DOB ramps up façade enforcement following architect’s death

The agency will now send contractors to fix unsafe conditions

TRD New York /
Dec.December 30, 2019 11:41 AM
729 Seventh Ave and DOB Commissioner Melanie La Rocca (Credit: Google Maps)

729 Seventh Ave and DOB Commissioner Melanie La Rocca (Credit: Google Maps)

After a woman was killed earlier this month by debris that fell from a Midtown building, the city is ramping up its enforcement around unsafe building façades.

The Department of Buildings announced Monday that at buildings where the façades’ condition is deemed “immediately hazardous,” the agency will conduct follow-up inspections within 60 days to ensure that proper protection — such as a sidewalk shed or netting — has been installed. If not, city contractors will be sent to perform the work at the owner’s expense. The agency will then perform a follow-up inspection after 90 days to ensure the protection is still in place and that work has commenced to correct the issue.

Erica Tishman, 60, was killed Dec. 17, when she was struck by a chunk of a 17-story office building at 729 Seventh Avenue. Eight months prior to the incident, the city identified damaged terra-cotta above the building’s 15th floor and issued a violation against the building’s owner, Himmel + Meringoff Properties. But the owner didn’t install a sidewalk shed or other protective equipment to protect passersby.

The incident raised questions about the city’s enforcement system. An analysis by The Real Deal found that the city is owed nearly $3 million for certain façade-related infractions. Following Tishman’s death, the DOB inspected 1,331 façades that had been flagged for safety issues. The agency announced Monday that 220 of those properties didn’t have adequate protections for pedestrians.

“New Yorkers should know that we are out in force holding owners feet to the fire, so they get repair work done as quickly as possible while still protecting the public,” DOB Commissioner Melanie La Rocca said in a statement. “With our enhanced inspection protocols and expanded staff, owners who choose to skirt their obligations will face swift consequences.”

In addition to new inspections, the DOB is doubling the number of its façade inspectors (the agency currently has 11). The DOB also plans to conduct random reviews of 25 percent of buildings taller than six stories — in addition to the five-year inspection that’s already required.

A hearing is also being held Monday on proposed rule changes that would increase the amount of experience and responsibilities required for exterior wall inspectors and raise certain façade penalties.

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