This is New York City's second deadly crane accident in 2½ months.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the latest collapse was "unacceptable," and the city would investigate.
"The sound was like a thunder clap. Then, an earthquake," said Peter Barba, who lives on the seventh floor of the building across the street from the construction site that was hit by the crane.
One body was brought out of the rubble at East 91st Street and First Avenue, placed on a gurney and covered in a white sheet. A construction worker knelt over the stretcher, gently stroking the
It wasn't immediately clear whether there were additional
Crews pulled others out of the wreckage, the Fire Department said. Their conditions were not immediately known. Firefighters and rescue workers continued to search through the tangled crane.
Video from the scene showed the upper-floor balconies of the apartment building were severely damaged and a hole extended
several stories down the side of the building.
Barba said it appeared the entire cab came off the crane; its main arm hit the penthouse of his building, then "took out the northeast corner," he said.
Chaos enveloped the largely residential neighborhood of town houses and apartment high-rises as dozens of emergency vehicles raced to the scene during the morning rush hour.
Brian Nurenberg, 37, was playing indoor tennis two blocks away
when he heard the crash. "It was a couple of loud sort of bangs, high in the air," he said. "It sounded catastrophic, and that's from two blocks away."
In March 15 accident about 2 miles to the south, contractors building a 46-story condominium near the United Nations were trying to lengthen the crane when a steel support broke, killing seven people. A four-story town house was demolished and several other buildings were damaged.
A city inspector resigned after his arrest on charges of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing. In April, the city's buildings commissioner resigned, under fire over a rising number of deadly construction accidents that have left more than 26 construction workers dead in the past year.
Since then, the city has added extra inspections at building sites and required that its staff be on hand whenever the towering cranes were raised higher, a process known as a jump. Those procedures are still being revised.