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City clamps down on cranes with new regulations

by Milo Hess The falling crane killed one person and crushed several cars parked along Worth St.
by Milo Hess
The falling crane killed one person and crushed several cars parked along Worth St. on Feb. 5, prompting new regulations from the city.

BY COLIN MIXSON

The city took the first steps towards tightening regulations of construction cranes and their operators on June 30, implementing several measures designed to prevent collapses like the one that claimed the life of a man in Tribeca earlier this year.

The action by the Department of Buildings follows the recommendations of a crane-safey panel set up in the wake of the Feb. 5 toppling of a crawler crane on Worth St. When the Crane Safety Technical Working Group reported its findings last month, Community Board 1 called on the city to move swiftly to implement the proposed regulations before they could be diluted by pushback from the construction industry.

“I’m very pleased that DOB has acted so quickly to adopt some of the recommendations from the working group,” said Jeff Ehrlich, a member of the board’s Tribeca Committee who lives on Chambers St.

The new regulations were put into effect at the end of June by order of Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler, and may be tweaked and refined over the coming weeks as they’re written into the city’s construction code, according to a spokesman for the agency.

The new rules include:

• Requiring mobile cranes to be fitted with wind measuring devices, called anemometers, which record real-time wind readings.

• Requiring contractors to hire “on-site lift coordinators” with the authority to shutdown crane operations in the event of unsafe conditions.

• Restricting mobile crane operations whenever winds exceed 30-miles per hour.

• Requiring crane operators to secure cranes when not in use as per a specified “wind-action plan,” which includes retracted, jackknifed, and laid-down positions.

These regulations are in addition to emergency measures taken immediately after February’s crane collapse, which included banning mobile cranes rated for 20 mph wind gusts or less from operating on public streets, and an increase in fines related to “failure to safeguard cranes” from $4,800 to $10,000, both of which will remain in effect.

Furthermore, the now-mandated on-site lift coordinators will be accountable to unannounced inspections, during which city sleuths will check recorded wind readings at work sites and compare them to the actions of the lift coordinators to ensure operations were shutdown in accordance with the commissioner’s mandate.

A spokesman for the city stressed that additional regulations will likely follow, and that the new rules announced last month comprise measures that the building’s department felt could be implemented without new legislation on the part of city council, and which were simple enough to be implemented quickly.

“We will have additional actions to announce in terms of enacting the recommendations that the working group has already made,” said Joe Soldevere, “but as the commissioner said, these regulations are solid, sensible and do-able.”

Bruce Ehrmann, another member of CB 1’s Tribeca Committee, expressed concern over the new regulation’s maximum wind-speed, despite praising the city as “basically doing the right thing.”

“I’m uncomfortable with a 30-miles-per-hour wind threshold,” said Tribeca resident Bruce Erhmann. “I’m not an engineer, I’m basing that on terror — on the terror of living on a block where a crane crash destroyed two blocks and killed someone. That’s all — pure viscera.”

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