A tower crane installed at a construction site fell southward onto a property across the street at 300 East 51st Street, a 19-story residential building. The fall caused a portion of tower crane's mast, approximately 75 feet in length, to break and fall onto 305 East 50th Street, a four-story residential building with a restaurant/bar on the street level, triggering a collapse of the building.
A preliminary investigation indicates the accident occurred while workers were adding tower sections to extend the crane upwards, an operation known as "jumping" the crane. While crews were jumping the crane to the 18th floor, a heavy-duty steel collar, which wrapped around the mast of the crane and used to tie the crane to the side of the building, fell as workers attempted to install it. When the steel collar fell, it damaged a lower steel collar, installed at the 9th floor. The collar installed at the 9th floor served as a major anchor securing the tower crane to the building under construction. With the elimination of the support provided by the steel collar at the 9th floor, the counter-weights at the top of the crane's tower caused the entire structure to fall southward.
Building Part of Safety Effort
The new building under construction at 305 East 51st Street is part of the Department's High Rise Site Safety Program and was inspected proactively at least once a week by buildings inspectors. Inspectors with the Buildings Department's Buildings Enforcement Safety Team (BEST) Squad recently performed an inspection of the site.
Upon inspection, a partial Stop Work Order was issued to halt all work associated with concrete operations at the site. This partial Stop Work Order did not apply to crane operations underway at the time of the accident. The partial Stop Work Order was issued because inspectors found material stored too close to the building's edge on several floors, and because the general contractor, RCG Group, failed to provide the approved drawings at the time of inspection.
Owned by New York Crane and manufactured by the Favelle Favco Group, the tower crane was inspected approximately five times over the course of its operation history at 305 East 51st Street. The permit for the crane was issued Jan. 17 to JCI. The most recent inspection of the crane occurred on March 14, the day before the collapse.
On that day, inspectors with the Buildings Department's Cranes & Derricks Unit inspected the mast sections to be used to jump the crane. No violations were issued as a result of that inspection. Prior to Friday's inspection, the crane was inspected on March 4, when Buildings inspectors scrutinized the crane in response to a complaint and found it to be erected according to the approved crane notice (the crane permit).
City Departments on Site
The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), along with the Department of Buildings (DOB), Fire Department (FDNY), Police Department (NYPD), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit (CAU), American Red Cross in Greater New York, the Salvation Army and ConEdison are all operating on scene. Since the collapse, agencies have been working around the clock to search for victims, remove debris and dismantle the damaged crane.
Remedial operations to secure the site continue in two primary locations. At 305 East 50th Street, DOB forensic engineers, crane experts and inspectors continue to supervise the removal of the section of the crane’s mast that landed on top of the four-story building at 305 East 50th Street. As of early Monday, seven of the 10 pieces of the mast have been removed.
At 300 East 51st Street, the other work site, two mobile cranes, positioned at East 51st Street and 2nd Avenue, have lowered the crane’s boom to the street level. Once the crane’s boom was lowered, workers began dissembling into parts. This work was allowed to proceed after the bolts on the crane’s mast were thoroughly analyzed by engineers and found to be intact. Operations will continue as the crane’s mast is removed from the site and the debris pile is stabilized Some of these parts will be secured by the NYPD and sent to a testing laboratory for analysis as part of DOB’s forensic investigation.
DOB has issued vacate orders for nearly 300 residential units in 17 buildings. All of the buildings remain vacated at this time. DOB will lift the vacate orders as soon as it is safe to do so. The Buildings Department will be able to better assess when tenants can safely return to their homes once more sections of crane and debris have been removed from site. Debris removal on the sidewalk in front of 305 East 50th Street has begun.
OEM, CAU and the American Red Cross in Greater New York set up a Family Assistance Center immediately after the collapse. Evacuated residents can visit the center to register with the Red Cross, receive temporary shelter and speak with DOB personnel. The center is located in Saint Peter’s Church at 619 Lexington Avenue. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. To date, 113 residents have been seen at the center.
OEM and CAU worked with the NYPD, FDNY and Red Cross to rescue several pets from vacated apartments on Sunday. When residents registered at the Family Assistance Center, a list was compiled of trapped pets. As soon as the safety of emergency personnel could be assured, rescues were made.
Gas, electric, and water service has been interrupted to several properties because of the collapse. Service restoration remains a priority and will be done as soon as utility crews are allowed safe access to the collapse area.