CITY'S CRANE BLAME
By SANDRA HURLEY , NEW YORK POST
April 18, 2008
Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster told angry City Council members that the project at 303 E. 51st St. should have been rejected due to a complex violation of zoning rules.
"Wow," City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan) said. "This building should never have been approved. That is beyond shocking."
Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens) was angrier.
"The leadership of your agency has to go," he told the commissioner. "The agency is clearly out of control. Nothing ever changes. People are dying."
The council was looking into the March 15 accident in which a 20-story construction crane collapsed into several buildings.
Lappin, whose district includes the neighborhood, cited a letter she and Assemblyman Jonathan Bing wrote Lancaster on Dec. 21 that noted community opposition to the project and asked her to re-examine the zoning permit.
She and others demanded that Lancaster and her senior counsel, Stephen Kramer, explain what went wrong. But they refused to go into detail pending the end of an investigation.
Kramer said the problem with the permit apparently wasn't discovered until after the accident.
A Buildings Department spokesman later said that the problem was actually found beforehand but that there was no stop-work order issued because the builder was working to meet zoning rules.
Outside the hearing, Lancaster indicated the permit problem was technical.
"It's a combination of building laws and tax laws and how you can combine them and how you can't," she said.
Also yesterday, Lancaster announced that inspections she ordered of all tower cranes after the accident revealed that eight of 29 were not in compliance with safety rules and "were immediately shut down."
Seven were allowed to resume operating after the violations were corrected. One of three cranes at 200 Murray St., the site of the new Goldman Sachs headquarters, has been shut down since April 10.
The contractor failed to brace the crane at the 42nd and 43rd floors with tie-ins that complied with approved plans, the city said.
An architect was badly hurt by falling debris at the Goldman Sachs site in December.