Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald
By Andres Viglucci and David Smiley
Published September 20, 2017
A disagreement between the city of Miami and a contractor
over whether a construction crane that partially collapsed at a condo tower
in Edgewater during Hurricane Irma has been properly secured means that a
voluntary evacuation for residents of two neighboring buildings remains in
place, at least for now.
The contractor, Plaza Construction, on Friday sent the
city’s building official letters stating that the crane and its crumpled jib
had been secured and that the Gran Paraiso tower that’s under construction
was not structurally damaged by the collapse.
But Miami’s building
official, Maurice Pons, concluded that Plaza’s documentation
was unsatisfactory and recommended that the evacuation
remain in place, city spokeswoman Diana Gonzalez said.
“Mr. Pons says he has not received an acceptable letter or
written statement from Plaza Construction on the safety of
the tower crane to the surrounding building. As a result, he
suggests the voluntary evacuation remain in effect,”
Gonzalez wrote in an email to the Miami Herald. “The
statement letter he received was forwarded to an assistant
city attorney who concurred.”
A Plaza Construction executive, Brad Meltzer, said his team
is scheduled to meet Sunday with city officials to resolve
The Gran Paraiso crane, which appears to have come apart at
the hinge where the upright piece and the swiveling jib are
joined, was one of three that crumpled under Irma’s assault.
A second crane at the Vice Miami apartment tower in downtown
Miami also snapped during Hurricane Irma. A third crane, at
a luxury condo tower under construction in Fort Lauderdale,
also crumpled during Irma.
A construction crane, at right, partially collapsed
atop the Gran Paraiso on Northeast 31st Street in Miami’s Edgewater
neighborhood during Hurricane Irma.
None of the crane structures fell to ground level, though heavy
counterweights from the Gran Paraiso tower crashed to the street, embedding
themselves into the asphalt.
The crane at Auberge Residences in Fort Lauderdale was secured. But the
status of the tower at Vice Miami could not be determined Saturday night.
Earlier in the week, the dangling crane meant that Miami Dade College could
not use an adjacent classroom building at its Wolfson Campus, and Metromover,
which had closed for Irma, could not reopen.
Irma’s sustained winds were classified as tropical-storm strength in
Miami-Dade, with hurricane-strength gusts that topped off at 99 mph. The
cranes are supposed to withstand winds of 145 mph.
Miami city officials asked residents of two buildings adjacent to the Gran
Paraiso site to evacuate 36 hours after the hurricane, when Plaza had been
unable to secure the crane. Police said the evacuation order was not
mandatory but “highly encouraged.” Officers were assigned to keep watch over
the building around the clock.
Plaza Construction told evacuated residents it would reimburse “reasonable”
hotel stays, but some were angry that the contractor made no arrangements to
help them move, noting that available hotel rooms were scarce after the
storm. Others were upset that they had to spend their own money up front
with no certainty they would be repaid.