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Engineer Who Inspected Bronx Building Made Grave Error That Likely Led To Collapse, New York City Says

A fundamental inspection error may have led to the partial collapse of a building in the Bronx this week.

The person allegedly responsible for the error inspected hundreds of other buildings in New York City, the Department of Buildings commissioner said in an exclusive interview with CBS New York on Friday.

While the city has not made a final determination on what caused a section of the building in Morris Heights to collapse on Monday, Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said there was an egregious error with construction being done on the day of the collapse.

“A fundamental, a basic, but crucial and catastrophic mistake,” he said.

Oddo said an engineer wrote in his inspection that the corner beam of the building was simply decorative, when in reality it was holding the building together.

“It wasn’t a close call. It shouldn’t have been a close call. This should have been obvious that this pier was load bearing, and that misjudgment and then work done based on that misjudgment is really concerning,” said Oddo.

Oddo said his investigation found construction work was being done on the day of the collapse, contrary to what first responders were initially told.

That work was to repair cracks in the building’s corner pier, based on an inspection report from a private engineer hired by the building’s owner.

“The drawings by the engineer that this work was predicated on made a fundamental mistake in what that pier was. It was not decorative. It was load bearing,” said Oddo.

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It’s still early in the investigation, but the department’s initial findings are that workers were pulling out essential bricks before the structure came crashing down.

“He instructed the contractor to remove all the loose bricks and replace with new bricks. Clearly, removing bricks on a pier that supports six floors of the building above is not something that an engineer should direct a contractor to do without having additional temporary supports installed before you remove those bricks,” said Yegal Shamash, the department’s chief structural engineer.

“Was this collapse avoidable?” CBS New York’s Ali Bauman asked.

“I can’t stress enough to your viewers how fundamental of a mistake this was. It should have been clear to any professional engineer licensed by the state of New York, the integral value and importance to the integrity of the building this pier was,” said Oddo.

“Should the contractor have known better?” Bauman asked.

“The engineer had a set of plans. They were following those sets of plans,” Shamash said.

Now, more than 40 families are without a home, moving Friday from one emergency shelter to the next.

“I don’t have a house. I don’t have clothes. I don’t have nothing,” resident Leticia Ortiz said.

The Department of Buildings said the same engineer submitted facade inspections for more than 300 buildings across New York City.

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“And to restore the confidence of New Yorkers, we’re sending, we’re looking at all of the work done by this engineer,” said Oddo.

The department is suspending the engineer’s ability to do facade inspections in New York City and lobbying the state to reexamine the status of his license for inspections in general.

At the same time, Oddo said he’ll have to look at the city’s process for inspections with private engineers.

The Department of Buildings does not have enough of its own staff to inspect every building in New York City, so it relies on property owners to hire their own engineers and submit inspections to the city, which is what happened here.

Now, the DOB is re-inspecting the 40 other properties owned by this same landlord, as well as the more than 350 buildings in New York that have been inspected by this particular engineer.

“With something like this that was literally able to fall through the cracks, does the city of New York need to change how these buildings are inspected in general?” Bauman asked.

“We are taking a really hard look at all of our internal processes to see what could we do differently and do better,” Oddo said.

Source: .cbs

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