New York City Suspends Operator’s License After Crane Strike

March 30, 2010

The operator of a crane that tilted and hit a 25-story building near Wall Street, sending debris plummeting to the ground and causing several evacuations, had his license suspended Sunday because he didn’t secure the crane properly, a Department of Buildings spokesman said.

Christopher Cosban “failed to leave the equipment in the safest position possible” at the end of the workday Saturday, buildings spokesman Tony Sclafani said.

While a final determination on the cause of the accident still has to be determined, Sclafani said it appeared the improper position of the crane contributed.

A search of the Department of Buildings’ Web site shows Cosban has a license that dates to April 2002 and expires in April 2012. A suspended license means Cosban is prohibited from operating cranes anywhere in the city, Sclafani said. Cosban faces an administrative hearing on the suspension.

An attempt to find a telephone number for Cosban turned up one listing. A message left at that number Sunday wasn’t immediately returned.

The crane had been taken to the area on Saturday to lift mechanical equipment to the roof of the building, Sclafani said. A representative of the company that owns the crane, Bay Crane, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

No injuries were reported Saturday after the crane hit a ledge near the top of the mixed-use building on Maiden Lane, three blocks from Wall Street, the Fire Department of New York said. Part of the building’s facade broke off and fell into the street, police Lt. John Grimpel said.

Maiden Lane runs east to west, parallel to Wall Street, from near the South Street Seaport to lower Broadway near the World Trade Center site.

The crane was in a plaza about half a block from the struck building. The base of the crane was on the other side of the street from the building, and the crane was leaning diagonally across the street onto the building.

The crane was lowered and dismantled Sunday, and residents from five buildings that were evacuated were allowed to return home.

A neighboring building’s porter, Jose Hernandez, said he heard a crashing sound around 7 p.m. Saturday.

“When the crane fell, it went ‘Boom!’ and rocks fell,” he said.

Area resident Michael Britto said he was leaving his building with a friend Saturday night when police told them to get out of the area because the crane was falling.

“The crane was swaying,” he said.

New York has been blighted by crane accidents the last few years. On Tuesday, the city’s former chief crane inspector admitted taking more than $10,000 in payoffs to fake inspection and crane operator licensing exam results over nearly a decade.

The inspector, James Delayo, was arrested days after the second of two huge cranes collapsed, killing nine people, in 2008. The charges against him weren’t tied to the collapses, but authorities portrayed the case as one in a series to go after builders and inspectors accused of shortchanging safety for profit.

The Department of Buildings has said that it has increased training requirements for crane operators and inspectors and taken other safety steps since the collapses.


Associated Press photographer Seth Wenig contributed to this report.

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