What Will Happen to the Dangling One57 Crane?

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At 2:35 p.m. yesterday, a blast of wind hit the construction crane at One57, the new luxury high-rise in midtown, and bent the boom back over the cab like it was a wet noodle. Twenty-four hours later, and the whole mangled wreck remains dangling above the streets of midtown — one of the most visible reminders of the damage wreaked by Sandy. Gary Barnett, the chief of Extell, which is developing the building, said his company is doing “everything we can” to remedy the situation, although given the state of city infrastructure, it’s unlikely that the damaged crane will be removed anytime soon.

Here, in question and answer form, is what we know.

What is One57 and when will it be finished?
One57 is a 1,005-foot, 92-unit condo tower at 157 West 57th Street. It will be the tallest residential building in New York, and the most expensive to live
in — as we noted last month, the floor-through apartments in the top eleven floors of One57 start at approximately $50 million, and one of the penthouse duplexes sold earlier this year for $90 million, a Manhattan real estate record. As opposed to 15 Central Park West, the limestone palace a few blocks away, One57 is thin, tall, and made of glass and steel. It has attracted the attention of plenty of foreign buyers, including Chinese, Africans, and Europeans.

Extell hopes to move residents into apartments by next summer; a Park Hyatt hotel, which will occupy the first 30 floors, will open shortly after that. Right now, One57 is very much a work in progress. The glass shell currently extends only two-thirds of the way up the building, and on the uppermost floors, the “walls” are made of orange netting. When I visited One57 this fall, an employee of LendLease, the large contracting company, told me that even mild storms can feel frightening and harsh at that altitude.

What happened with the crane?
The crane boom got whipped around in the storm, basically, and ended up twisting back over itself. Tom Barth, a crane expert based in South Carolina,
told me that the problem may have been the angle of the boom. “The crane was at an extremely high angle, and in the videos I’ve seen, the gust of wind
comes up, and just flips it up.” (You can see some of that footage here.) Barth says the accident was “absolutely avoidable,” especially if the crane
had been at a different angle — 40 or 45 degrees, for instance. “You had days of warning,” he continued. “It didn’t have to end up like this.”

Are the surrounding buildings in any real danger?
Probably not. Although Barth says a crane the size of the one on One57 could wipe out “blocks and blocks of buildings” if it fell, the crane appears to be pretty stable where it is now. Moreover, the city has evacuated the nearby structures, including Le Parker Meridien, on West 56th Street. The Times reports that the stream pipes in the area have powered down, and the streets around One57 fenced off. Eventually, work crews will have to secure the crane boom. “We just don’t want to risk the lives of anyone trying to be a hero,” Mayor Bloomberg said at a press conference yesterday. Mary Costello, the head of corporate affairs at LendLease, says that LendLease is working with the Department of Buildings to plan the next step. Wind conditions at 1,000-feet, she says, remain “very severe.”

How long will it take for LendLease to get a new crane up there?
Two weeks, at the very earliest, according to crane expert Barth. LendLease will rely on Pinnacle Industries, the operator of the original crane, to build
a new model (a lengthy process in and of itself) and bring the thing on site. Meanwhile, the damaged crane must be secured and lowered to the ground
and carted away. It’s feasible, Barth says, that Pinnacle Industries could install a new crane while the old one is coming down, but it will require a large team of engineers and construction experts — and considerable attention from LendLease, which would likely prefer to use its energy actually topping off and completing the building.

What are the repercussions for One57 and Extell?
Luxury properties rely in large part on momentum and cultural cache to attract new buyers. One57 remains the Manhattan condo tower to beat, at least until construction on the even taller new structure at 432 Park Avenue gets under way in earnest. In a worst-case scenario, the crane fiasco stalls
construction on One57 into the hard winter months. Completion on the building gets pushed back, and buyers — who have put money down, but can
always ditch their deposit — start looking elsewhere. As one veteran analyst told me last month, high-end real estate “is the most fragile of all markets.”

But again, that’s a worst-case scenario. A delay of “a few weeks, I doubt we’d see Extell lose much momentum,” says Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel, a real-estate appraisal firm. “Six months would be another story.” Assuming the delay is relatively short term, Extell probably won’t incur any lasting damage to its reputation, Miller added. “This was a hurricane that created a lot of devastation in the region. I think [Extell] will probably be given a pass. Fortunately, no one was hurt here” — not the case in other high-profile crane accidents.

So who’s to blame?
“The crane operator has the final say,” Barth told me. “It’s his job to talk to the supervisors, and determine how to handle the storm.” He points out
that other cranes did not crumple in the same way as the one atop One57. According to the Times, several problems had been reported with this crane, leaky hydraulic fluid among them. Still, Mary Costello of LendLease says the crane was inspected on Friday, just a few days before the storm. At any
rate, Pinnacle Industries will likely get a hard look from investigators in coming weeks, but much responsibility will also fall with LendLease, which
oversees the entire One57 construction site. Costello told me that LendLease plans to release more information on Tuesday; she had no further comment.