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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 Tagged with falling debris

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BABY-GRETAImagine a scenario almost too terrible to speak about.  But by not speaking about it, justice will never be done, and others might be injured.  On May 17, 2015, a caring, loving grandmother took her 2-year-old grandchild for a walk in New York City.  They paused for a moment and were in front of a building when the unimaginable and unthinkable happened –– a portion of the cement façade of the building fell 8 stories and crushed that beautiful grandchild to death in front of her grandmother’s eyes.

In New York State there is a doctrine of law known as “zone of danger” damages, in which an “immediate” family member can receive compensation for the emotional harm suffered in witnessing the death of a family member.  But there was one caveat: before today, a grandmother was not considered to be an “immediate” family member.  Unfortunately, the grandmother’s claim for zone-of-danger damages was dismissed by the Appellate Division.  That injustice was something that had to be rectified.  The NYC personal injury lawyers of Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman and Mackauf  have never given up in the face of injustice.  “When the law is wrong, it’s time to change the law,” said Ben Rubinowitz.  “That is why we took this case and fought all the way to the highest Court in the State.”

Today, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision reversing the Appellate Division.  Through our hard work and fortitude justice will now be done.  The grandmother’s claim has been reinstated and a jury will now decide what the damages should be awarded for such a horrific injury.

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1200px-Harlem_condemned_buildingTo prevent accidents related to façade collapse or falling debris, any New York City buildings of six stories or higher must have its façade inspected every five years  as part of what is known as the “Façade Inspection Safety Program”. This program was started in 1980 after Grace Gold, a Columbia University student, was killed by falling debris on a Broadway sidewalk. It was originally called Local Law 10 which then morphed into Local Law 11 as the DOB tried to improve the inspection  process.

Despite the regular inspections,  falling debris from defective façades continue to kill and injure pedestrians.  Last year multiple cases of façade collapses including a dramatic accident during which architect Erica Tishman was killed by falling masonry, lead the Department of Buildings to issue a new amended rule for façade inspections in New York City just before the start of the 9th Cycle Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) starting on February 20.

Penalties are going up

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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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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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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.