update: Parking structure in Lower Manhattan, originally built in 1925, had unresolved safety violations

April 19 The New York Times – By Patrick McGeehan and Hurubie Meko

The parking structure in Lower Manhattan, originally built in 1925, had unresolved safety violations, city officials said.

The fatal collapse of a parking garage in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday came less than nine months before New York City’s first deadline for such structures to be inspected for hazardous conditions.

Until last year, the city’s parking garages had been exempt from the requirements for periodic inspections that apply to most other buildings. Structural engineers have only recently begun filing reports with the city’s Buildings Department on the conditions they find at free-standing garages like the one at 57 Ann Street, which collapsed, killing one person and injuring five others.

As cranes began dismantling the damaged structure on Wednesday, answers as to what caused it to fail were not immediately forthcoming — though the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, opened an investigation into the collapse, a spokeswoman said.

The body of the person killed in the collapse remained in the rubble for much of Wednesday as demolition crews worked on the damaged building. City officials declined to release the person’s name.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Eric Adams said city officials were examining the incident closely. “If there’s something we could put in place to prevent something like this from happening, we will,” he said.

There were “close to 50” vehicles on the roof of the garage when it collapsed, said Joseph J. Esposito, deputy commissioner for enforcement in the Buildings Department.

“We’re trying to move very slowly to be as safe as possible to remove that person in there,” he said.

At the news conference, Mr. Adams stressed that the law passed by the City Council in recent years mandating garage inspections puts the onus on building owners to arrange for and carry out the inspections.

The building that collapsed, a four-story structure originally built in 1925 and used as a garage for more than 60 years, had not been inspected under the new law, records show. But it had a history of violations and reports of hazardous conditions, including cracked and spalling concrete, city records show.

Spalling is a sort of crumbling of concrete that can be caused by repeated freezing and thawing or exposure to water and road salts, engineers said. It was cited as a factor in the 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium complex in Surfside, Fla., which killed 98 people.

Nearly 20 years ago, in late 2003, the owner of the Ann Street garage was cited for cracks and spalling of its concrete slabs and paid a penalty of $800, according to a summary of the violation. But the record does not indicate that the hazardous conditions were ever fixed.

In 2010, an engineer received a permit to do “general concrete and facade repairs” on the parking garage. That work was intended to cure four outstanding code violations, city records show. But one of those violations, classified as a type that must be corrected immediately, was still listed as open in the Buildings Department’s records on Wednesday.

The city said the department conducted an inspection of the garage in late 2011 and “observed that the permitted repair work was ongoing and that the interior maintenance of the building was in good condition.”

The owners of the building could not be reached.

Investigators will have to “pull apart” the garage to determine what caused the collapse, said Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. However, the fact that its partial collapse did not cause the whole building to fall points to a possibility that the failure occurred in one “vertical location,” he said.

Find ACRA Members

Find A Member to Help with: