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Despite assurances from the city that it would carefully monitor the demolition of a Gowanus warehouse, part of the building’s wall suddenly collapsed this week.
On August 10 at roughly 10 p.m., a 60-by-25 foot section of the exterior wall and scaffolding at 455 Smith Street toppled to the sidewalk and street. The building was unoccupied, and no one was injured, but seven parked vehicles were damaged by the falling debris, according to the 76th Precinct. At press time, the cause of the collapse remained under investigation.
Department of Buildings (DOB) spokesperson Carly Sullivan said her agency has issued a stop-work order on the site, and has issued a total of five violations, including summonses for failure to safeguard the public and property; performing an unsafe demolition, and failure to provide a 24-hour notice prior to commencing demolition operations.
Before any work is allowed to continue, the agency is requiring contractor Perry Ferrara to submit an engineering report to show how the project will proceed safely.
At press time, Ferrara could not be reached for comment, and warehouse owner Henry Abadi did not return a call for comment.Over the winter,the DOB dispatched inspectors to the site after an inquiry by this newspaper about potential safety infractions there.On Feb. 12, the agency discovered a series of violations, includingdemolition work being performed without a fence, no sidewalk protection installed, and flammable and compressed gas stored on the site without a Fire Department permit. A total of six violations were issued, and a stop-work order slapped on the site.
“The Buildings Department will monitor this site to ensure that the public and neighboring properties are protected and will take immediate action if unsafe conditions are found,” Sullivan said at the time.
This week, she said the department has been monitoring the site since the permit was issued in February, and stressed that the cause of the collapse has yet to be determined. The property was last inspected on August 8.
The warehouse sits on a contaminated four-acre site, once home to a manufactured gas plant. The site was once considered for inclusion in the Gowanus Green project, a $300 million project planned on an adjacent, formerly city-controlled 5.8-acre site, called Public Place, located at the corner of Smith and Fifth Streets. That project calls for the construction of 774 units of housing in nine buildings with heights reaching 12 stories.
The fate of the warehouse is being monitored by city officials, who are hoping it is demolished so development of the larger project may proceed. “We are waiting for the building to come down so the clean-up and the design of the clean-up can proceed,” said Mark McIntyre, general counsel for the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination, an agency working with the state to coordinate the remediation of Public Place.
John Quadrozzi Jr., president of Quadrozzi Concrete at Smith and Ninth Streets, said the collapse has inconvenienced his business all week. “Huntington Street is closed, and that’s our entrance,” he noted. Moreover, he continued, “we are just concerned— we don’t want anyone to get hurt. It could have affected our personnel that park on that street, but fortunately, it was on the opposite end, by the water.”
Area resident Patrick Angeles’ Toyota Scion was not among the fortunate: His car’s rear was partially buried by debris. Angeles said his hope is to recoup whatever money is needed to make repairs. He said the collapse may not represent a lack of oversight or shoddy workmanship. “It happens,” he said. Still, he admitted, “I’m a little worried about what’s going on at that site.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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