You’re done: City revokes license of operator involved in fatal Tribeca crane collapse

He was also hit with $52,000 in fines

The collapsed crane on Worth Street in Tribeca (credit: FDNY)
The collapsed crane on Worth Street in Tribeca (credit: FDNY)

The city has permanently revoked the license of crane operator Kevin Reilly, finding the longtime construction worker was at fault for the crane collapse that killed one and injured three others in February 2016.

The city’s Department of Buildings suspended Reilly’s license back in December 2016, pending the results of a trial before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. Administrative Law Judge Ingrid Addison ruled last month that Reilly “failed to lay the crane down when heavy winds were anticipated,” sending the 330-ton crane crashing onto Worth Street and killing 38-year-old David Wichs. In a 68-page report, the judge recommended that his license be revoked, and Commissioner Rick Chandler agreed.

The DOB also hit Reilly with a $52,000 in fines.

“Public safety requires that we hold crane operators to the highest standards,” Chandler said in a statement on Wednesday. “We conducted a painstaking investigation of the Tribeca collapse, both to hold accountable those responsible and to learn from this tragedy to improve crane safety.”

Reilly had been hired to work on 60 Hudson Street to install generators and cooling towers on the 25-story building. In her decision, Addison wrote that Reilly should’ve heeded the crane manufacturer’s instructions to lay the machine’s boom and jib down the night before heavy winds (exceeding 15 miles per hour) were anticipated. The day of the collapse, winds gusted up to 25 miles per hour.

“It was respondent’s license which was implicated from the moment that he touched the crane’s levers and as such, he bore the responsibility of deciding whether or not to operate the crane,” the judge wrote.

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Addison did not find, however, that Reilly made the crane less stable the day of the collapse. The DOB had maintained that Reilly lowered the crane to an unstable angle just before the machine fell. Chandler said on Wednesday that he disagreed with the judge on that point.

When reached on Wednesday, Stacey Richman, an attorney for Reilly, noted that she and her client had not been notified about the DOB’s decision. She indicated that Reilly will appeal the DOB’s order. She blamed the crane collapse on the DOB inspector who approved project plans for 60 Hudson, and the project’s general contractor and engineer.

“The scapegoating of the individual operator is no the salve for the safety of our city,” she said. “They knew that these plans never should’ve been approved and nobody decided to put the breaks on it.”

Late last year, Reilly filed a defamation lawsuit against the city, alleging that he was not the “root cause” of the accident. The case is ongoing.

The incident also inspired a series of new regulations surrounding crane use in the city, including banning certain crawler cranes like the one that collapsed and reinforcing rules that halt cranes from being operated when wind speeds exceed 30 miles per hour.