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Sandy's winds topple top of construction crane in New York

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City evacuated neighbors of a partially built, 90-story apartment building after the top of a construction crane collapsed in high winds, prompting fears the entire rig could crash to the ground.

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With the city bracing for Hurricane Sandy, due to make landfall in southern New Jersey later on Monday, the upper arm of the crane dangled over the street near Central Park from what should eventually become the city’s tallest residential building.

Passers-by stared in amazement and apprehension while some stopped to take pictures of the building that will feature $90 million duplexes.

“It’s fascinating, I saw it on TV and came out to see it. But it’s also scary. If it happened there who knows where else it could happen,” said Sam O’ Keeffe, 25, a bartender who lives in the neighborhood.

Firefighters closed streets for several blocks surrounding the site, evacuated 300 apartments in three buildings and were preparing to evacuate more, a Fire Department spokesman said.

“Due to a crane collapse at 157 West 57th Street in Manhattan, all occupants of buildings on West 57th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues must immediately move to the lower floors of your building and make contact with your building safety representative,” city officials said in an email alert.

“Citizens are advised to avoid this area,” they said.

The building known as One 57 and designed by Christian de Portzamparc has been climbing ever higher, where at 1,004 feet it will tower over other buildings near Columbus Circle at the southwest corner of Central Park.

Officials offered no immediate reason for the collapse of the crane.

Ninety-two luxury condominiums will sit atop a five-star Park Hyatt hotel.

Prices start at $16.75 million, and two units were under contract for more than $90 million each, The New York Times reported last month, citing the president of the building’s developer, Extell Development Company.

Extell announced in May that it had reached $1 billion in sales and that half of its units had sold in six months. “We’re seeing buyers from as far as Hong Kong to as near as Fifth Avenue,” it had said in a statement. Occupancy was set for 2013.

Extell did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the crane.

Additional reporting by Martinne Geller and Ilaina Jonas; Writing by Daniel Trotta; editing by Philip Barbara