After a tragedy, crane inspections come under fireBy
A crane at Site J for the 7 line extension, shown above, collapsed in a fatal accident earlier this week. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
I was unexpectedly out of town earlier this week when news broke of a tragedy at the site of the 7 line extension. On Tuesday night, shortly before 7:30 p.m., a crane collapsed in Site J of the 7 line extension, killing one worker and injuring another. The Manitowoc 4100, located on the east side of 11th Ave. between 33rd and 34th Streets, snapped, and Michael Simmermeyer, a 30-year-old who worked the site with his father, passed away.
“The entire MTA family would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the family of the worker who lost his life as a result of this tragic accident,” the authority said in a statement. “We at the MTA grieve for this loss and vow to do everything we can to ensure that everyone working on projects to better the lives of all New Yorkers can do so as safely as possible.”
In the aftermath of the accident, MTA officials ordered a full stoppage of work at the site, and Michael Horodniceanu of MTA Capital Construction, ordered all MTA cranes inspected. The NYC DOB was called in, and OSHA, the NYPD and the Manhattan DA were looking into the matter as well. The City Council too voiced its concern.
Christine Quinn, currently the presumptive frontrunner in the 2013 race for mayor, raised her voice in concern. She has repeated over the last few years the point that as a state agency, the MTA may invite city inspectors into their sites but is under no legal duty to do so. She also posted a similar message to her Facebook page. As news outlets noted that the crane was due up for inspection this week, Quinn called upon the MTA to allow for oversight closer to home.
“We need the MTA and other state agencies to give the city oversight and authority at these construction sites,” said Quinn. “In fact, the MTA should follow the lead of the Port Authority, that has enters into a memorandum of understanding with the city around crane safety issues.”
The MTA acknowledged the City Council Speaker’s concerns but seemed defensive in doing so. It highlighted two previous inspections that found no deficiencies with its equipment. “The MTA shares City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s concern for the safety of MTA construction sites,” the authority said in a statement. “As a state public authority, the MTA already is subject to state building codes. The MTA is examining the Speaker’s proposal to put all MTA construction activity under the inspection authority of the New York City Department of Buildings.”
Still, other City Council members voiced similar views. Jessica Lappin who represents the area surrounding the Second Ave. Subway construction and has fought for crane safety, echoed Quinn. “I do think the MTA should stop pointing fingers and should follow the rules that we have already set out,” she said to WNYC. The MTA downplayed a jurisdictional tussle with the City Council, but it’s clear the city wants a greater say in the matter.
Work on the site, meanwhile, will resume on Monday after a pause of nearly a week, and the construction crews will return with a heavy heart as they mourn one of their own, taken at far too young an age.