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A windvaning crane and falling shards of glass pose lethal threats

There is a reason why construction sites in Manhattan have covered walkways adjacent to the sites. But these walkways do not always offer complete protection from glass and debris that fall during heavy winds.

A giant wind vane 85 floors up

Late in 2020, a spinning crane caused debris to fall on 57th Street, causing the closure of streets surrounding the site. According to news reports, a crane spun wildly atop an 85-story building in the wind and rain, causing the NYPD to issue a warning to avoid 57th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.

The crane was properly secured, yet it was swaying and “weathervaning” in the wind caused by Hurricane Zeta’s remnants coming ashore on October 29. The crane at the top of the supports was turning in the wind (to reduce wind stress on the structure) much as weathervanes do to reflect the wind’s direction.

In this case, the giant weathervane swung wildly with a so-called “Headache ball” where loads are attached at the end of the cable. The ball and cable damaged the building and caused glass and aluminum debris to rain down on the street below, including two eight-foot pieces.

A second incident a few weeks later

Debris from the initial incident likely led to a weakened glass curtain wall panel on the 56th floor, causing shards of the glass panel to fall on Sunday, November 17, during another blustery day.

DOB investigates

Officials from the Department of Buildings (DOB) investigated the cause of the initial incident and issued a full stop-work order for the site and a cease use for the crane. The DOB issued a partial stop-work order for all work on the building’s exterior after the second incident.

No one hurt this time

Happily, there were no reports of injuries from either incident. Nevertheless, these are clear examples of the dangers of construction sites here in New York – debris can easily turn deadly when falling from height. Workers (or pedestrians) who are hurt by falling objects, cranes or other workplace hazards should consider contacting a knowledgeable work injury attorney.

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