The safety of New Yorkers working at or living near construction sites has remained paramount following the crane collapses this past March and May that killed a total of 9 people. Stemming partly from corruption allegations that were first disclosed in the summer when the city’s acting chief crane inspector was arrested on charges of receiving bribes, the New York City Buildings Department announced on October 6, 2008, that it was overhauling its procedures on how the city issues licenses to some crane operators.
The city said that the written and practical tests for lower-level mobile crane operators licenses (called Class C Hoist Machine Operator licenses) will be given by a nationally accredited nonprofit group, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, instead of the Buildings Department. The Class C license allows holders to operate mobile cranes with a boom of up to 200 feet that can lift up to 50 tons. The change in the tests for the Class C licenses would enable the Buildings Department to update the Class C license exam, making it more applicable to the cranes that are currently in use. Crane operators who now hold active Class C licenses must also meet the new requirements and obtain certification by the national group by Sept. 30, 2009.
One day after the announcement of the test change, a Long Island crane company boss, a company employee, and the company itself were indicted on bribery charges. Michael Sackaris, 48, of St. James, who authorities say is the de facto chief of Nu-Way Crane Service of Copiague, and its employee paid a chief crane inspector from New York City, James DeLayo, more than $10,000 to falsify inspection reports and licenses, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.
Sackaris also was charged with threatening a witness in the case. Sackaris is alleged to have paid DeLayo $200 to $500 about 26 times from 2002 to 2007 to falsify inspection reports or to certify that Nu-Way crane operators passed practical exams, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office said. The answers to the written portion of the operators test were reportedly $3,000. Each of these exchanges of money, prosecutors said, was putting the safety of New York City at risk.
Although the charges were not related to the crane collapses, the accidents led to close scrutiny of the crane industry and revealed a lackadaisical and occasionally corrupt manner in which cranes and their operators were approved for work in the city.
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