NEW YORK - A series of incidents across New York City have increased concerns about the dangers of debris falling from buildings in disrepair.
In the most recent incident, crews have installed a sidewalk shed at Park Avenue and 61st Street on Friday due to a large piece of metal hanging from a building’s roof. The Department of Buildings immediately ordered the building’s owner to install the shed and make necessary repairs.
This comes after a fatal accident in Flushing, Queens on January 16 when high winds caused a plywood panel covered with aluminum to collapse from a building on Main Street, killing a 67-year-old woman.
That same day, debris came crashing down from a building under construction on West 57th Street, piercing the roof of a taxi.
Finally, last December, a chunk of a façade killed an architect in Times Square as she was walking on the sidewalk.
Experts say that part of the problem is that the Department of Buildings simply does not have enough manpower to enforce rules and regulations.
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“The Department of Buildings has been shortchanged in the ability to do the kind of enforcement that the citizens of this city deserve,” said Barry Lepatner, a construction lawyer.
According to Lepatner, the city should be using camera technology that works like an x-ray to examine buildings.
“To get up on a scaffold, you’re not just observing the exterior, but to be able to determine whether there’s rust, advanced corrosion, fracture cracks inside those terracotta pieces or bricks or concrete blocks and know in advance, years before damage is going to occur and require building owners to fix that,” Lepatner said.
In a statement, the Department of Buildings said: “While we are always open to look at new technologies in the service of improving safety in New York City, nothing will be able to replace tried-and-true, up-close, hands-on inspections performed by trained professionals.”
Since December’s fatal accident, the Department of Buildings has doubled the number of inspectors to inspect the exterior of buildings throughout New York City to 22.