The Daily Dirt: NYC building collapses raise questions about enforcement

An analysis of New York's top real estate news

Over the last month, six buildings partially or fully collapsed. All had at least one thing in common.

That is, the buildings were not required to undergo periodic facade inspections. Under the city’s Facade Inspection and Safety Program, properties taller than six stories must be inspected by a licensed professional every five years. The Department of Buildings says even if buildings are exempt, owners aren’t off the hook.

“Our message to building owners is clear: It doesn’t matter how tall your building is, if it is located in the five boroughs we expect you to properly maintain it in a safe condition,” Andrew Rudansky, an agency spokesperson, said in a statement. “For building owners who don’t take that responsibility seriously, they can expect stern legal repercussions.”

The city is still investigating what caused these collapses, and there’s no way to tell whether a periodic inspection would’ve prevented any of them. But the string of recent incidents highlights the regulatory gaps in ensuring that shorter buildings — which number close to 1 million in NYC — are properly maintained. While owners of all buildings can be penalized for neglect, some public officials and industry experts feel the city needs to be more proactive in going after bad actors.

“The discussion ever since 1980 has been, the buildings you excluded tend to be the oldest buildings in the city,” said Stephen Varone, president and founder of Rand Engineering and Architecture. “With every collapse, it becomes more obvious that some sort of increased vigilance has to be done.”

The search is on! Schools are looking for extra space to lease to create more socially distant classrooms.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced in July that the city would look for additional locations, but the governor’s announcement last week that schools can open in September has added urgency to the search. The City reports that local officials, the Real Estate Board of New York and others are searching for space for schools to lease.

The search has netted some out-of-the-box options. A report put together by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office listed Jing Fong, an 850-seat, 20,000-square-foot dim sum restaurant in Chinatown, as a possibility.

What we’re thinking about: Does Brookfield regret buying Jeff Sutton’s stake in the Crown Building? Send a note to


Residential: The priciest residential closing recorded Friday was for a townhouse at 6 West 83rd Street on the Upper West Side at $7.5 million.

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Commercial: The most expensive commercial closing of the day was for three retail buildings in Queens at 97-01 63 Drive, 32-01 30 Avenue, and 101-06 Queens Boulevard at $20 million.


The largest new building filing of the day was for a 21,113-square-foot mixed-use building at 82 Fourth Avenue in Boerum Hill. Posner Abraham of Boerum Hill 82 LLC filed the permit application.


The priciest residential listing to hit the market was for a condo at 41 Great Jones Street in Noho at $14 million. Nest Seekers International has the listing.
— Research by Orion Jones

A thing we’ve learned…

“Open kimono” is a business term that means “to reveal what is being planned or to share important information freely,” according to Investopedia. The phrase’s exact origins are unknown, but according to the New York Times, the term possibly stems from “the rash of Japanese acquisitions of American enterprises in the 80’s.” ABC News recently included the term in a list of phrases that have racist roots. Thank you to Georgia Kromrei for passing along.

Elsewhere in New York

— A Chipotle employee who was fired for trying to take a sick day is back on the job after reaching a settlement with the chain eatery, Gothamist reports. Yeral Martinez tried to take leave due to a back injury he sustained in October. After Martinez filed a complaint in February over his firing, Chipotle agreed to give him his job back, along with $7,200 in back pay.

— A federal judge on Friday signed off on two couples having more than 50 guests at their weddings, the New York Post reports. The couples sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 31, alleging that their wedding venues should be treated like restaurants and other venues that are permitted to operate at 50 percent capacity (outside of NYC, that is).

— Speaking of illegal gatherings, Prospect Park was covered in beer bottles, food containers and other refuse after a series of parties where social-distancing guidelines were flaunted, CBS New York reports.