The New York lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are following an unusual story with uniquely local flavor that involves a controversial tower crane. Tower cranes are fairly common at major construction sites. These cranes are massive, capable of rising and reaching hundreds of feet. Tower cranes are used to hoist steel, concrete, large tools and other building materials. They are capable of lifting nearly 20 tons or almost 40,000 pounds. Obviously, given the size of the crane and the massive weight of what they are lifting, there are obvious safety implications.
The consequences in the event of a fall by person or machine are dire. There are no do-overs. Certain tower cranes have been the source of recent controversy. More specifically, a type of tower crane was banned in New York because of some very serious accidents that took place at the World Trade Center site.
The mammoth crane’s lift cables unspooled on two different occasions while hoisting massive amounts of steel. A few years ago, the tower crane dropped 14,000 pounds of steel 100 feet to the ground. The steel nearly crushed several workers. Shortly after that, the same tower crane dropped 48,000 pounds of steel on top of a tractor trailer, also at the World Trade Center site. The steel fell 48 stories and crushed the truck like it was a flattened out pancake. Thankfully nobody was injured in either of these two major mishaps but the evidence was overwhelming that this type of tower crane was exceedingly dangerous.
The New York City Buildings Department recognized the dangers and banned the cranes from the World Trade Center site. Later, the ban was extended to the entire city. Critical in this analysis is that the Port Authority owns the land that the World Trade Center is being built on. So, the Port Authority, presumably, is keenly aware of the dangers these tower cranes pose. Why then are reports surfacing that this identical crane that has already been deemed unsafe on a prior Port Authority project is being used on a different Port Authority project in New Jersey?
The answer, according to a New York Daily News report, Is unsettling and has little to do with worker safety. SJP Properties, a New Jersey based developer, is in the midst of building a significant office tower in Hoboken. The project is being done on Port Authority land. SJP wanted to use the same type of tower crane that had proven to be unsafe and dangerous recently at the World Trade Center project. Port Authority officials learned that SJP was using the dangerous tower cranes on the site and swiftly put an end to it, citing the perils associated with the crane work at the WTC. However, SJP reached out to political bigwig and Port Authority Commissioner Robert Sartor to intervene on their behalf.
Sartor, who is affiliated with an engineering company involved with the project, made a series of phone calls to Port Authority engineers and soon thereafter the ban on the tower crane was lifted. At the time these calls were made, Sartor was still an active commissioner for the Port Authority. He resigned on April 14th. It offends the sensibilities that a Port Authority Commissioner who has ties to a project has the audacity to petition the Port Authority about a ruling on the project he has ties to. How is this ethically permitted? It shouldn’t be. SJP, as part of the ban being lifted, has agreed to reinforce the rig’s winch and add redundancy to the hydraulics and braking system. These concessions will presumably decrease the likelihood of a fatal accident.
Still, one has to wonder about the efficacy of this reversal. A reversal that took place only after a Port Authority Commissioner with professional ties to the project unrelated to his role as commissioner with the Port Authority called the Port Authority to intervene about a Port Authority decision on the project. That is a rather convenient turn of events for SJP or, more likely, a dubious decision made only after Sartor stuck his beak in.
Watch how fast they all run away from this if something goes wrong. The decision seems to have ignored worker safety. How else can you support the use of this type of tower crane given the recent history at the World Trade Center. Perhaps it will be a more efficient run job and maybe it will inconvenience locals less but at what cost? Are we making a “business decision” here with workers’ lives? We will be watching this play out and also keeping our fingers crossed that the Jersey project is completed without complication.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a team of trial lawyers committed to fighting on behalf of injured construction workers. Our results for injured construction workers speaks to our experience and commitment to helping injured workers and their families through the most challenging of times. We have recovered more than $750,000,000 in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our injured clients. You can learn more about Block O’Toole & Murphy by reviewing the firm website at www.blockotoole.com. For a free consultation, you may call them at 212.736.5300.