Fire causes crane collapse at Gotham’s Far West Side project

FDNY: "This could have been a lot worse"

A photo illustration of Gotham Organization chair Joel Picket and 550 10th Avenue (Getty, Gotham Organization)
A photo illustration of Gotham Organization chair Joel Picket and 550 10th Avenue (Getty, Gotham Organization)

New Yorkers on Manhattan’s West Side had a frightening backdrop for their morning commute after a fire consumed a construction crane 45 stories up at a prominent Manhattan development site.

The engine compartment caught fire at 7:25 a.m. Wednesday and the crane partially collapsed onto 10th Avenue, ABC7 reported. The crane had been working on top of a high-rise development at 10th Avenue and West 41st Street. 

The site at 10th Avenue and West 41st Street (Photo by Hannah Kramer for The Real Deal)
The site at 10th Avenue and West 41st Street (Photo by Hannah Kramer for The Real Deal)

The New York City Fire Department posted on social media that crews responded to 550 10th Avenue, a site under development by the Gotham Organization. Monadnock Construction is the general contractor.

Authorities closed part of the nearby street after the collapse as authorities dropped water from a nearby building onto the fire, which sent black smoke billowing into the sky.

Twelve people, including three firefighters, suffered non life-threatening injuries, authorities told The New York Post. Nearby buildings were evacuated. More than 200 emergency personnel responded to the scene.

550 10th Avenue (Photo by Hannah Kramer for The Real Deal)
550 10th Avenue (Photo by Hannah Kramer for The Real Deal)

According to ABC, the fire weakened a cable the crane was using to hold 16 tons of concrete. The cable eventually gave out and the crane boom and concrete plunged to the street below. A portion of the crane struck 555 10th Avenue, a luxury rental developed by Extell Development, which sold a 42 percent ownership stake to RXR in 2021.

“This is a good morning. This could have been a lot worse,” said deputy fire commissioner Joseph Pfeifer at a news conference Wednesday morning. Mayor Eric Adams echoed those comments in remarks to media at the scene.

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 Gotham Organization's Joel Picket and David Picket with 550 10th Avenue (Getty, Gotham/Handel Architects)
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The crane operator was present when the blaze erupted but was unable to extinguish it. He escaped unhurt. Officials later deemed it a five-alarm fire. An investigation is underway.

Two years ago, Gotham secured $250 million in financing for the 430,000-square-foot, 47-story tower. The project is expected to house 453 apartments — 137 affordable — along with 9,000 square feet of retail and 27,000 square feet for an office condo for homeless youth organization Covenant House.

Gotham was not immediately available to comment to The Real Deal.

The site at 10th Avenue and West 41st Street (Photo by Hannah Kramer for The Real Deal)
The site at 10th Avenue and West 41st Street (Photo by Hannah Kramer for The Real Deal)

City filings list Cross Country Construction as the equipment user. In 2013, it was issued five violations in connection with a 170-foot crane’s collapse in Long Island City. The Department of Buildings alleged at the time that the firm failed to inspect equipment and take proper safety precautions at the TF Cornerstone high-rise development at 46-10 Center Boulevard.

A call to Cross Country was not immediately returned.

The application for the crane use at site of Wednesday’s accident was filed by Valjato Engineering, which declined to comment. Brooklyn-based Valjato was also the crane applicant at the stalled 45 Park Place project. It describes itself as a structural engineering firm specializing in placement studies for tower, crawler and mobile hydraulic cranes.

550 10th Avenue (Photo by Hannah Kramer for The Real Deal)
550 10th Avenue (Photo by Hannah Kramer for The Real Deal)

Crane accidents, and especially those involving tower cranes, are among the most serious incidents that can happen at a construction site. Efforts to improve crane safety were stepped up after two fatal accidents in 2008. The first one, in March on East 51st Street, killed six construction workers and a civilian in her apartment building.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.