Basically, the Perfect Metaphor for the Last Few Decades

For those of you living in a cave or in one of the areas hit by power outages, the media has continued to run footage of the broken many ton crane dangling from the top of luxury condos in Manhattan:

With one mighty gust of wind, the storm on Monday announced itself at 2:30 p.m. at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious addresses.

A crane at 157 West 57th Street swayed up and up and then snapped, leaving tons of metal dangling precariously over 1,000 feet above the ground, with no evident way to secure it with the storm bearing down.

It was one of the most visible and startling moments in the city where the storm had seemed more of a major inconvenience than a serious threat. And it occurred high above Central Park at what is supposed to be the city’s tallest building with residences and which has become a trophy address for some of the world’s richest people.

The winds picked up as night fell and the crane twisted and turned, seemingly poised to fall at any moment, forcing the evacuation of several buildings.

When asked about how secure it was, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg answered bluntly: “Nobody knows.”

“We just don’t want to risk the lives of anyone trying to be a hero and secure it,” he said in an evening news conference.

Mr. Bloomberg said the main body of the crane, which rises 90-stories up the side of the building, seemed secure, as did the main cab. The arm of the crane, he said, appeared to have been lifted and flipped over the cab. The city, he said, was focused on ensuring that if it does fall, there is no loss of life.

The mayor said nearby buildings would be evacuated, steam pipes running beneath the streets shut down, electricity turned off and all the surrounding streets closed to traffic and pedestrians.

The tower, known as One57, has attracted attention around the world for the prices it is seeking to attract to live in luxury high above the Manhattan streets. It will be 90 stories high when complete and the top floor apartments are being marketed to an exclusive club of billionaires for a jaw-dropping $90 million apiece.

But on Monday, nearby restaurant workers, pedestrians and curious tourists looked skyward from rain-slicked streets and saw only a threat.

The police quickly pushed people back as they cordoned off seven square blocks around the building and began evacuating hundreds of people from the area, which is home to Carnegie Hall as well and hundreds of residential apartments and a luxury hotel.

For witnesses who saw the partial collapse, the wrenching sound of metal was jarring and could be heard more than a block away.

“We heard a big noise, and we didn’t know what it was,” said Victor Font, 40, who was eating lunch at Rue 57, a restaurant that looks out onto the high-rise building. He rushed outside and saw the huge crane drooping over the street. As the police converged on the scene, he said, his first thought was: “What are they going to do? How in the world will they bring that down?”

It’s basically the perfect metaphor for trickle down economics and the last three decades. A couple hundred tons of metal death will possibly rain down on the lessers on the ground, the city and taxpayers will have to clean up, and the owners of the $90 million dollar condo will be front and center on the NY Times talking about their “disaster.”

52 replies
  1. 1
    Short Bus Bully says:

    Flaccid crane FTW…

  2. 2
    Nemo_N says:

    Wasn’t there a way to secure that? The “before” picture seems like they just said “nah, just leave it like that. It will hold”.

  3. 3
    sfinny says:

    Well, at least this is confirmation of my fear of cranes and scaffolding and grates. It is real. And the fact that it looks like a limp you-know-what is just frosting on the cake.

  4. 4
    Corner Stone says:

    Hmmm, a crane being unable to lift its equipment.

  5. 5
    BGinCHI says:

    It also kind of looks like a limp p@nis.

    But I guess sometimes a crane is just a crane.

  6. 6
    BGinCHI says:

    Wait, isn’t there a They Might Be Giants song about this crane?

  7. 7
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Did you all coordinate these peen-themed comments, or is that just always on everyone’s mind?

  8. 8
    Richard says:

    The icing on the cake would be if it turned out that the crane’s failure was as a result of parts manufactured by outsourced labor using substandard materials.

  9. 9
    MikeJ says:


    Wasn’t there a way to secure that? The “before” picture seems like they just said “nah, just leave it like that. It will hold”.

    Sure, if you want big gubmint dictating what to do to everyone. FREEEDUMB!!

  10. 10
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    the city and taxpayers will have to clean up,

    IANAL but it seems to me there’s a good case to send the bill to the contractor and/or building owner. It’s not like the crane is a natural disaster.

  11. 11
    suzanne says:

    Ironically, I am studying for my Structural Systems ARE, especially wind design. Structural failure FTW.

  12. 12
    scav says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Well, it looks a little like an elephant too, but that’s just a minor variation on the theme. (OK, an elephant-giraffe hybrid).

  13. 13
    trollhattan says:

    This is going to so delay that penthouse being profiled in the NYT “Home & Garden” section.

  14. 14
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: This is Balloon Juice. If we’re not thinking about booze or pets we’re thinking about sexythings.

  15. 15
    leinie says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason: They fights over who is to blame, and whose insurance company is on the hook for this will be epic if that thing goes down. If I were the contractor or the crane erection company’s risk management manager, I’d be sweating bullets. They’ll try to pin it on the crane manufacturer, and everybody is going to point to everyone else, and site the force majeur clauses in the contracts and insurance policies. I heard it was inspected on Friday, and if that is the case, they’ll all use that to get themselves off the hook too – I really hope that was a private inspector and not a city/state one, or that’s the path they’ll use to pinning it on the taxpayers.

    Be as safe as you can in this mess, East Coast.

  16. 16
    lacp says:

    So? There’s a crane 1000 feet up on a building and a hurricane is on its way? What could possibly go wrong?

  17. 17
    amk says:

    Until this crane killed one of those millionaires, this will be non-news by tomorrow and the gobinment will quietly pick up the clean-up tab.

