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Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf is a New York Plaintiff's personal injury law firm specializing in automobile accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, products liability, police misconduct and all types of New York personal injury litigation.

Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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location of the building collapseBuildings continue to collapse like  card castles in New York City.  The facade of a building located at 204 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg came crashing down on the sidewalk yesterday afternoon around 12;45 pm. Luckily nobody was injured in the collapse as the building was vacant at the time of the accident and nobody was in the street because of the heavy rain caused by the tropical Storm Isaias.  There was only damage to the cars parked in the vicinity of the building as falling debris poured onto the street. Residents of adjacent buildings were  evacuated. The DOB issued a fully vacate order to the building located next door at 206 Bedford Avenue while inspectors are still figuring out the causes of the partial structural building collapse.

The  building that collapsed had not logged any complaints since 2003 when a complaint for loud noise related to illegal construction after hours was filed.  2 violations were opened by the DOB after the collapse  for “structure rendered non-compliant after front facade and 3rd floor collapsed”.

The Brooklyn building collapse followed a series of  other building collapses in New York City:

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location of the falling debris accidentA man suffered a skull fracture after a facade collapsed on him as he was walking on a New York City sidewalk.  39 year-old Oumar Ba, a father of two, was walking  on the sidewalk on St. Johns Place in Crown Heights yesterday afternoon around 3:00 pm. when a chunk of bricks and debris fell on him.  His friend Abdouramane Thiam whom he was visiting, as well as other local vendors who witnessed the accident ran to rescue the man as he was lying unconscious on the ground. They called 911 and applied pressure on the back of his head to contain the bleeding until the EMS arrived.  Oumar Ba was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture and injuries to his ribs and shoulder. He is now in stable condition.

Violation for for failure to maintain exterior building wall open since 2004!

The building is an old movie theater that has been reconverted into commercial use. Several complaints dating from as far as 2004 have been logged with the DOB about the illegal  occupancy of the second floor. The building received a total of 37 DOB violations including 28 still open and dating as far as 1991.  The building also has OATH/ECB violations for failure to maintain the exterior building walls open since 2004! The violation mentions “brick work cracked and mortar joints missing with missing bricks at second floor front of building also defective brick work with missing mortar joint”.

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Building that collapsed in ManhattanAnother building partially collapsed in Manhattan yesterday, The building that hosts a mix of residences and commercial spaces is located at 211 East 34th Street. It was completely empty and was undergoing construction work. Around 11:30 am yesterday morning a first part of the wall collapsed followed an hour later by another collapse.

Nobody was injured but the street was closed by the police and the residents of an adjacent  building were evacuated for safety.

The collapsed occurred in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan a few blocks away from another deadly construction accident that occurred a few hours later and during which a piece of parapet detached from the roof and landed on a hanging scaffolding, killing one construction worker and injuring 3 others.

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A man was injured in a partial building collapse in Manhattan. Part of the facade of a building containing a parking garage on 203 East 38th Street near third Avenue in Murray Hill  crashed down the street falling on a parked Limousine with TLC plates. The driver who was sitting in the car at the time of the accident was injured as debris falling from the top of the building partially destroyed his car. The windows were broken and the trunk dented. Another man who was making a delivery nearby just had the time to escape and run away from the disaster. According to witnesses, first a few bricks fell on the ground and then immediately after a significant part of the wall followed.

Complaints of illegal construction work were previously filed with the  NYC Department of Buildings

The parking garage was closed during the coronavirus crisis. It opened and closed several times last year according to a local resident who was interviewed by CBS News. The resident said that on some days he witnessed trucks coming out of the garage carrying loads of debris. The DOB received previous complaints that construction work was being done at the location without valid permits. Inspectors were sent twice to the location but were not able to enter the building according to the DOB.  The building which is under a partial vacate order  received 3 previous violations in May and June related to damages to the roof and floor that were categorized as “immediate emergency”. These violations were still active at the time of the accident.

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1200px-Harlem_condemned_buildingTwo people were recently killed by falling debris in New York. In January a woman was killed in Queens after a piece of plywood detached from a building (see previous blog). A month before another woman was killed in Midtown after debris from a building under construction fell on her (see previous post).

Months before the accident occurred, the department of buildings issued a class one violation to the building owner notifying him that some pieces of terra-cota were damaged and were causing a risk to pedestrians. The building fought the violation and its lawyer told the DOB that the facade didn’t pose an immediate danger to pedestrians. “The photos and the allegations, even taken together, do not substantiate the claim that there’s any kind of a falling hazard,”  he said to the DOB. The DOB agreed to downgrade the violation but still required that the building owner repair the facade. A permit to put up a sidewalk shed and repair the facade was issued to the building owner but month later nothing had been done and as a result someone died (see article in Wall Street Journal).

