The Daily Dirt: When a building collapses in NYC

An analysis of New York's top real estate news

TRD New York /
Jul.July 02, 2020 07:00 PM
348 Court Street (Google Maps, Twitter/FDNY)

348 Court Street (Google Maps, Twitter/FDNY)

A building collapsed in Brooklyn yesterday. Luckily no one was inside, but why does this keep happening?

In the weeks after an architect was killed by terra-cotta falling from a Midtown building last year, I found myself warily looking up on my walk to and from work. As the city cracked down on landlords who’d neglected to fix crumbling building exteriors, sidewalk sheds ominously started appearing along my route.

The collapse of an entire building is a next-level nightmare, especially as New Yorkers find themselves, more than ever, confined to their aging apartment buildings for long stretches of time. The three-story building at 348 Court Street that collapsed yesterday had a gym on its ground floor, which was luckily closed for the pandemic.

It’s not clear why the building fell apart. Eight years ago, a brownstone two blocks away partially collapsed. Amazingly, no one was hurt in that incident either. A New York Times article at the time suggested that the building had slowly become unstable after the townhouse to its right was torn down in the 1950s.

But the city identified issues at 348 Court Street before yesterday. The owner was hit with a partial stop-work order earlier this month for a brick wall “dangerously bulging” over the sidewalk as construction workers performed demolition work on the facade. That doesn’t necessarily account for building-wide instability, though a bulging exterior wall doesn’t bode well. In 2006 the city received a complaint of a “HORIZONTAL CRACK AND A BULGE, ON THE SIDE OF BLDG” (complaints to the Department of Buildings always appear in CAPS). In November 2015, another complaint about the address came in as: “I WOULD LIKE TO REPORT A BUILDING THAT LOOKS UNSTABLE.”

According to open data, some 4,124 facades in the city are considered unsafe. Of course, “unsafe” represents a range of conditions that the Department of Buildings defines as “problems/defects that threaten public safety.” After the fatal incident last December, we identified issues with the agency’s enforcement of facade violations. The fact that it has to grapple with enforcing Covid-19 restrictions on top of the usual building regulations, with limited resources, raises further questions over how the agency will keep up.

Programming note: The Daily Dirt will observe Independence Day on Friday, July 3. The newsletter will return Monday, July 6. Have a nice weekend, and stay safe! Wear a mask!

What we’re thinking about: What do you think of Nestio’s rebrand as “Funnel”? Send a note or alternative name suggestions to [email protected].

CLOSING TIME

Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded Wednesday was for a condo unit at 15 Jay Street in Tribeca, at $7.9 million.

Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was for two apartment buildings at 556 and 570 Lefferts Avenue in Crown Heights, at $18.25 million.

BREAKING GROUND

The largest new building filing of the day was for a 30,793-square-foot eight-story apartment building at 712 East 180th Street in Crotona. Eduart Shllaku of Shllaku Realty filed the permit application.

NEW TO THE MARKET

The priciest residential listing to hit the market was for a co-op at 24 East 20th Street in Gramercy Park, at $12.95 million. Douglas Elliman has the listing.
— Research by Orion Jones

A thing we’ve learned…

The entities behind some Broadway shows have creative names. For example: “Wicked” is tied to Munchkinland Productions LP; “Hamilton,” to Philip Tour LLC; “Westside Story,” to Danish San Juan LLC; and “To Kill a Mockingbird” to Atticus LLC. Thank you to Kevin Sun, who found these factoids in state WARN notices. :(

Elsewhere in New York

— Phew. The Strand is moving forward with its plans to take over Book Culture’s old Upper West Side location, Gothamist reports. The bookstore plans to open the doors of its new shop at 450 Columbus Avenue later this month.

— Mayor Bill de Blasio defended NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea’s criticism of the city’s 2021 budget’s cuts to the agency, Politico New York reports. Shea told Fox 5’s Good Day New York that the City Council “bow[ed] to mob rule.” “The commissioner is grappling with a whole lot right now,” the mayor said during a press briefing. “We are asking a lot of the NYPD to keep this city safe as always, which the NYPD does very well, the ability to innovate, change strategies, deal with whatever is thrown at them.”

— The mayor has delayed painting a Black Lives Matter mural in front of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, the New York Post reports.The unexplained scheduling change came one day after President Trump criticized the mayor and the plan on Twitter.


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