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New Yorkers torn on feeling safe in construction-heavy city

Emergency personnel respond as a damaged crane hangs

Emergency personnel respond as a damaged crane hangs over Madison Avenue after an accident on May 31, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Eric Thayer

New Yorkers walking around midtown Monday had mixed feelings on their safety on city streets, one day after a large air conditioning unit fell 30 stories from a building.

As the city's Department of Buildings investigates the incident, many officials have said it could have been worse. Ten people sustained minor injuries during Sunday's accident, including five civilians, two construction workers, two police personnel and one firefighter.

But those assurances aren't enough for some walking around Midtown East Monday afternoon.

"[I'm] definitely nervous and scared because you never know when something like this will happen again," said Chris Wong, 28, who owns the Evergreen restaurant around the corner from the site of the crane accident. "I always walk around them. Now I'll avoid them if I could."

This was not the first incident where something falling from the sky injured or killed someone. Last month a 2-year-old girl was killed when a brick from the building above hit her in the head as she was sitting with her grandmother on the Upper West Side. In March a woman was killed by a flying piece of plywood in the West Village after blustery winds knocked it from a fence across the street.

And in October a 10-foot-long piece of aluminum fell from a Times Square high rise above the M&M store, hitting two pedestrians.

Shortly after the accident Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was lucky that the 23,000 pound AC-unit fell during a time of day when fewer people were around.

"If you think about the reality of this city constantly under construction -- cranes, some of the highest cranes anywhere in the hemisphere, and yet there's a very strong safety record, by and large. So, this was quite aberrant," de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference yesterday. "We're obviously looking for anything that we need to know here that mighty change our policies."

By Monday afternoon, the damage to multiple floors of the building was visible from the street below. Law enforcement officials were still monitoring the scene and keeping curious pedestrians at bay, as several streets remained blocked off.

Radiologist Nana Abrokwa, 42, said he was more scared of being hit with flying debris than being the victim of a violent crime.

"I am very afraid to walk under the scaffolds," Abrokwa said. "I'll be more vigilant [about] checking my surroundings."

But several New Yorkers, while spooked, said they probably wouldn't change how they go about their daily business.

Rocky Tinaj, 53, works as a building superintendent on 5th Avenue and 37th Street. Tinaj said Sunday's accident was more alarming than most.

"I've been here for 30 years and I've seen a lot of things happen, even things falling from windows," Tinaj said. "But this was scary, this was crazy. You really don't feel [like] walking down the streets, but you have to, you don't have a choice."


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