In other cases, sheds and protection are installed, but the owner doesn’t effectuate any repairs and ignore the fines received by the DOB. In 2001 the owner of a building in the Bronx was required by the DOB to immediately close a children’s playground that was compromised by a crumbling facade. The owner closed the playground but never did the repairs. The playground has now been closed for almost 20 years and the building owner has ignored 19 violations, didn’t pay the accumulated $49,000 in fines and didn’t show up at 7 hearings on the dangerous conditions. This situation is not unique. In new York City, there are 1,400 facades that have been deemed dangerous for pedestrians by the DOB and that have not been repaired yet (see New York Times article).

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41-28-MainA pedestrian was killed by falling debris in New York City. 67 year old Xiang Ji was walking on Main Street near 41st Street in Flushing, Queens Thursday morning around 9:45 am. There was a strong wind and as she walked in front of the building located at 41-28 Main Street, a piece of plywood covered with aluminium detached from the roof and fell on her.

The woman was knocked down on the sidewalk. Witnesses tried to help her until EMS arrived. She was rushed to the hospital but she couldn’t be saved.

The building owner who has 18 violations open with the DOB was slapped with another violation for failure to properly maintain the building. The DOB also required the owner of the building to erect a sidewalk shed on the top of the sidewalk to protect pedestrians from any further problems. The previous violations were mostly related to effectuating work without a permit inside the building. (Picture of the location of the accident: courtesy of Google Map)

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Injuries or even deaths related to ice falling from buildings in New York City isn’t something new and it is quite common for NYC pedestrians to see sidewalks partially closed during the winter because of the potential risk of ice chunks falling from buildings.

Recently however, entire streets of the city were closed for several days by the police because of massive chunks of ice falling from supertall glass skyscrapers.

https://youtu.be/3MnUmG4UA4I

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Following the tragic death of  architect Erica Tishman who was killed by falling debris in Times Square, New York two days ago, Inside Edition looked at previous cases of victims struck by falling debris.

They talked to our client Jayson Greene who lost his 2 year old daughter Greta after a brick fell on her. At the time of the accident, Greta was sitting on her grandmother’s lap on a bench in the Upper West Side of Manhattan (see more info in previous blog). Jason  told Inside Edition that no one in New York City should fear for their life when walking in the street. He felt very sad for the family of Erica Tishman who will have to endure the same tragedy his family went through when his daughter was killed.

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Lead poisoning can cause lifetime injuries especially when it affects unborn children, babies or toddlers. Damage to the brain and the nervous system leading to compartmental behavior issues such as irritability, hyperactivity or inattentiveness, learning and reading disorders, delayed gross and hearing loss are among the most common consequences of lead poisoning. Lead paint in housing was banned in the early 70ies and in New York City, The City’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act (Local Law 1 of 2004) requires landlords to check their propriety for lead and take necessary action to remove it if the building was built before 1960 (or if the owner knows lead paint was used between 1960 and 1978 and if children below the age of 6 live in their property).  The plan of the city was to eliminate lead poisoning by the year 2010 but a report by the New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that between January 1, 2013 and October 10, 2018 alone, 26,027 children under the age of 18 tragically tested positive for elevated blood lead levels of 5 micro-grams per deciliter (5 mcg/dL) or greater. Furthermore the investigation found that the city knew about it and didn’t take any measures to protect these children.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) received thousands of alarming blood results each of them with the name and the address of the children but the results where never shared with the the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) so they could proactively inspect the locations at risk and take the appropriate measures to address the dangerous situation. Instead HPD only deployed inspectors on locations after receiving complaints from residents.  The report shows that the city clearly missed its goal to eradicate childhood lead poisoning and protect children from the irreparable arm associated with lead exposure. While the City issued the LeadFreeNYC Plan in 2019, the report shows its complete failure  to leverage its own data related to lead exposure and utilize that data to precisely and methodically inspect buildings and areas most likely to pose a threat to children.

Read Report here

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Thankfully nobody was injured by debris that fell from the elevated line tracks in Queens, NYC, last week. Last Wednesday, a hunk of rusty metal fell on Fernando Marin’s car, cracking the windshield. The car was parked on Roosevelt Ave below the elevated tracks. The owner, Fernando Martin told the NY Daily News that it was really scary and that the metal could have hit his head. He felt lucky to be alive.

Almost two weeks before the incident, a Uber driver also had a terrifying experience just two blocks away. A wooden plank from the elevated train platform flew into his car. The driver wasn’t injured but he was in shock. The wooden debris came from an old supply platform that was installed under the tracks years ago. MTA workers were seen dismantling the rest of the rotted wood beams a few days later.

On Monday the MTA also announced that the line 7 elevated tracks were safe and that it was perfectly safe to stand or drive under them. They also indicated that a truck hit the track structure recently in the areas of the falling debris and that this accident may have caused the two incidents but no root cause has been identified.