Sunday, March 16, 2008

GL Analysis: The Manhattan Crane Collapse Horror

e51st st complaint

Given that we constantly write about issues related to construction, we'd be remiss in not mentioning the horrific crane collapse on E. 51st Street yesterday that killed at least four people and injured 17. An investigation will take place and we're fairly certain it will reveal shortcomings in the way the building site was regulated. We will simply note that 39 complaints were filed with department of buildings. We reproduce one of them--about the crane that collapsed--above along with an inspector's conclusion that the complaint was unfounded. It is, perhaps, tragic happenstance that the complaint was made on March 4 and that no problem was found. The person that made the complaint and spoke to the Daily News was a retired contractor and the inspector listed says he wasn't the person that made the inspection.

We have said it before and we have said it again: the entire building inspection and construction regulation system in New York City needs a top to bottom overhaul. It is a critically dysfunctional governmental system that threatens public safety and does violence to quality of life on a daily basis. While the horrendous accident on the Upper East Side is a dramatic event with awful consequences, one can find dozens of sites in Brooklyn every day where the safety of workers and residents is put at risk. There are hundreds more that ruin people's quality of life by ignoring regulations with impunity. The situation is nothing short of a vile scandal. The Department of Buildings needs more inspectors and an entirely new ethic that is responsive to public concerns and works to safeguard residents everywhere in the city in all ways whether it's stopping illegal work or greatly curtailing the abused system of self-certification or making honest inspections of sites or making sure that solid fences are erected so that children aren't exposed to two-story deep construction pits. Fines need to made large enough to make them sting. Permits need to be revoked for persistent offenses. Developers and contractors need to be part of a system where inspections are real and penalties are severe.

If the city doesn't act to crack down on developers and contractors and to fundamentally overhaul the Department of Buildings. The issue is not limited to high rise construction safety, even if the problems can have very dramatic consequences. It is everywhere, and it's not going too far to point out that fixing this broken system is a matter of life and death.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree - reading this blog has been eye opening about the complete lack of responsiveness and accountability in that department. With new buildings going up every day this is nothing short of criminal.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

Maybe now that the DOB has screwed up so obviously in such an affluent area, they'll be scrutinized and overhauled. They're a disgrace. And a scary one at that.

10:55 AM  
Blogger My2Sense said...

Over 2 years ago I wrote a letter to our Mayor and every elected and appointed official asking "How many more will have to die before something is done to rein in the greed"
This time, like the last few, the carnage was at a higher level.
As usual the questions and finger pointing will be endless. The lawyers will all make millions but nothing will ever be resolved until the root of the problem is truly addressed.
This incident may very well turn out to be a genuine (freak) accident or it may have been caused by some negligence
The so called small guy's ( Mendelbrach, Katan, Boymelgreen, Scaranno, Radusky, Grubman etc) will gloat. They'll revel in saying that "Union jobs are no safer than" theirs. They'll say that these things are to be expected as just the normal "collateral damage" of progress.
The Mayor and the other officials will weigh in with "how sad and unfortunate these things are" and how their "thoughts and prayers are with the families of those effected".
Millions of our tax dollars will be spent to clean up and investigate.
And in the end -
Business as usual.
Whatever it takes to keep the Pyramid scheme, called "real estate", going.
One thing that no one will admit to is the fact that we have been hood winked.
We produce nothing, so the City's whole economy is based on the constant sale (and re-sale) of real estate.
To hell with safety.
To hell with the laws.
To hell with enforcement.
The justification (and more lies) - We need more housing. More affordable housing.
The fact that nothing which is being built is affordable to those who are being displaced is of no concern to the powers that be.
As for the union/non-union issue - the fact is that the slime balls (Boymelgreen, Katan, Radusky etc..) may very well be right. At least about the standards- for now.
But that is only because of something that is called (in mathematical terms) bringing everything down to the lowest common denominator.
For many years Unions project were always the most efficient, safest and best run. Over the course of the last decade or so (Hello Rudy and Bloomberg) there has been a huge increase in the amount of non-union work being allowed. Mostly in the outer boroughs. The Vultures took advantage of loop holes that allowed them to build up to 13 stories with minimal regulations and oversight. Before this latest real estate (or should I call it - Ponzi ) scheme most anything higher than 6 floors was done by union contractors or those who had very high safety standards. Once the vultures realized that they could do these same jobs with far less over sight they started to squeeze the Unions out of this niche. Till eventually the Union Contractors were left with only the biggest of big jobs. Add to that our governments refusal to enforce many laws pertaining to safety and the use of tax dollars on some of these projects and the end result was an overwhelming amount of, poor quality and questionable work being done.
The Realtors helped perpetuate this ponzi scheme by encouraging the constant buying and selling (flipping) of worthless properties.
The reputable contractors (many of them Union) could not keep up on this un-level playing field, so they were forced to lower there standards. To cut corners in an attempt to keep up with the vultures who had been allowed to take over the majority of the work in this City.
So what we are left with is :
Lower standards
Lower wages
Less qualified workers
Poor quality work
Poor quality end results.
Like I said :
Everything gets dragged down to the "Lowest common denominator"
Everything but the profits for the vultures. That is the one constant.
Now the City and DOB will tell us that they need more money to hire more people. For enforcement and oversight.
Unfortunately our economy (Thanks in great part to the unraveling of the very ponzi scheme that perpetuated it) can not afford to pay for such extravagances.
Had the City and the DOB enforced the laws on the mid-level developers who were abusing them (to the tune of hundreds of millions in tax dollars), then the more reputable contractors and developers would not have been forced to lower there standard. The workmanship and the end products would have been brought up to a higher standard. And finally everyone would have been better off and our economy would be better positioned to withstand this down turn.
Now what?
In my opinion:
Bloomberg, Lancaster, and all the others complicit in this scheme should be held accountable. Not by moving on to bigger and better civil service jobs (As did Susan Hinkson and others) but by being forced to relinquish there lucrative civil service pensions. And, were necessary, being forced to pay in Civil damages to the loved ones of all those who they claim to be so concerned about.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mayor Bloomberg along with Lancaster and others are well aware of what they have encouraged. There needs to be a class action law suit against them personally for perpetrating the Ponzi scheme known as the real estate sector of our misnomered "Economy". Anything less is nothing more than more of the same BS.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHEN??? are the officials, the politicians, the authorities going to get it? Over-development and irrespsonsible development KILLS. So many residents have been screaming about this for months yet this horror occurs anyhow. Is this the price of progress in this town? Are we really willing to pay for over-development with our own innocent blood? Mayor Bloomberg needs to wake PRONTO!!!! before this happens again and again and.....

