Questions Over Harlem Building Collapse

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Two months ago, city officials tried to alert the owner of a Harlem building of structural problems. That building collapsed last week, snarling Metro-North traffic for hours.

But how the warning was delivered has raised questions about the way the Buildings Department contacts property owners in emergencies. WNYC's Matthew Schuerman reports.

The Buildings Department sent a letter to the building's manager January 11, declaring that the apartment house was "in imminent peril," and ordering that it be repaired or demolished immediately.

But the manager never received it. The letter was sent to a vacant building, an address the department found on an 18-month-old application for a renovation permit.

The property's owner, New York Observer publisher Jared Kushner, says through a spokesman that officials should have called his manager if the matter was urgent. The telephone number on that permit application is still valid.

The Buildings Department did not respond to a request for comment.

For WNYC, I'm Matthew Schuerman.

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