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Incompetence and Corruption Haunt New York Crane Work

The trial in federal court in 2006 was a union corruption case that in several days of testimony touched on a certain looseness in the way New York City had long handed out its licenses to operate cranes.

One former official with the crane operators’ union told the court in Manhattan that he believed roughly a third of them could not operate a crane.

Another ex-official of the union, Local 14 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, said he could not explain how one of his members, a mob-connected man, had come to get his city license many years earlier.

“You knew full well he couldn’t even run any machines?” Gerald Shargel, a defense lawyer, asked the former official, John Coriasco, who was testifying for the government.

“True,” responded Mr. Coriasco.

“He didn’t have the competence or the skill to operate a machine, right?” Mr. Shargel continued.

“He couldn’t write his name,” Mr. Coriasco replied.

In the ensuing years, city officials scrambled for greater control over the crane industry and crane operators in New York. But today investigators are finding that even during a construction boom, the industry has remained loosely regulated.