NEW YORK – A city inspector has been arrested for lying about checking on a construction crane that collapsed 11 days later, killing seven people in a dense Manhattan neighborhood, officials said Thursday.
Edward Marquette, 46, was arrested on charges of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing, buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster said.
"We will not tolerate this kind of behavior at the Department of Buildings," Lancaster said at a news conference. "I do not and will not tolerate any misconduct in my department."
Marquette, who earns $52,283 a year as an inspector in the department's division of cranes and derricks, was arrested while being questioned Wednesday night, said Barbara Thompson, spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney.
Marquette, dressed casually in a black leather jacket, did not say anything during his arraignment in state Supreme Court and was released without bail. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison. His lawyer, Kate Moguletscu, had no comment.
The deadly accident occurred last Saturday when a crane about 20 stories tall broke away from an apartment tower under construction and toppled over, killing six construction workers and a visitor in town for St. Patrick's Day. Two dozen people were injured.
Officials said a complaint about the crane was logged on March 4 to the city's 311 hot line, and Marquette said he inspected it. It was later determined he had not.
In addition to suspending Marquette, Lancaster ordered an immediate inspection of inspection report is among those being investigated by the city.
Other complaints about the crane's safety were called in by neighborhood residents on Jan. 10 and Feb. 11, according to city records.
A phone message left for the crane's owner, New York Crane & Equipment Corp., was not immediately returned on Thursday.
Neighborhood residents said they weren't surprised by the arrest.
"It makes me very suspicious of the whole situation. I'd like to feel that it's safe to live in this neighborhood with all the construction going on," Sandra Graham said. "If he's been arrested, I think he should be made an example of."
The gigantic piece of machinery toppled over when a 6-ton steel collar used to secure the crane to the building came loose, plunging into another collar that acted as an anchor. Without that support, the spindly structure came tumbling down with terrifying force.
Lancaster said it is very unlikely an inspection would have prevented the accident because the collars that failed were not on site on March 4.
The collapse followed weeks of complaints by people in the neighborhood that the crane didn't appear safe. Bruce Silberblatt, the retired contractor who called in the complaint, said he was stunned by the arrest.
"My first reaction was astonishment. My second reaction is anger that a person would have the gall to do this," said Silberblatt, who is also vice president of the Turtle Bay Neighborhood Association.
Neighborhood resident Alex Haiken said he wasn't surprised by the news.
"We used to hear the jackhammers and the drills before 7 a.m.," he said. "They must have paid somebody off to be able to start work that early."