Stalled crane inspections could freeze projects

Construction industry officials say several high-rise projects could be frozen and hundreds of workers could be laid off if a city moratorium on the assembly of high-rise cranes continues beyond next week.

Several construction industry members said that following the March 15 crane collapse on Manhattan’s East Side that killed seven people, the city Department of Buildings has frozen inspections of crane “jumping,” the process of adding sections to a crane so it can reach higher as new buildings progress.

Without a higher crane, the highly choreographed building construction process eventually grinds to a halt.

Alfred Gerosa, chairman of the executive committee of the Cement League, an association of cement contractors, said a contractor on a project on West 42nd Street would lay off 300 workers if a crane is not assembled next week.

“It is no doubt going to have an effect on the economy and men’s pockets,” Gerosa said.

“We realize the urgency of the problem and we recognize we had a very serious accident … (but) if this goes on much longer, maybe as many as seven jobs, which would be about 1,000 workers,” would be halted, he said.

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He said there was another job on 91st Street that needed to erect a crane this week that was awaiting inspection.

Louis Coletti, president and chief executive officer of the Building Trades Employers Association, an association of unionized construction firms, said industry representatives were in negotiations with the city to develop tighter standards for crane assembly before work starts again.

He said that the city would likely require engineers who review crane assembly plans to do so a second time instead of only once before an inspector comes to the site, among other changes.

“They are trying to lift [the moratorium] this week,” he said.

About 250 cranes are in operation in the city, he said.

Some firms have not yet been affected by the moratorium. Charles F. Murphy, senior vice president and general manager for Turner Construction Co. in New York said the inspection freeze has not yet had an impact on its projects.

The Department of Buildings did not respond to requests for comment.

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