NYC inspecting buildings, construction sites following earthquake

The Department of Buildings is adding extra staff this weekend, just in case they need to respond to reports of damage after Friday's 4.8-magnitude earthquake. 

But inspectors are also being deployed to perform random spot-checks of construction sites around the city.

The Department of Buildings told contractors Friday to thoroughly inspect their sites. They want to make sure nothing was shaken loose or out of place. And if an inspector finds a site is not secured -- they are threatening to issue violations.

"You need to go out and check on your buildings, even if those sites are closed," said DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo.

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The concern this weekend is what damage the earthquake could have caused inside the city's many construction sites.

"After you have an event like this, you often have aftershocks that involve further ground motions," said Benjamin Cornelius, LERA Consulting Structural Engineers. So, things that may become loosened during the initial event can then fall and injure people."

The Department of Buildings wants contractors to check on the cranes, the scaffolding, and hoists that may have become unsteady because of the tremors.

"Cracks that you might see, that might materialize and manifest in a week or a month. Scaffolding, retaining walls," Oddo said.

No damage was reported, but the city says it’s deploying extra inspectors and engineers to check on construction sites to ensure developments in progress are safe and secure after the shaking. If they deem a site not secure, they can issue violations, even work stop orders as punishment.

"People don’t do what they should do, which is look things over and report things they believe are unsafe," said Cornelius.

Screens displaying news reports of an earthquake in the Times Square neighborhood of New York, US, on Friday, April 5, 2024. The New York area's strongest earthquake in 140 years rattled northern New Jersey on Friday morning, shaking office buildings

There are 1.1 million buildings in New York City. And some are made to absorb and mitigate the effects of a quake. But breaks, cracks, and fractures may reveal themselves in time, especially, in aging walk-ups, buildings built before 1995, and properties relying on unreinforced masonry.

"I think you should be more concerned about your older, mid-rise buildings, the sort of 5-10 story level," said seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones, "Those probably haven't been engineered for winds, and therefore might be more susceptible to earthquakes."

If you don't know how to secure a construction site because you've never had to deal with an earthquake, the DOB says hire a professional. If anyone suspects a building has been compromised, call 311 or 911 if you think it’s an emergency.