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The blood of every person who has been injured or killed as the result of the Real estate boom of this City, is on the hands of Mike Bloomberg and Patricia Lancaster.
End of story.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the inspector listed says he wasn't the person that made the inspection."

In some sense this is probably true since the inspector probably never showed up to do the actual inspection and then recorded no violation.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with all said here, but, it seems the crane fell due to operator error. A worker is said to have seen/heard metal/beams or whatever fall and shear the supports holding the crane to the building. All in any event is tragic. It is all about money before safety. Our Toll brothers seem to enjoy the idea of building on toxic soil without a care. $$ before safety= NYC.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about you guys, but I stopped taking acid 30 years ago. Old hippies never die, they just look for imaginary schemes to rant about in order to make themselves look braver than they really are.

11:58 PM  
Blogger The Phantom said...

The only intelligent way to look at this, is

How does the rate of NYC construction accidents compare with the rate in other US big cities or other cities worldwide?

I do not know the answer to this question, and I don't think that most others here do either.

That's a lot more relevant than silly comments about "greed" or other uninformed hog wash. Accidents happen in industry, and there will never be no accidents in major construction jobs.

Tell me how our construction accident rates compare to other places. Or admitted that you are not qualified to comment.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know that any of us is "qualified" or "trying to be brave" - but the facts are these
1-Other than inflated real estate - We have no economy to speak of.
2-Although accidents are to be expected - many of the ones happening can and very well should have been avoided.
Bottom line - Stop making excuses for things that are blatantly being ignored and should not be happening.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Phantom and Loose Stool,
What "qualifications" are needed to see obvious? What ever they are - our DOB and Mayor don't have them.
And - What would you call it when people are fooled into buying something of little or no value with the promise of being able to sell it for a profit to the next fool?
And on and on until someone realizes that what is being bought and sold is nothing more than a fantasy?
I think my2cents nailed it -
"Ponzi scheme" or "Pyramid scheme"
Both are the same and that is exactly what real estate has become.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

watch what happens here. no one will be held accountable for these deaths.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the answere here is for concerned communities to hire their own safety inspector to visit suspect sites every day and write up violations. It could be sort of like an expediter or something. Clearly the DOB and city can't do their jobs on construction sites, in light of this fact a proper inspector would be a good idea. 5th construction worker just pulled from the rubble with 2 people still missing.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure how anyone can excuse an accident when someone pointed out that the crane was not properly secured to the building and then it fell?

2:40 PM  

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