No one was operating the crane when it fell at 7:10 p.m., the police said, and some cement fell off the building at 80 Maiden Lane. The Fire Department sent numerous trucks to the scene, and firefighters were working to secure the crane.
The base of the crane was in Louise Nevelson Plaza, a slice of a sculpture garden across the street from 80 Maiden Lane.
David Robertson, who lives nearby at 10 Liberty Street, said he had seen the crane being used for work on the building into which it fell.
The property holds an active permit for facade work from the ground to the roof, according to the Department of Buildings Web site.
Mr. Robertson said he was alerted to the crane’s fall by a noise that sounded like metal on metal. “You could’ve heard it half a mile away,” he said.
The crane, which is owned by Bay Crane, looked precarious as it leaned on the corner of the building. Streets were closed off for several blocks and curious neighbors came out — one even brought a bowl of pretzels.
Susan Stevens, who lives at 100 John Street, said she was listening to the radio when she heard sirens. “I’d be nervous now if there was a crane near my building,” she said.
Mohammed Bacchus, a security guard at 80 Maiden Lane, said he saw the crane begin to lean, then gradually fall toward the building. “It took about half an hour,” he said. “Then it just gently grazed the building.”
An emergency medical technician who would not give his name said the authorities were planning to lift the crane off the building.
Officials closed Maiden Lane from Water Street to Broadway and Pearl Street from Fletcher Street to Wall Street, and four buildings were evacuated, including 100 Maiden Lane, a residential building. A resident there who gave his name only as Eric said he was told they would probably be allowed back in the building Sunday. “I didn’t hear it happen,” he said, “but the police came to the door and said we had to leave.
“It’s annoying,” he added. “They should regulate this stuff better.”
While the latest episode appeared to have caused minimal damage, it jarred a city that experienced two fatal crane collapses over a two-month period, the first of which occurred almost exactly two years ago. In mid-March 2008, seven people were killed when a crane slammed into residential buildings on East 51st Street, destroying a town house. And two construction workers were killed in May 2008, when a crane fell at a construction site on East 91st Street.
On March 8, James F. Lomma, the owner of the New York Crane and Equipment Corporation, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges stemming from the latter collapse.