Wagswoofs – A potential oversight during the inspection process could be the cause behind the partial collapse of a building in the Bronx.
In an exclusive interview with CBS New York on Friday, the Department of Buildings commissioner revealed that the individual believed to be responsible for the error had conducted inspections on numerous other buildings in New York City.
According to Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo, the city has not yet determined the exact cause of the collapse in Morris Heights. However, Oddo mentioned that there was a significant construction error that occurred on the day of the incident.
He described it as a fundamental, basic, yet crucial and catastrophic error.
According to Oddo, the inspection report by an engineer falsely claimed that the corner beam of the building was merely decorative, when in fact it played a crucial role in supporting the entire structure.
“It wasn’t even a close call. It should never have been a close call. It should have been clear as day that this pier was load bearing, and the fact that this misjudgment occurred, followed by actions taken based on that misjudgment, is truly alarming,” expressed Oddo.
According to Oddo’s investigation, it was discovered that construction work was being carried out on the day of the collapse, which contradicts the initial information provided to first responders.
The building’s owner hired a private engineer to inspect the structure, who identified cracks in the corner pier. As a result, the necessary repairs were carried out to address this issue.
According to Oddo, the engineer’s drawings on which this project was based contained a significant error regarding the purpose of the pier. Instead of being merely decorative, the pier was meant to bear a substantial amount of weight.
According to the initial findings of the investigation, it appears that workers were removing necessary bricks prior to the collapse of the structure. Although it is still early in the investigation, this information provides some insight into the potential cause of the incident.
According to Yegal Shamash, the chief structural engineer of the department, he advised the contractor to replace the loose bricks with new ones. However, he emphasized the importance of installing temporary supports before removing the bricks, especially since they were supporting six floors of the building above.
Ali Bauman of CBS New York asked if this collapse could have been prevented.
Oddo emphasized the significance of the mistake, stating that it was crucial for professional engineers licensed by the state of New York to recognize the integral value and importance of the pier to the building’s integrity.
“Did the contractor have a better understanding of the situation?” questioned Bauman.
Shamash explained that the engineer possessed a collection of plans and diligently adhered to them during the project.
Over 40 families are currently without a place to call home, as they were forced to move from one emergency shelter to another on Friday.
Resident Leticia Ortiz expressed her dire situation, stating, “I lack a home, clothes, and possessions.”
According to the Department of Buildings, an engineer has submitted facade inspections for over 300 buildings throughout New York City.
Oddo expressed his determination to regain the trust of New Yorkers by thoroughly examining the engineer’s efforts.
The engineer’s ability to perform facade inspections in New York City is being suspended by the department. Additionally, they are urging the state to review his license status for inspections in general.
Oddo mentioned that he will need to examine the city’s inspection process involving private engineers.
The Department of Buildings in New York City does not have sufficient staff to personally inspect every building. Therefore, it relies on property owners to hire their own engineers and conduct inspections, as was the case in this situation.
The Department of Buildings (DOB) is currently conducting inspections on the remaining 40 properties owned by the same landlord. Additionally, they are thoroughly examining over 350 buildings across New York that have previously been inspected by the engineer in question.
Bauman questioned whether the city of New York needs to modify its building inspection procedures in light of incidents like this where a structure was able to literally slip through the cracks.
Oddo expressed that his team is currently undergoing a thorough examination of their internal processes in order to identify areas where improvements can be made.
We have contacted the engineer and the landlord for comment and are currently awaiting their response.