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Court upholds New York City crane rules

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York recently said it is "manifestly absurd" for the Steel Institute of New York (SINY) to try to block New York City crane rules designed to protect the public.

The crane rules were put in place by the city after two fatal tower crane accidents in 2008.

The Steel Institute had argued that the crane rules were pre-empted by federal regulations designed to protect construction workers.

SINY filed its case against the Department of Buildings (DOB) in 2009 after the crane accidents, claiming that the rules to protect the public shouldn't be enforced because they were pre-empted by federal regulations to protect workers.

SINY asked the court to block the new local regulations.

In its dismissal of SINY's argument, the court noted that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution means that when the Congress writes law regulating a matter, state law is, in fact, pre-empted. But the congressional power isn't without limits.

One area in which local law can trump federal law, the court said, is in areas of health and safety. New York State and City have historically regulated buildings in the city.

The court wrote of the "absurdity" of SINY's position: "It simply cannot be the case that DOB's power to keep buildings from falling on people and other buildings -- via rules that also help keep construction workers and crane operators safe -- is superseded by the existence of OSHA regulations governing safety on a construction site."

The judge wrote that if DOB is empowered to make sure that skyscrapers don't fall onto innocent victims, it can also regulate the use of cranes and derricks to make sure they don't fall onto anyone either.

SINY didn't say whether it planned an appeal of the decision.

Source: Cranes Today Magazine: "Court dismisses case against NYC crane rules," Jan. 5, 2011

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