Collapsed NY Building Had Numerous Violations

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2023


On Monday (Dec. 11), a seven-story Bronx, New York, apartment building partially collapsed, destroying six apartments and partially burying a convenience store. “Miraculously,” no one was severely injured or killed in the accident.

According to city records, the building had reportedly been flagged for more than 100 violations in the past several years, despite having no current open structural violations.

What Happened

The building in Morris Heights, built in 1927, was reportedly undergoing facade repairs. The collapse occurred on Monday evening, and firefighters were reportedly on the scene two minutes after the event.

One resident said she heard a loud boom, then a neighbor running down the hallway screaming, “Everybody get out. The building is coming down.”

Fire Department Chief of Department John Hodgens said at a news conference earlier in the night near the 46-unit building in the Morris Heights section that officials did not yet know what had caused the partial collapse.

A canine unit and a drone were deployed to search for anyone who might be trapped under the rubble. Residents were evacuated to a nearby school as the search continued.

Afterwards, 26 families, including 79 adults and 22 children, accepted temporary housing from the Red Cross and the city.

Firefighters reportedly spent hours searching through the 12-foot-high debris. No victims were found but two people received minor injuries while evacuating the damaged building.

“Miraculously, no one was severely injured at the partial building collapse,” Laura Kavanagh, the fire commissioner, said on social media.

“For hours, they searched for anyone who may have been trapped or injured,” she continued. “We have confirmed that no one was under that pile.”

On Tuesday, the intersection where the building corner fell was taped off, as an excavator rumbled on the street below. The Buildings Department was also on scene.

The agency said its “forensic engineering team is monitoring preparations for emergency demolition operations on the building’s collapsed corner. Our investigation into the cause of the collapse is ongoing.”

The top floor was the only level of the building that had not collapsed. 

Building Concerns, Fines

Residents of the building have previously complained of strange odors, elevator outages and a “general sense” that the building was not structurally sound.

“Multiple apartments in this building are overcrowded and you can hear the building deteriorating,” said a complaint filed in 2017. In 2015, a resident’s complaint said, “the building is highly unstable,” adding, “you can hear it cracking and deteriorating from the inside.”

The New York Times reports that, just last month, the Department of Buildings issued a $2,400 fine to the building’s owner for “deteriorated and broken mudsills” at the base of scaffolding that wrapped the property. The damage could affect the scaffolding’s “structural stability causing a potential collapse,” the fine read.

Additionally, more than 25 complaints were lodged against the building last month alone, according to the New York Daily News.

Prior to that, in 2020, the building’s brick facade was deemed “unsafe” after a required inspection by a structural engineer revealed “significant masonry damage throughout the facade,” including cracks in the brick.

The owner was ordered to repair the exterior; however, it was not immediately known on Monday whether the repairs had been completed.

The engineer’s report determined that the deterioration was “generally caused by aging” as well as exposure to the elements.

“I want to be clear: Unsafe facade conditions is not the same as an unsafe building,” Buildings Department Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said at the news conference. While the property had seven unresolved violations, they weren’t structural, he added.

Oddo said officials would scrutinize drawings pertaining to the collapsed area. The images were submitted as part of permitting for the facade work.

After the collapse on Monday, the city’s Emergency Management Department issued a request for a structural stability inspection of the site.

The building is owned by a limited liability company, 1915 Realty, who could not be reached for comment.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Building design; Building facades; Building owners; Good Technical Practice; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Public Buildings; Residential; Safety; Violations

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