TODAY   |  October 31, 2012

Dangling NYC crane has history of safety citations

According to inspection reports, the owner of a crane on top of a Manhattan high-rise that was broken in the superstorm has been fined several times for safety issues. Engineers say it could take weeks to get the machinery down. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 7:47. that's a live look at the crane that crapsed in midtown manhattan during the high winds of the storm, and this morning there are new questions about why it happened and what to do now. "today" national investigative correspondent jeff rossen is at the scene. jeff, good morning to you.

>> reporter: hey, savannah, good morning to you. it's a menacing sight. you're standing here on the street and you look up, and there it is, that crane that is absolutely just teetering and hanging over the city streets . right now i'm standing at the edge of the evacuation zone. no one in or out in a four-block radius. city officials trying to figure out how to get it down safely, and this morning we have learned there have been problems with this crane at this site before. the massive crane collapse caught on home video monday. sandy's winds new york it down like a toy, scaring everyone below.

>> it's not clear whether t if, god forbid , anything should fall from that -- from the top of that crane .

>> reporter: 80 tons of metal now dangling 1,000 feet up over one of new york's busiest streets, west 57th . the crane helping to build this super posh apartment building called 157, slated to be the tallest residential tower in all of manhattan .

>> there's a main tower . it seems to be well secured to the building. the only part that is in danger of falling, we think, is the boom.

>> reporter: this crane has been cited for safety issues in the past. according to city inspection reports, the crane 's owner, pinnacle industries, has been fined several times. march 2012 , a violation for failure to safeguard all persons and property. in april another violation, this time for operation of crane in an unsafe manner, and in august, crane leaking hydraulic fluid. all the violations have been resolved. still unclear, what caused this to happen, but after watching the news coverage, one of the country's most renowned experts believes this was human error . the crane not secured in the right position.

>> the proof is in the videos. it was at a high boom angle. they know it can be blown over.

>> reporter: two city engineers have inspected the damaged crane . so far they say no indication of anything improper.

>> it's conceivable nobody did anything wrong whatsoever. there wasn't even a malfunction, just a strange combust of wind.

>> reporter: cranes are an issue in the series after a series of accidents. this crane collapsed in manhattan killing seven people and months later another crane killed in manhattan killing two people. the city tightened regulations, and before this storm told all operators to secure their cranes. now the giant task of keeping this giant from falling. engineers may tie it to the building which would take days. getting it down could take much longer.

>> i would say approximately maybe four to six weeks. they are going to have to bring in another tower crane and go alongside of it and take it down that way.

>> reporter: back to a live picture of the crane dangling over new york city , we raechd out to pinnacle, the crane company. we were unable to reach them. the company managing the construction site now tells nbc news it had the crane inspected just days before the storm and secured it following all procedures, and they are cooperating fully with the city. back here on the ground, city officials say they want to get back up there today to figure out what to do next. it could be several more days, if not longer, that this whole area is closed. savannah.

>> jeff rossen , what a sight and maybe one we're looking at for a long time. thank you for your report.