Already two weeks removed from the storm of the century, many people in the Northeast continue to feel the wrath of super storm Sandy. Thousands remain displaced, homeless, and without power. In spite of these hardships, each day brings with it emerging stories of the resiliency that has typified New Yorkers in recent decades.
Also emerging from the wreckage are many questions about the storm and its effects. Perhaps one of the most indelible images from the storm coverage is that of the partially collapsed crane atop the One57 building in midtown Manhattan. The dangling boom from the Extell crane swayed in the furious winds for several hours striking terror into the heart of those below. Worries abounded as many thought it inevitable that the boom would eventually detach and plummet several stories to a loud and destructive landing. Many feared that such a landing was likely to damage the gas main below and cause a tremendous and deadly explosion. For this and many other reasons, the block surrounding the One57 building was evacuated for six days. Thankfully, the boom never fell to the ground and has since been secured.
Now that the threat of the collapsing crane has been eliminated, people are starting to wonder if the partial collapse was the result of Sandy's fury alone or also negligence on behalf of the crane's owner. Did the NYC crane undergo proper crane inspections and was it secured according to protocol in order to mitigate the risk of collapse? Two city engineers that have inspected the crane post-collapse have reported have stated that the collapse was most likely a result of a powerful gust as opposed to human error and/or equipment failure. Mayor Bloomberg echoed the same sentiment in his public address and suggested that the crane collapse was not a result of negligence.
Not everyone is convinced. Thomas Harth, a well known and respected crane accident investigator, points out that the crane was left in "high boom angle" defying procedural best practice and making it more susceptible to the Sandy's gusts. Other cynics point to the fact that the crane site had received several citations in the months leading up to storm's arrival in late October. In March of 2012 the site was flagged for "failure to safeguard all persons and property". A month later it was cited for "operation of crane in an unsafe manner". Later, in August, a crane inspector noticed that the crane was leaking hydraulic fluid. However, Extell has said that all of the concerns and citations were addressed in a timely manner and that the crane had passed a thorough inspection just days before the storm. Furthermore, they noted that the crane was secured following all safety procedures.
Though there continues to be disagreement on the safety of the crane, all are thankful that the partially collapsed crane remained 1,000 feet in the air. Though the dangling boom has been securely tied to the building, the painstaking task of removing the crane altogether is still in its early stage. Some estimates say that it will take up to six weeks to safely remove the crane.