Saturday, March 15, 2008

How Many More Construction-Related Tragedies Do We Need?

The answer is zero to most people, but that doesn't include the city and the Department of Buildings, the agency that was responsible for ensuring the safety of the workers at 303 E. 51st St and the area around it. Inadequate inspections and a crew run roughshod by those in charge of building the latest 40 story tower in Turtle Bay helped to indirectly cause a tragic accident that killed four people and injured many more. Not only that, but one building was completely demolished by the falling crane and several others were significantly damaged.

From The NY Times:

“This construction accident is one of the worst the city has had,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a news conference this afternoon. “Our hearts go out to all the victims and their families.”

The big, white crane, which looked to be about 20 stories tall, appeared to have toppled across a street and crashed into other nearby buildings. Mr. Bloomberg said the falling pieces of the crane demolished one building and damaged three others.[...]

“This is an absolute disgrace,” Mr. Stringer said. “We need better inspection and more resources.”

He said there were open violations on the construction site for a 44-story condominium building that are “quite serious,” he said.

Ismael Garcia, who was working on the 15th floor of the building under construction, said that just before the crane collapsed, it was lifting material that apparently fell and struck a girder that connected the crane to the building.

“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a piece falling,” he said.

There was a loud crash, and he rushed to the edge of the building to peer out over the street below. “I saw a guy laying on the roof there,” he said, looking down on a building below. “His head was under the debris.”[...]

Bartle Bull, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, said he was not surprised that the crane had fallen. “What I’ve seen for the last two months is reckless construction and lack of enforcement,” he said in a telephone interview. “We have said this crane is going to come down.”

Mr. Bull said he deliberately avoided walking along 51st Street “because this thing looks so dangerous.”

It wasn't too long ago when another construction worker was killed at Donald Trump's latest monstrosity down in SoHo. That accident also occurred within a construction area that had multiple violations and a terrible safety record.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is right, we do need better inspections and more resources. Yet even after the Trump SoHo accident there was a stopwork order and then business went on as usual. Now there will be a stopwork order here...and eventually things will go back to usual. As long as the speed of these towers going up is rewarded more than for its safety record, there will be more tragic accidents like this, only who knows how much worse the next one could be.