Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Beginning next month applicants trying to obtain a license to operate a crane in New York City will need to pass a national exam and take a 40-hour training course, in addition to city requirements already in place, such as undergoing a criminal background check and a physical exam.
The city says the new requirements will ensure only the best trained workers are on the job and make construction sites safer — an issue that's been in sharp focus given the three deadly crane accidents that have occurred in the last four years. City officials stressed that the Department of Buildings was not relinquishing control of licensing to national groups , and would still issue licenses and set the requirements.
According to the city, the national exam is updated to reflect changes in technology, and crane operators must retake it every five years. "As construction methods continue to evolve, our testing methods must evolve with them to ensure that crane operators have the expertise necessary to safely operate increasingly specialized equipment," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway stated in a press release.
The national exam would also open up crane jobs to people from outside New York, a sore point for unions who have been at odds with large developers in contract negotiations. Developers have been pushing the Bloomberg administration to implement the stricter rules.
In a written statement, Ed Christian, head of the International Union of Operating Engineers, said, "Of course, the announcement was greeted to the cheers of [Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s] millionaire real estate and developer friends."
Christian added that relinquishing control of licensing to national groups was a mistake, saying that none of the recent accidents were the fault of crane operators, but were instead caused by faulty equipment, repairs or inspections. An official cause of last month’s deadly accident has not been determined.
The union wants the city council to pass a bill that would require the city to continue testing for crane licenses with some added improvements.
Crane operators who currently hold a license will be given until July 2013 to meet the new requirements.