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Avella blasts city over crane crash

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"Commissioner Lancaster must be held accountable for the agency's egregious failures under her tenure," Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said in a prepared statement.Seven people died when a steel support collar meant to fasten the crane to the 43-story building plunged from 200 feet up, severing a second support collar and causing the crane to fall onto a nearby townhouse.DOB inspectors believe a nylon sling being used to hoist the 6-ton collar into place may have failed. Lancaster said she was having the roughly 250 crane sites throughout the city inspected for the same condition. There was no official determination on the cause of the collapse by press time Tuesday.Two of the victims in Saturday's collapse reportedly have ties to Queens. One of the injured, Juan Perez, who worked at Fubar, a tavern in one of the neighboring buildings destroyed in the collapse, is from Corona, a friend said. He was listed in serious condition at Bellvue Hospital Center on Tuesday.Vicky Cardone, who used to work with Perez, said she ran to the hospital, a block away from her apartment, when she saw her friend lifted from the debris.Cardone said Perez, 38, was buffing the floors when the crane fell. When he awoke, he was trapped under rubble, she said.Perez suffered a broken leg and cuts and scratches, said Cardone, who visited him Sunday and Monday."He's much better," she said. "But he's still very ill and a little disoriented."Perez is a Mexican immigrant who has a wife and three children in his home country, Cardone said, noting he has said he wants to return there.The Daily News reported that Clifford Canzona, a 45-year-old Long Island worker killed in the Manhattan collapse, survived a 1994 crane failure in Long Island City by climbing out on the crane's boom to counterbalance it.According to statistics from the DOB's annual safety report card released in November, construction fatalities were down 43 percent for the first 10 months of 2007, from 14 to eight compared to the same period of 2006. But accidents on high-rise building construction sites increased 83 percent, from 23 to 42.The department attributed this to a number of accidents involving construction material falling from the high-rises.Accidents at low-rise construction sites decreased, from 66 to 51, the report said.Avella said the DOB's power of oversight "has been subverted in a mad dash for more construction.""How many more accidents and how many more people have to die before the mayor takes action to overhaul DOB?" he said.The mayor's office did not respond to a request for comment by press time Tuesday.Queens has seen a few crane accidents in recent years, though nothing as dramatic as Saturday's disaster. In October, a construction crane collapsed in Bayside, falling into the garage area of a multi-story building under development. No one was injured in the incident, and DOB inspectors ruled the equipment was too heavy for the area it was being used.In September 2006, a crane operated by a window washing company fell through a ventilation grate while two employees were working on a building at St. John's University. Again, no one was injured.In July 2002, a 170-ton crane operating without a permit at the State Supreme Courthouse in Jamaica collapsed, critically injuring the operator and giving a court employee cuts from broken glass. Fire officials said the foundation where the wheeled vehicle was parked appeared to have given way under its weight.A fatal crane accident occurred in 1995 in the Sunnyside Rail Yards in Long Island City, when the crane collapsed and hurled its operator from the cab.Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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