A crane crouched near the top of a Midtown skyscraper spun from the high winds Thursday night, city officials said, forcing four blocks in Manhattan to close as debris fell from above.
The crane, located next to the top of the 85-story building at 111 West 57th Street near Sixth Avenue, created fears among residents and anyone who happened to walk under it. The FDNY said it received a call about falling debris just before 7 p.m. Thursday, Deputy Fire Chief John Hodgens said. When the fire department arrived at the scene, they couldn’t see the top of the building due to the strong wind and fog, Hodgens said.
It is unclear when the streets will open again. Police said officials would assess the situation Friday morning to see if any changes are needed.
The city said the crane was never in danger of collapsing, but debris fell from buildings. The video showed the crane spinning in a circle high above the ground and coming very close to the new mega-luxury high-rise overlooking Central Park. Videos also showed larger pieces of debris falling from the tall floors, creating sparks as they hit the rigging under the crane before falling onto the road below. There were several pieces of what appeared to be metal lying on the cordoned off road.
The crane, which officials said could withstand winds of up to 160 miles per hour, is stable and is being assessed by inspectors, building spokesman Andrew Rudansky said in an email. The crane is supposed to swing in the wind, he said, but inspectors were on site to determine what caused the rubble.
Immediate safety concerns prompted the building authority to issue a complete stop command on the construction site and to put the crane under a shutdown. The construction company, which manages the operation of the building, was also reported a violation of “failure to protect the site,” said the DOB.
“Our technicians are back on site today, working to determine exactly how this incident occurred and who is responsible for this serious security breach. New York City has the toughest crane regulations in the country to protect the public and an incident that is unacceptable. We have stopped all work on the project, with the exception of the operations to secure the site, “said a spokesman for the Department of Buildings on Friday.
The FDNY said what caused the problems was a ball attached to a cable at the end of the structure, similar to a wrecking ball. The cord became loose and dangled further down than it should have been. As the crane swung, the bullet struck parts of the building, shattering debris, and dropping it to the ground.
The engineers were able to re-roll the cable and secure the crane, but there are still parts of the building that are loose and could fall down, according to the fire department. Some of the rubble is made up of metal pieces from the building that weigh up to 300 pounds.
Four blocks in the area were cordoned off during and hours after the incident and no casualties were reported. It’s unclear when the roads will reopen, but the wind that came with remnants of Hurricane Zeta should subside by Friday.
The building, also known as the Steinway Tower, is being developed by the JDS Construction Group. It is under construction, said the city’s emergency management office. The building’s website states that the “iconic new tower” is due to be completed later this year.
US Crane and Rigging, a company that installs the construction equipment in New York City, said the crane is 220 feet, “the tallest free-standing crane in NYC history.” It also boasted of performance, calling it “one of the most extraordinary cranes ever to stand over NYC”.
There have been other problems with the building in recent years. On a windy day in January this year, a 6 by 6 inch piece of terracotta fell from the 81st floor of the building. It hit a cab down between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, making a sizeable dent in the roof. A year earlier, on January 21, 2019, construction equipment came loose, hit window panes by winds and broke. Shards of glass fell from above, forcing similar road closures for hours. No one was injured in either incident.
The incident also occurs exactly eight years to the day after another crane collapsed on a skyscraper on the exact same block amid the high winds of Superstorm Sandy. In this 2012 scenario, the crane was near the top of 157 57th Street, another luxury tower along what is known as Billionaires’ Row.
This crane was dangled across the road until the storm was over and the workers could secure it safely. In this case, the project’s site manager said the tower crane was properly set up for the windy conditions shortly thereafter, according to a report in the Engineering News-Record.
Lend Lease, the site manager for this site, said the crane was put into a weather vane mode prior to the storm, which allows it to spin like a flag in the wind.