Accident at Columbia University-owned demolition site kills one, injures two

By Guelda Voien | March 22, 2012 11:40AM

[Updated at 1:04 p.m., with comment from Borough President Scott Stringer] One construction worker is dead and two others injured after a collapse this morning at a construction site in West Harlem owned by Columbia University, the police and fire departments told The Real Deal.

A call came in at 7:51 a.m. regarding a collapse at 606 West 131st Street, between Broadway and Riverside Drive, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings (note: correction appended).

Three construction workers had to be removed from the rubble. One worker was dead at the scene, and the other two were injured and transported to St. Luke’s-Rooosevelt Hospital in “serious” condition, the New York City Police Department said.

The DOB confirmed that demolition work was taking place at the site, and that the work was being done for Columbia. City records show a deed for the site transferred to the trustees of Columbia Feb. 29 from the New York State Urban Development Corp. Columbia declined to confirm its ownership of the building.

According to DOB’s website, the site has two pending violations, issued March 5, for “failure to notify [the] department of demolition work,” and “failure to safeguard persons/property affected by construction operations.”

Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, in a statement from his office this morning, noted the violations as well as complaints registered with the DOB this morning about “vibrations and structural stability at the site.”

“I am calling on DOB to immediately mount a full investigation into the cause of this tragedy,” Stringer said in the statement.

A DOB spokesperson said the agency was currently investigating the collapse but would not speculate as to the cause.

A Columbia spokesperson was not sure what firm was responsible for the demolition work, but said a statement on the incident was forthcoming.