Board’s vote on theater’s stairs wasn’t a cakewalk


By Julie Shapiro

Volume 21, Number 47 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 3 – 9, 2009

No one was hurt Wednesday when a hammer fell off the 18th floor of the Goldman Sachs tower under construction near the Battery Park City ballfields, but the hammer smashed through a taxi windshield.

Falling hammer halts Goldman work, and angers parents

A hammer hurtled down 18 stories from the Goldman Sachs construction Wednesday morning and smashed into the back window of a taxi on Murray St.

The cab had no passenger and the driver was unhurt, but the accident highlighted the dangers of construction and enraged P.S. 89 parents who often walk their children to school right where the hammer fell just after 8:15 a.m.

“It’s a hazard,” said Val Chan, who was picking up her 6-year-old son at P.S. 89 later in the day, April 1. “It seems like there’s construction on just about every block…. It’s scary.”

The hammer fell from the tool belt of a worker who was at the 18th floor on the hoist, or exterior elevator, said John Gallagher, spokesperson for contractor Tishman Construction Corp. As the worker closed the hoist’s vertical, bi-parting gate, the rising bottom gate caught on his hammer and flipped it out of his tool belt, sending it falling toward the street, Gallagher said in an e-mail. The worker was a carpenter with subcontractor Structure Tone.

The Dept. of Buildings stopped all work on the 43-story building, which was expected to open at the end of the year, and issued a violation for failure to protect the public and property. The investigation is ongoing, said Kate Lindquist, spokesperson for the D.O.B.

Gallagher said in a statement that Tishman is also investigating “to determine exactly what happened and how to best prevent anything like this from occurring in the future.” Tishman will attend a meeting with residents at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office this week.

One of the closest witnesses to the accident was Nellie Lillie, who was in a cab on her way to P.S. 89 with her 6-year-old daughter Genevieve.

Lillie’s cab was going the opposite direction on Murray St. as the one that was hit, and Lillie saw the shattered back window that had almost no glass left in it. Her cab driver slowed and started to roll down his window, but she urged him to keep driving, in case more of the building was falling.

As Lillie walked back to the scene after getting her daughter safely to school, she said her shock turned to anger, especially when she saw construction workers on the second floor looking down at the damage and laughing.

“I don’t find it funny at all given the track record at that construction site,” Lillie said.

In 2007, a falling load of steel beams paralyzed an architect, and last May, a square of steel blew onto the Battery Park City ballfields and landed yards from a child playing baseball.

Tishman and Goldman executives attended several public meetings after the ballfield accident and added many safety measures to the site, but parents are upset that these measures did not prevent another accident from occurring.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s gotten better,” said E.J. Boyce, whose 8-year-old son will be playing on the ballfields adjacent to the site in two weeks when the Downtown Little League season begins. “They’ve got to do something. All those kids are going to be back on the fields.”

Many parents said they usually walk from southern B.P.C. to P.S. 89 along West St. near the Goldman construction. Anne Albright said she usually walks the longer, safer route along the Hudson River when she takes her three children to P.S. 89 in the morning, while she uses West St. on the way home. But on Wednesday afternoon, she took the river route home instead, giving the Goldman site as much berth as possible.

“It was scary to think that this is where everyone walks to school,” Albright said.

Dee Imbert, another P.S. 89 parent, wants Goldman to put up a detour around the building, preventing people from getting close enough to get hurt.

“Any business should take responsibility for the people in the neighborhood and walking below, especially the kids,” she said.

Many parents picking up their children at P.S. 89 Wednesday afternoon had not heard about the accident and were horrified when told.

One of those parents was Susan Huo, who was walking her 8-year-old twin girls home along West St.

“I think it’s very dangerous,” Huo said.

“I think it’s crazy,” added 8-year-old Fiona. Her twin sister Gwendolen grinned and piped in, “I think it’s weird.”

Huo shooked her head and looked nervously up at the tower as rain began to fall.

“It’s very, very dangerous,” she said.