Structural issues, violations abound in NYC parking garages

Inspectors probe garages across city after deadly FiDi collapse last month

(Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)
(Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty)

In New York City’s aging parking garages, structural issues are widespread and corrective action is scant.

An analysis by the New York Times found garages across the city with open violations related to structural decay or overcapacity, two factors suspected to have played a role in the collapse of a Financial District structure that killed one and injured several others last month. 

The deadly incident, which the FDNY theorized occurred after the weight of the cars on the roof caused the structure to crumble, prompted the Department of Buildings to look into structures with open Class 1 violations. 

The city said as of late April it had identified a slew of parking structures with violations classified as “immediately hazardous” and needing prompt repairs, but has released little other information about its findings. 

The Times’ analysis of building inspections and public records and interviews with engineers and former city officials shed light on the city’s apparent failures to inspect parking garages and follow-up on or enforce code violations. Owners and garage operators brushed off the Times’ probe, minimizing hazards logged by inspectors or suggesting that city records are wrong.

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New York City had 300 multi-story parking garages operating as of last week, according to the Times. Since the April collapse, inspectors visited 187 of them, shutting down three and partially closing 12 others for repairs.  

Forty multi-story parking structures across the city are the same age or older as the nearly 100-year-old garage that collapsed last month. Apart from their age, many of these structures pose a specific concern because they were built with cinder concrete, which is more porous and vulnerable to water damage, according to the Times.  

But violations have proliferated across the city’s garages, regardless of their age. More than 175 recorded at least one building code violation in the last 20 years and about 130 had been cited twice or more for unsafe conditions or exceeded capacity. 

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The outlet found an additional two dozen garages with yearslong open enforcement cases that were inspected again only after the collapse. 

Unstable structures can pose a danger to adjoining properties too: Two of the four garages that DOB officials ordered partially or fully evacuated last month were beneath apartment buildings.