letter, from Ashraf Omran, executive director of the D.O.B. Cranes and Derricks Unit, ordered specific job positions at each site, where applicable, to be replaced. The positions include an engineer of record, master rigger, lift director, assembly and disassembly director, and hoisting machine operator.

“Failure to comply with this Order,” the letter concluded, “may result in the Department taking such further action as it deems necessary, including enforcement action for failure to comply with a Commissioner’s Order.”

United Crane and Rigging did not respond to a request for comment.

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