Crane strikes 25-story NYC building, no injuries

Published 12:15 am Sunday, March 28, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — A listing crane struck the side of a 25-story building near Wall Street on Saturday, sending debris cascading to the ground, disrupting traffic and leading to evacuations at five buildings.

There were no injuries reported after the crane hit a 23rd-story ledge of a mixed-use building on Maiden Lane, three blocks from Wall Street, the Fire Department of New York said. Part of the lower Manhattan building’s facade broke off and fell into the street, police Lt. John Grimpel said.

The crane was part of a construction project at a three-way intersection about half a block from the struck building. The base of the crane was on the other side of the street from the building, and the crane was leaning across the street onto the building, firefighters said.

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A neighboring building’s porter, Jose Hernandez, said he heard a crashing sound around 7 p.m.

‘‘When the crane fell, it went ’Boom!’ and rocks fell,’’ he said.

At least six fire trucks responded to the area. Some traffic was diverted, and streets were closed.

The struck building and three others near it were evacuated as a precaution, police said. Another was partially evacuated. The buildings are in the Financial District but have residential and commercial units.

The crane had been authorized to lift mechanical equipment, such as large cooling units, to the roof of the building that was struck, but it was unclear what it was doing at the time, said Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri, who didn’t know if workers were on the job or had left for the day.

Mechanics had been brought in to try to shift the crane back into its proper position and were aiming to do that by Sunday afternoon, he said.

He didn’t know when residents could return to their homes.

Area resident Michael Britto said he was leaving his building with a friend Saturday night when police told them to get out of the area because the crane was falling.

‘‘The crane was swaying,’’ he said.

Maiden Lane runs east to west, parallel to Wall Street, from near the South Street Seaport to lower Broadway near the World Trade Center site.

One of the evacuated buildings, at 100 Maiden Lane, is an art deco residential tower in the heart of the Seaport area with views of landmark buildings and the East and Hudson rivers. It’s not far from the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

A resident there, Erica Scheisawa, said she was at home when firefighters banged on her door and told her a crane had hit a building next door and she had to get out.

‘‘They said that the building that got hit by the crane might collapse into our building,’’ she said.

New York has been blighted by crane accidents the last few years. On Tuesday, the city’s former chief crane inspector admitted taking more than $10,000 in payoffs to fake inspection and crane operator licensing exam results over nearly a decade.

The inspector, James Delayo, was arrested days after the second of two huge cranes collapsed, killing nine people, in 2008. The charges against him weren’t tied to the collapses, but authorities portrayed the case as one in a series to go after builders and inspectors accused of shortchanging safety for profit.

Police said they didn’t know what caused the crane to tilt on Saturday. Some area residents said they had seen a type of wrecking ball swinging from the crane under windy conditions, but the National Weather Service said winds in the area were only about 8 mph at the time.