A potential mistake during the inspection process could be responsible for the partial collapse of a building in the Bronx that occurred recently.
According to the Department of Buildings commissioner, in an exclusive interview with CBS New York on Friday, the individual believed to be responsible for the mistake examined numerous other buildings in New York City.
The cause of the building collapse in Morris Heights is still under investigation by the city. However, Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo has stated that there was a serious construction error that occurred on the day of the collapse.
He described it as a fundamental, basic, but crucial and catastrophic mistake.
According to Oddo, the inspection report 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.
Oddo expressed his concern over the situation, stating that it should have been obvious that the pier in question was load bearing. He emphasized that the misjudgment made in this case was troubling, as it led to work being done based on that misjudgment. According to Oddo, it was not a close call and it should not have been treated as such.
According to Oddo’s investigation, it was discovered that construction work was being conducted on the day of the collapse, which contradicted the information initially provided to first responders.
The building’s owner hired a private engineer to inspect the property, and based on their report, it was determined that there were cracks in the corner pier that needed to be repaired.
Oddo explained that the engineer’s drawings, which formed the basis of this project, made a critical error in understanding the purpose of the pier. Contrary to being a decorative element, the pier was actually designed to bear a significant amount of weight.
According to preliminary findings from the department, workers were removing crucial bricks before the structure collapsed. Although the investigation is still in its early stages, this initial information sheds light on the possible cause of the incident.
Yegal Shamash, the chief structural engineer of the department, expressed concern over the engineer’s decision to instruct the contractor to remove loose bricks and replace them with new ones without installing additional temporary supports. He emphasized the significance of ensuring the stability of the pier, which supports six floors of the building, before proceeding with such actions.
Ali Bauman from CBS New York inquired whether this collapse could have been prevented.
According to Oddo, it is crucial for viewers to understand the magnitude of this mistake. Any professional engineer licensed by the state of New York would have recognized the pivotal role and significance of this pier in maintaining the building’s structural integrity.
“Bauman raised the question, ‘Should the contractor have known better?'”
According to Shamash, the engineer had a set of plans and they were diligently following those plans.
Over 40 families are now displaced, as they were forced to move from one emergency shelter to another on Friday.
“I have no house. I have no clothes. I have nothing,” expressed resident Leticia Ortiz.
According to the Department of Buildings, over 300 buildings in New York City have had facade inspections submitted by the same engineer.
Oddo stated that they are sending a team to review the work done by the engineer in order to rebuild the trust of New Yorkers.
The engineer’s ability to conduct facade inspections in New York City is being suspended by the department, and they are urging the state to reevaluate his license for inspections overall.
Oddo mentioned that he will need to examine the city’s inspection process involving private engineers.
The Department of Buildings in New York City doesn’t have sufficient staff to inspect every building on its own. Therefore, it depends on property owners to hire their own engineers and submit inspections to the city. This is exactly what occurred in this case.
The Department of Buildings (DOB) is currently conducting inspections on an additional 40 properties belonging to the same landlord, along with over 350 buildings in New York City that have been previously inspected by this specific engineer.
Bauman raised the question of whether the city of New York needs to reconsider its building inspection procedures in light of incidents like this, where a situation can easily go unnoticed.
“We are thoroughly examining all our internal processes to identify opportunities for improvement and innovation,” stated Oddo.
We have contacted the engineer and the landlord for comment and are currently awaiting their response.