Hurricane Sandy Causes Damage to Crane Endangering New York City Residents

On October 29, a crane 90 feet high above a construction site of what will be the tallest building in New York City when completed, broke from the strong winds of Hurricane Sandy. The crane dangled precariously, and with the high winds and the approaching storm there was no way to secure it. People were evacuated from nearby buildings as a precaution, in case the crane fell from the top of the building. Surrounding streets were closed, electricity turned off, and steam pipes that run under the streets turned off.

The seven block area around the building where Carnegie Hall is also located was evacuated to prevent any casualties in case the damaged crane fell during the storm. The crane was operated by Pinnacle Industries and though several problems have been reported during construction, according to the New York City Buildings Department, the crane had just been inspected on October 26, three days before the storm hit and caused the damage. The previous problems reported were a leak of hydraulic fluid from the crane and problems with a wire rope that holds up the boom. Work was temporarily suspended to fix that problem.

Witnesses in the area when the crane was damaged described the loud sound of the twisting metal that could be heard for blocks. They looked up to see the crane dangling over the street. With the storm growing worse, it was judged unsafe to send workers to attempt to disassemble the crane, so the decision was made to clear the area temporarily as a safety measure. Structural engineers and the Department of Buildings investigated to try to find additional measures to secure the crane temporarily.

In anticipation of the storm, the crane had been set on an angle so it would move somewhat with the wind, similar to a weather vane, a method used in hurricane-prone areas such as Florida. However, the extremely high winds of Hurricane Sandy twisted the crane backward.

The building being constructed at the site where the crane, known as One57, overlooks Central Park and when completed will have luxury apartments, some of which are being sold for as high as $90 million.

On November 2 an operation to secure the boom was begun and was completed on November 4. Streets were reopened. Disassembling the crane is a more lengthy operation taking several weeks. Residents in the area have begun filing law suits for expenses incurred due to the accident and subsequent evacuation.