NEW YORK -- Since news of the Manhattan crane collapse was first broadcast on television stations Saturday afternoon, Cliff Canzona's family had been holding onto a small strand of hope.
Canzona, 45, of Seaford, came from a family of construction workers, and had been in the field himself since graduating from John Glenn High School in Elwood. His relatives knew he was putting in an extra shift with a subcontractor he didn't usually work for that afternoon. And they knew if Canzona was up there with the rest of the crew, his chances of survival beneath the debris weren't the best. But they were chances, nonetheless.
Yesterday, after three days spent agonizing over the recovery's slow progress, Canzona's family received word he'd been found dead beneath the rubble. The cherished brother, uncle and son, who had been working Saturday to earn some extra cash after his tenant moved out, was first identified from a bank receipt found in his pocket, his relatives said.
As they prepared to arrange his funeral, Canzona's mother, one of his two brothers and the close-knit group of neighbors on the cul-de-sac of his childhood home in East Northport gathered under a clear blue sky to share tears and memories of their loved one.
"Every picture you saw of him, he was smiling," his mother, Nile Canzona, said, crying.
The two had shared a special relationship: Neighbors said that whenever Cliff Canzona wasn't calling his mother, he was visiting, helping her with groceries or anything else she needed. On Saturday, he was going to lay palm crosses on the graves of two friends for her.
Maureen Schebler and other neighbors recalled the excitement of the neighborhood children when they saw Cliff Canzona's car pull into the block.
"He'd say, 'Get the kickball,'" she said, and he and the kids would play a game. "My children are devastated," said Schebler, who has five kids. "They adored him. He was just so patient and so kind."
Chris Canzona said his brother was planning to retire in a year and a half. He worked full-time for Pinnacle Concrete in Mamaroneck as a signal man, motioning to fellow laborers when to lower or raise a crane. He also had experience in the kind of work he was doing Saturday, securing and lifting a crane on a new apartment tower under construction, Chris Canzona said.
On Saturday, Chris Canzona heard about the crash on the television and started calling hospitals looking for his brother. Ultimately the family had to wait for rescuers to locate him beneath the rubble - a process he described as a struggle between the city Department of Buildings and the Office of Emergency Management.
"There were just too many people with conflicting ideas," Canzona said. "I couldn't get an answer out of anybody."
Canzona also expressed frustration at what he described as a lax permit process."The City of New York issues permits," he said. "But the City of New York doesn't come and say, 'Let me see the equipment you are going to hoist.'"