WORRIES OVER COLUMBUS SQ. CONSTRUCTION

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Park West Village residents near the Columbus Square development met with Department of Buildings officials earlier this month to discuss safety in the area.

The Dec. 3 meeting, held at Second Presbyterian Church on Central Park West and West 96th Street, was organized after an Oct. 8 crane malfunction caused a counterweight to crash through a pedestrian sidewalk. There were no fatalities or injuries, but the crane accident rankled residents who were already angered by the history of safety incidents at the West 97th Street development.

“How can we be sure construction will be safe for residents in surrounding communities?” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who co-hosted the event. “This is an opportunity to have a dialogue.”

The buildings department officials told the crowd of 50 that two more cranes will be used in construction of Columbus Square, at 795 and 805 Columbus Ave.

To protect against future accidents, Donald Ranshte, director of comm-unity affairs at the Department of Buildings, said that pedestrians need to be prohibited from using the walkway while a crane is hoisting a load. Though there are flagmen on construction sites to keep pedestrians out of harm’s way, Ranshte told the crowd to report unsafe situations.

“We like to try and enforce it, but if you see it, you might want to call 311,” Ranshte said.

One resident asked about crane inspections to prevent future accidents. But Michael Alacha, assistant commissioner for engineering and emergency operations, noted that there are annual inspections and daily maintenance.

“Mechanical failure could not have been predicted,” Alacha said.

Paul Bunten, head of the community group Westsiders for Public Participation, felt that nearby residents are not equipped to enforce the law and said he was still concerned about the construction site.

“We still don’t have a solution from this meeting,” Bunten said afterward.

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