Deep, loud bangs sounded in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen on Wednesday morning. Pedestrians and drivers rushed away from the source of the noises in confusion and fear.
This was the scene at a construction site at 550 10th Ave. when the boom of a 45-story crane collapsed, crashing into a neighboring building before finally hitting the street below. The crane had been holding 16 tons of concrete at the time that it fell.
“As you see from the debris on the street, this could have been much worse,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a press conference at the scene. “We are extremely fortunate, No. 1, that we were not during the busy, busy time of the day.”
Four civilians and two firefighters sustained minor injuries because of the collapse, which was caused by a fire that broke out in the crane’s engine compartment. The crane operator noticed the fire and attempted to put it out, but evacuated and called emergency services once he realized he couldn’t stop the fire from spreading. The New York City Department of Buildings and New York City Fire Department are still investigating the exact cause of the fire, determining if further evacuations are necessary and dismantling the portions of the crane that still stand.
“The mayor’s correct – this is a good morning, this could have been a lot worse,” FDNY First Deputy Commissioner Joseph Pfeifer said at the press conference.
The construction site is a couple avenues away from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which the mayor pointed out in saying that the incident could have occurred while there was a rush of commuters passing through the area.
Adjacent to 550 10th Ave. was Covenant House, a nonprofit that provides shelter, meals and medical attention to homeless people and sex trafficked youth. CH Housing Development Fund Corp. appeared to own the land where the construction was taking place. Covenant House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
New York City Council Member Erik Bottcher, who represents the neighborhood, shared a video from across the street from the construction site, 555 10th Ave., that was struck by the crane, and he gave live updates on the situation on Twitter. He tweeted that 120 people had been evacuated from Covenant House.
In the same building across the street is Success Academy’s Hudson Yards location, a charter school serving students from kindergarten through fourth grade. The school didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about whether there were any students in the building at the time of the crane collapse. A Success Academy teacher was one of the injured pedestrians, according to Bottcher.
Once construction is finished, 550 10th Ave. will be a luxury high-rise with 453 mixed-income residential units. It’ll be 47 stories high and have 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenity space and ground-level retail. Construction was projected to be completed in 2024.
The crane belonged to the New York Crane and Equipment Corp., a company started by the late James Lomma, as evidenced by the Lomma name printed on the side of the crane. Lomma – the self-proclaimed “king of cranes” – owned multiple construction equipment companies, including New York Crane and Equipment Corp. and Lomma Crane and Rigging.
Both companies have been the source of dangerous incidents in the past, including a 2008 crane collapse that killed the crane operator and a construction worker, as reported by The Daily Mail. In that incident, a metal bearing Lomma purchased for the crane as a replacement for the original piece broke while the crane was in use, causing everything above it to come crashing down.
The construction company in charge of the site, Monadnock Construction Inc., had another incident, albeit much smaller, at the start of the project when the workers hit a Con Edison vault, according to Pfeifer. He said the project had been operating otherwise without issue and within its permits.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos discussed the situation on Twitter, sharing her thoughts on construction in the city.
“This is why I rail so hard about construction safety,” Ramos tweeted. “Cutting corners endangers the workers on the site, the first responders, & the people who live & work in the area. Sending prayers for an easy recovery for everyone injured & a swift investigation into what happened here.”
Like many developers and construction companies, employees at the firms involved in the project have donated to city politicians over the past two decades.
Monadnock Construction or Monadnock Development employees have given about $45,000 over the years, with contributions in 2023 City Council races going to Kamilliah Hanks ($1,250), Rafael Salamanca ($750), Adrienne Adams ($500) and Farah Louis ($250).
Employees at project developer Gotham Organization have contributed, in total, about $33,000, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Chair Joel Picket and CEO David Picket haven’t contributed to any city politicians this year, but in the past they have backed mayoral candidates C. Virginia Fields, Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn and Gifford Miller, as well as Bill Thompson for comptroller and Scott Stringer and Eva Moskowitz for Manhattan borough president.
Handel Architects employees, an architect on the project, gave $4,950 to Christine Quinn’s 2013 mayoral bid and have contributed smaller amounts to Manhattan politicians like Corey Johnson and Brian Benjamin.