Work stopped after W.T.C. crane dangles over street

by Julie Shapiro

World Trade Center contractors allowed a heavy crane boom to hover over bustling Church St. last Thursday without getting approval to do so.

The city Departments of Buildings and Transportation issued violations to Tishman Construction, which was erecting a crane to build Tower 4 for Silverstein Properties March 5.

“Lifting over the street can put pedestrians and drivers in danger if the proper safety precautions have not been taken,” said Kate Lindquist, a Buildings spokesperson. The agency issued a stop work order on both the tower and mobile crane, which was used to transport the boom across the busy street. No fines have been issued yet but the agency is still reviewing the case.

Tishman had a D.O.B. permit but not one from Transportation, and the Buildings permit was contingent on the firm obtaining a permit to close the street. A Transportation spokesperson said the agency would never issue such a permit during the week and will consider granting Tishman a weekend permit to close Church St. once the firm submits a safe plan.

“Safety is our top priority, and we held a meeting yesterday to discuss procedures to prevent an incident like this from happening again,” D.O.T. said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “A stop-work order remains in place for this part of the work site until the contractor submits a final plan addressing this issue.”

John Gallagher, Tishman’s spokesperson, said in a prepared statement that “we are working to address [the city’s] concerns.”

A Silverstein spokesperson had no comment beyond the Tishman statement.

“The community was lucky in this case that no one was hurt, but this would not be allowed in any other part of the city,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Committee. “What will be done to prevent this from happening again?”

Hughes wanted to make sure violations at the W.T.C. are posted on the Buildings’ Web site.

Lindquist said the department is planning to post W.T.C. violations on its site but the agency has just formalized its agreement with the Port and plans to develop a system to do this soon.

WOR Radio, which is based near the W.T.C., first reported the crane violations five days later and posted a picture on its Web site.

The Port Authority of New York and Jersey, which owns the W.T.C., announced in January that it was opening the site to city inspectors regularly. Chris Ward, the Port’s executive director, said then that they would post incidents at wtcprogress.com on a weekly basis.

Steve Coleman, a Port spokesperson, said the authority did not put anything on its Web site about the crane problems, but they did let all of the groups involved with W.T.C. rebuilding know.

“We reached out to stakeholders just as we always do and we’ll continue to provide frequent and appropriate updates in the future,” he wrote in an email to Downtown Express.

The day after the incident, the Port announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Buildings Dept. for crane inspections. Coleman said the timing of the agreement was unrelated to the violations by a Silverstein contractor.

The agreement was under discussion for quite some time and coincidentally, it was signed the day of the incident and announced the next day, Coleman said.

With reporting