Building collapse raises questions about construction safety uptown
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 9/21/2011, 7:26 p.m.
A building collapsed Tuesday in Harlem, leaving scores of people injured and creating a shockwave of fear regarding the safety of construction sites in Harlem.
Just before 9:30 on Tuesday morning, a demolition project at 301 W. 125th St. on Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem went terribly wrong. A wall of the two-story brick building collapsed onto 125th Street, hitting nearby pedestrians and a Bx15 MTA bus.
Ambulances, fire trucks and police were on the scene in minutes, assessing the damage and evacuating the surrounding area because of a suspected gas leak from the collapsed building. Reports indicate that up to 18 people were injured. The AmNews was informed that a worker was possibly trapped inside the building, but no fatalities were reported.
"This is just mayhem," said one onlooker who saw the building fall. "I just walked under that pass. I just missed being hit."
At 10:20 a.m., State Sen. Bill Perkins said several people were trapped in the bus, but no one was seriously injured. He and City Councilwoman Inez Dinkins, also on the scene, called for an investigation into the collapse. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also appeared at the scene.
Dickens said in a statement that she had been informed about seven violations being issued at the site. In total, there were six violations to the contractor and one violation to the owner and developer.
In the days preceding the incident, people in the blocks surrounding the demolition site, including staff at the Amsterdam News, have complained that their buildings were shaking from the heavy construction going on at the site.
As development of new buildings continues across Harlem, critics of the new development say that in a race to build and pack in tenants, safety is falling by the wayside.
"We need a full investigation of what is going on here," Perkins said on the scene. "Not only should we look into the safety of this building, but also the safety of many construction sites uptown."
Talking to the media at the scene of the collapse, Deputy Mayor of Operations Cas Holloway said that the site appears to have had the permission to do demolition, but there have been complaints of bricks falling onto the street.
"We're going to do a full investigation here. It appears with the information we have right now that this was a fully permitted hand demo job," said Holloway. "Engineers are required to submit plans for these jobs. We have those plans."
According to the Department of Buildings, a stop-work order has been placed on the property. There are a total of 12 complaints and 20 violations. The buildings contractor is Disano Demolition, located in Queens.
The project is tearing down the remains of the entire block between 125th and 126th streets on the west side of Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Businesses that previously occupied the space included Manna's Restaurant, Bobby's Happy House and KFC. The businesses were put out nearly two years ago to make way for the construction of a new building that will include retail, residential and office spaces.
Additional reporting by Amity Paye.