Michael Stern’s JDS sues crane company at 111 West 57th Street for $50M

Developer alleges head-spinning damages after frightening accident last year

JDS founder Michael Stern and US Crane & Rigging LLC Owner Thomas Auringer with the complaint and 111 W. 57th Street (Supreme Court of New York, 111 W 57, Facebook via Auringer)
JDS founder Michael Stern, US Crane & Rigging owner Thomas Auringer, the complaint and 111 West 57th Street (Supreme Court of New York, 111 W 57, Facebook via Auringer)

The last time JDS Construction worked with US Crane & Rigging on its Billionaires’ Row tower, the sky rained glass. Now, JDS is hoping it rains cash.

JDS is suing US Crane & Rigging and a subsidiary, NYC Crane Hoist & Rigging, for $50 million, alleging their negligence led to a crane spinning out of control at the developer’s Manhattan supertall.

The lawsuit traces back to last October, as a diminished Hurricane Zeta brought flurries and wind gusts to New York City. The weather was expected: The governor urged caution, and the Department of Buildings recommended that crane operators secure their rigs.

Yet, as the storm arrived on Oct. 29, the crane at 111 West 57th Street wasn’t properly tied up, according to the suit. It spun wildly, knocking glass and facade panels off the 1,400-foot tower and down to the streets below.

The city shut down the site the following day, allowing only emergency repairs. In November, it issued a new partial work stoppage. (While the stop work order has become less restrictive, it still exists, according to the Department of Buildings.) Meanwhile, the police closed off the area from 55th to 59th streets between Fifth and Eighth avenues, disrupting business in the area.

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JDS’ new suit says the resulting repairs, lost business opportunities and fees merit at least $50 million in damages. The construction firm also wants compensation for the nine claims of property damage and business it lost to the street closures. The complaint notes that insurance covered some, but not all, of the costs. The exact figure remains unknown.

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Tower crane incidents are exceedingly rare. OSHA data show just 20 accidents involving tower cranes since 2008, and operators of the massive machines undergo an intensive certification process with the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Michael Stern declined to comment. US Crane & Rigging didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.