Buildings Department Admits Fault in Collapse

As demolition of a collapsed apartment building in East Harlem continues, the city's Buildings Department now admits it didn't properly handle an emergency situation before it was too late.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The vacant 5-story building on East 124th St. had been visited by building inspectors six times over the last year following complaints of falling debris.

In a statement Thursday, Buildings Department Commissioner Patricia Lancaster said the building was declared unsafe last January 11.

That's when an "Immediate Emergency Declaration" was issued, under which the city would secure the building at the owner's expense, if the owner did not do the work immediately.

Lancaster said the emergency order was not properly processed even after another inspection January 23 confirmed the emergency repair work was not being done.

Two days before the collapse, engineers for the building's owner contacted the Buildings Department to get permission to begin demolishing the building on Wednesday.

But by then it was too late. The building collapsed Tuesday afternoon, causing a massive disruption for Metro-North commuters trying to get home.

For WNYC, I'm Lance Luckey.

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