A Look at High-rise Disasters, and the City’s Baby Steps to Safety (Updated!)

Midtown Crane Accident

Photo: Getty Images

This weekend’s deadly crane accident in midtown has caused a lot of soul-searching on the part of the Department of Buildings. With every successive accident, they try to evaluate their standards and procedures to see how incidents can be avoided in the future, but it just seems like they’re behind the game. Below, a timeline of high-rise disasters and the baby steps toward safety taken after each one.

May 22, 2002: An untrained forklift operator driving near the edge of the windowless eighth floor at the Time Warner Center site falls to his death.
November 18, 2002: Buildings commissioner convenes “construction-safety summit” with trades groups.

September 26, 2003: An unpermitted company dismantles a 40-story crane at 37th and Third Avenue after hours, then runs a crane two weeks later across town with no penalty.
October 1, 2004: New rules subject untrained crane operators to up to $100,000 fines and six months in jail.
September 30, 2006: Steel rigging falls off a crane at 110 Third Avenue and onto a taxicab. Five people get hurt.
October 1, 2006: New cranes and derricks standards match national standards for ropes, safety gadgets, and operations.
July 23, 2007: New rules require a licensed rigger, who previously only had to file papers on job, to be present “at the jump” when a crane starts operation.
October 17, 2007: A crane swings out of control at One Bryant Park, injuring six.
December 14, 2007: A crane swings a load of metal studs onto an architect at the Goldman Sachs tower site in Battery Park City.
February 13, 2008: Buildings announces “more proactive inspections across the five boroughs than at any time in the Department’s history.”
January 14, 2008: Concrete splits a wooden support at the 42nd floor of the Trump Soho site, sending a worker to his death
March 15, 2008: Seven people die when a crane falls at 51st Street and Second Avenue.
March 19, 2008: The city, which employs eight crane inspectors, orders a “safety sweep” of all 253 cranes in the field. Alec Appelbaum

Updated: Today, Investigation commissioner Rose Gill Hearn told reporters that Edward Marquette, the Department of Buildings inspector who filed a report saying he’d checked out the crane on 51st Street, actually hadn’t done so. He has now been arrested. Buildings commissioner Patricia Lancaster took the heat as she has throughout her six-year tenure, saying she was “so, so sorry” but remaining doubtful that an actual inspection would have averted the disaster.

A Look at High-rise Disasters, and the City’s Baby Steps to Safety (Updated!)