Construction industry hopes new cranes can operate soon

A day after the city Department of Buildings announced tighter safety measures for the raising of tower cranes, construction industry officials say they still don’t know when they will be able to raise new cranes for high-rises already under construction.

The department has not approved any new permits for raising or “jumping” cranes since the East Side crane collapse that killed seven people on March 15. Louis Coletti, president and chief executive officer of the Building Trades Employer’s Association, which represents unionized contractors, said after conferring with city officials that crane jumping could begin as early as Saturday.

The city’s new protocols require an engineer to inspect a crane and certify that it was assembled according to approved plans; the general contractor must hold a safety meeting attended by a buildings inspector; and a buildings inspector must be present when a crane is raised or lowered. Coletti said his association’s members commonly have engineers inspect cranes before they are raised and hold safety meetings beforehand.

The new protocols take effect immediately, and the city said it would start inspecting new crane assemblies and issuing permits for them as application made under the new guidelines were received. The tower crane at 303 East 51st Street collapsed while it was being raised.

Several Manhattan projects are slated to raise cranes in the coming weeks, said Alfred Gerosa, chairman of the executive committee of the Cement League, a trade group.

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Coletti said he supports the stricter safety measures, but said he was concerned that the city might lack sufficient inspectors to review standing cranes as well as those that are scheduled to be assembled soon.

“I think they are taking steps that are very prudent in light of the tragedy that occurred last Saturday,” Coletti said, adding that the Buildings Department needs “the resources to be able to do that in a timely fashion. Otherwise, if there are delays it will have a huge impact on the schedule and cost of the projects.”

To speed inspections, the city is considering using private contractors or shifting some inspectors over from other divisions, Coletti said.

As part of the city’s response to the Turtle Bay catastrophe, seven buildings inspectors will inspect 30 operational tower cranes by April 15. The 220 smaller cranes operating in the city will then be inspected by the end of May, the department said.

More changes in the inspection process could be made at the end of an investigation of the East Side collapse, the department said. Nylon slings must always be used with padding against sharp edges, the department said. A nylon sling being used by the crane on 51st Street reportedly failed while hoisting a six-ton collar.

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