The city has suspended the engineer’s authority to inspect exterior walls after the partial collapse of a building in the Bronx.
MORRIS HEIGHTS, Bronx (WABC) — An engineer "misdiagnosed" a load-bearing column as decorative, leading to the partial collapse of a Bronx apartment building last week, city investigators revealed Friday.
The engineer is believed to have made the error during an inspection earlier this year, and the city has now suspended the engineer's authority to inspect exterior walls.
City investigators have recovered video showing workers on the day of the collapse removing bricks from around the corner support column that collapsed. The investigators believe the engineer's faulty assessment resulted in the collapse.
"Our initial investigation into this collapse has made clear that the engineer involved has no business assessing the exterior walls of buildings in New York City, and we're taking action to suspend his ability to do so," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said.
Department of Buildings Commissioner James Oddo said the engineer failed to "recognize a clearly structural column," and said he can no longer be making assessments of the structural integrity of exterior walls of city buildings.
The investigators have talked to the workers at the job that day as part of their probe.
They will look at work previously done by the engineer and those projects under construction. The Department of Buildings say it's auditing 368 facade inspection reports by that engineer.
Investigators are also looking at dozens of buildings owned by the owners of 1915 Billingsley Terrace, proactively inspecting those structures. No improprieties have yet been discovered.
The collapse happened at the seven-story occupied building in Morris Heights on Monday.
No one was seriously injured by the falling debris, but some 150 residents were displaced as a result, many of which who are now dealing with the uncertainty that has come with this disaster.
New York City Councilmember Pierina Sanchez chairs the Housing and Buildings committee and is promising hearings.
She's been consoling the families, some of whom were able to retrieve essential items from their apartments on Thursday and Friday, but their time inside is short.
"Once you're inside, it's a countdown — 20 minutes. Grab as much as you can," tenant Vannesa Olivo said. "We grabbed pictures, memories, but in 20 minutes you can't grab 50 years of life."
Sanchez's office is offering some support by distributing gift cards to help tenants replace items they need as their Red Cross hotel stays run out and they're placed in Housing Preservation and Development shelters.
While it's not much, a $200 gift card means a whole lot to displaced tenants, like Leticia Ortiz. It means food for her family and her little girl.
Diana Martinez and her family are also among those displaced. She says her husband injured himself running out of their building as part of it collapsed on Monday.
"He's in pain but he has to be here with me you know," Martinez said.
Their hotel stay is up, and now they're driving off to a shelter.
"I wanna find an apartment for myself on my own because if I wait on the city that'll take time and I can't have my kids from place to place," she said.
New York Congressman Ritchie Torres believes more needs to be done to protect residents from unexpected housing tragedies.
"Every American every New Yorker every Bronxite should have the peace of mind that comes with living in a building that's structure is sound and stable," Torres said.
On Thursday, federal lawmakers called for federal oversight of city buildings at risk of collapse. The Billingsley Terrace building is 96 years old.
The No. 1 priority right now is ensuring no displaced family ends up on the street.
"Step two right is that longer term – you know how could this happen – what can we do to protect you and everyone else in a similar situation to you," said City Council Member Pierina Sanchez.
Sanchez says a fundraiser organized by the Bronx Community Foundation is legitimate and is making sure all proceeds go to helping the families displaced.
ALSO READ | Engineer warned of 'unsafe' facade at Morris Heights partially collapsed building
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