  18. 18
    Corner Stone says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Well, we are talking about a post by Cole afterall…

  19. 19
    jharp says:

    Count me as a cave dweller. I have power and this is the first I had heard of it.

    And on second thought. Someone did good that it didn’t crash down on the street.

  20. 20
    The Dangerman says:

    I read on the NYT that the contractor or crane owner (if not the same) have been repeatedly cited for safety issues. Also, if memory serves, the last inspection was 10/26, well inside the storm warning, so someone will be looking for a job after this is over.

  21. 21
    Roy G. says:

    I was thinking earlier that these PAC propaganda blitzes are the trickle down effect, but I have to admit this nails it.

  22. 22
    ulee says:

    Basically a metaphor for something. Sandy came blowing in and well…

  23. 23
    eemom says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    IANAL but it seems to me there’s a good case to send the bill to the contractor and/or building owner.

    A better than good case, and to God knows how many other private entities and their insurers.

    Only an idiot or John Cole would look at this and think “city and taxpayers.” But I repeat myself.

  24. 24
    David Koch says:

    Also a good metaphor on how the legacy media is crumbling, especially as the election nears.

    Fresh attacks today by media elites on Nate Silver and arithmetic.

  25. 25
    John Cole says:

    @eemom: Yeah. Cuz the taxpayers have never been on the fucking hook for the excesses and failings of private businesses. I made up the phrase “Privatize the profits, socialize the losses.” Why, I even bet no lawyers would get involved, and the businesses will just give the city whatever the bill says, with no litigation.

    At this point, I am firmly convinced that the best thing that could happen to this website is for EEMOM and Cornerstone to make a suicide pact.

  26. 26
    David Koch says:

    Looks like Sandy has taken down GOS.

  27. 27
    maven says:

    Certainly nothing the free market can’t correct.

  28. 28
    Mike in NC says:

    No worries, the Job Creators will save both the crane and AMERICiA!

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    @John Cole: Hey, just because you’re fucking around with a married woman that’s got nothing to do with my self esteem. Amigo.

  30. 30
    ulee says:

    @John Cole: Cornerstone. Cole wants you make a suicide pact with your ladyfriend.

  31. 31
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    I heard that Bloomberg turned down FEMA advance positioning assistance, saying that NYC would be able to take care of itself.

    I’m sure that Bloomie has this well in hand now.

  32. 32
    John Cole says:

    @Corner Stone: What in the fuck are you talking about?

  33. 33
    opie jeanne says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Always on our minds.

  34. 34
    NotMax says:

    Apparently, where Sandy is concerned, the crane was just the right height.

  35. 35
    PurpleGirl says:

    And it occurred high above Central Park

    Pet Peeve Rant: It is over West 57th Street NOT over Central Park. Central Park is two blocks north of this building. It was dangling over 57th Street and opposite Carnegie Hall. There are lots of other buildings between it and Central Park. (end of rant)

  36. 36
    eemom says:

    tee hee

  37. 37
    NotMax says:


    So line of sight from our greatest threat, the Russian Tea Room, then?

  38. 38
    Anne Laurie says:

    @John Cole: Commentor on an earlier thread suggested that your Ladyfriend might be… Your Most Favorite Female Commentor. Much typical BJ hilarity ensued. If you fuss too much, it might even turn into a meme, goddess help us all.

  39. 39
    Jewish Steel says:

    Your Most Favorite Female Commentor.




  40. 40
    opie jeanne says:

    @Jewish Steel: LOL!!!

  41. 41
    Misterpuff says:

    Crane Viagra for all!/Gu911iani

  42. 42
    Sarah says:

    I was thinking that yesterday, here in Brooklyn. The mayor probably won’t even fine them – they’re the good guys, the rich guys. Let the peons pay for it, and live in 25 sq foot apartments.

  43. 43
    bjacques says:

    From my misspent teens I remember Hustler Magazine’s rating system for porn movies, as the number of spoons of saltpeter you could take and still get it up. Five spoons meant top fap material, while One was “can’t get it up with a crane.” We now have a criterion for Zero, which is “even a crane can’t get it up with a crane.”

  44. 44
    denali says:

    CNBC, in its coverage of the falling crane, interviewed the real estate agent in charge of selling the luxury apartments in the building. All she could talk about was how this was the most expensive place in NY if not the world to live, the billionaires, etc, etc, and of course, somebody must have thought it was a good idea to leave a huge crane in the path of a huge hurricane. Somehow, my faith in the judgment of those 1%ers and their minions is rattled.

  45. 45
    kc says:

    Why didn’t they take the fucking thing down before the storm?

  46. 46
    marianne19 says:

    Brilliant to see the metaphor. Thanks!

  47. 47
    Jay C says:


    Why didn’t they take the fucking thing down before the storm?

    Quite probably because they can’t: on buildings of this size, these big cranes are basically fastened to the sides of the structures they construct: they take days, if not weeks, to dismantle once their job is done (i.e. the framing and cladding are finished). The arms are supposed to be secured for storms: obviously at One57, someone slipped up….

  48. 48
    Pluky says:

    @kc: Because that would cost money.

  49. 49

    Dear penthouse adviser, I always thought your letters were fake until it happened to me.

  50. 50

    […] John Cole writes about the broken crane in NYC: […]

  51. 51
    Mary McElroy says:

    How do they normally take these cranes down?

  52. 52
    Arthur says:

    The crane of Damocles is hangin’ over my head /
    And I’ve got the feeling that someone’s gonna be cutting the thread..

    Sorry, it had to be done :)

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