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Fatal New York Crane Collapses Result in Tougher Law

Aug 11, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The Governor of New York has signed a new law that increases both criminal and civil penalties for inspectors of construction cranes who falsify their reports.  The new law also sets stiffer punishments for anyone who tries to bribe crane inspectors or otherwise tries to interfere with their work.  

The new crane safety bill was passed after two crane collapses earlier this year in New York city killed a total of 9 people.  The most recent collapse occurred in May, when a 200 foot crane perched atop a high-rise under construction collapsed and fell about 30 stories to the ground below. In addition to the two fatalities, a third worker was seriously injured.  A large portion of an adjacent high-rise apartment building was destroyed as well.  The investigation into that crane collapse is said to be focusing on a rebuilt part that may have failed. The Manhattan District Attorneys’ office has also launched a criminal probe into the incident.

Seven other people were killed because of a crane collapse that occurred in March, just a couple of miles south of May's tragedy.  Following that incident, a city inspector - who allegedly had lied about inspecting the doomed crane in the weeks before the collapse - was arrested for falsifying records. The March crane collapse also led to the resignation of New York City Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster.

In June, the city’s chief crane inspector, James Delayo, was arrested for taking bribes to allow cranes to pass inspection. He was also accused of taking money from a crane company that sought to ensure that its employees would pass the required licensing exam. As the chief inspector for the Cranes and Derricks Unit at New York city’s Department of Buildings, Delayo had responsibility for overseeing the inspection of all cranes, including tower cranes, the type that collapsed in the two recent fatal accidents. However, prosecutors have said that Delayo's alleged crimes had no role in either fatal collapse.

"Recent construction crane-related accidents in the New York City area have raised understandable concerns about the safety of building sites," Governor  David Paterson said after signing the law. "With stricter criminal and civil penalties, this new law will send a message that we have zero tolerance for any actions that negatively interfere with the inspection and licensing of construction cranes."

The law requires the permanent license revocation of any inspector found to have falsified or knowingly made misstatements on an inspection report or who accepted a bribe. Such inspectors would also be subjected to civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per violation.

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