Read the original report on the SKYPICKER crane from Crain’s New York Business here.
Read the Crain’s New York Business editorial on SKYPICKER here.
Read New York City Department of Building Commissioner Rick Chandler’s response here.
…And now with new information from the former director of DOB’s Cranes and Derricks Unit, inventor, Dan Mooney fires back:
Over the past month there has been a great deal of press attention to the fate of the Skypicker, the innovative crane I designed to make aspects of construction safer and less expensive. An in-depth cover story in Crain’s highlighted some of my creation’s important features—the most important one being that the Skypicker, unlike a tower crane, is anchored to the building structure itself and doesn’t blindly move materials dangerously above the street.
The crane is not only safer but less costly. The Skypicker costs about $40,000 a month to rent and operate. Crain’s reported that a tower crane costs more than $100,000 per month, not including insurance and wages for the crane’s operators, which can be “as high as $30,000 a month before other workers like riggers are figured in.”
I appreciated the story because I had sunk my life’s savings into developing the Skypicker. I had done so because, as a crane operator myself, I knew the dangers that tower cranes can present under certain construction conditions. It was a great opportunity because I also knew that my crane could really fill a need in the industry.
When I presented my prototype to the Cranes and Derricks Unit of the city’s Department of Buildings, I asked the agency to evaluate and categorize the Skypicker so I could have it manufactured.
I was pleased and proud when the department approved the crane. My partners and I had a number of models built for the industry, and demand for the Skypicker took off. It operated successfully at seven different building sites. But in June 2013, shortly after a new administration at the Cranes and Derricks Unit took over, the agency—without any factually defensible explanation—pulled the crane’s approval. The decision wrecked my rapidly growing business and threatened me with financial ruin.
And that is where I stood until Crain’s put a harsh focus on the arbitrary actions of the agency. The cover story stimulated inquiries from scores of builders wanting to know when Skypicker would be approved so they could take advantage of its safety and cost-effectiveness.
Crain’s followed up its original story with a blistering editorial that dramatized my own frustration better than I ever could:
“It’s always sad when New York City politics and bureaucracy kill an entrepreneur’s dream. But one such story, recounted by our Peter D’Amato in last week’s Crain’s, is especially infuriating because the innovator, crane operator Dan Mooney, wasn’t the only victim. The whole city lost.”
The New York Post also weighed in: “Hey, Mr. Mayor: These cranes would make it cheaper to put up affordable housing. How about standing up against wealthy special interests—and for public safety?”
After all of this exposure, one would think that the Department of Buildings would respond quickly to redress this monumentally wrongheaded bureaucratic snafu. Instead the agency dug in its heels and refused to alter course. Adding insult to injury, Rick Chandler, the buildings commissioner, called the Crain’s editorial “misinformed.”
“The Department of Buildings has repeatedly asked Skypicker to demonstrate that the device meets New York City crane safety standards, which prohibit unsafe machines in our dense, urban area,” he claimed. “But Skypicker has never responded to our requests.”
How sad—and thoroughly inaccurate. We know that building construction requires a great deal of fabrication, but that shouldn’t apply to the utterances of the commissioner of buildings. In fact, the commissioner’s response incensed the true professional who originally gave the Skypicker the green light.
Delia Shumway, a professional engineer and the executive director of the agency’s Cranes and Derricks Unit when the Skypicker was approved, emailed me that Chandler confused the Skypicker revocation with a ruling about an entirely different crane.
Shumway wrote, “He’s the one that’s misinformed. The piece of equipment that he’s referring to was not the Skypicker but IBK’s knockoff of the Skypicker. That machine was not in compliance. There was never any argument about that.”
She then addressed Chandler’s assertion that department officials’ demands of the Skypicker were not met. “They incorrectly recategorized the equipment, which changed the requirement and made it impossible to comply.”
We will continue to press the City Council and the mayor’s office to rescind the agency’s erroneous and misguided edict. We sincerely hope that the buildings commissioner and the bureaucrats change course and allow innovations like Skypicker to flourish. It is of course in my interest if they do, but even more so, it is in the interest and safety of New Yorkers.
Read more from Crain’s New York Business…