Report: Series of lapses preceded deadly NYC facade collapse

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 17, 2015 1:47 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A series of regulatory lapses spanning years, and an engineer's faked inspection report, preceded a facade collapse in New York City that killed a 2-year-old girl earlier this year, according to an official report released Tuesday.

Company officials at The Esplanade, a senior living facility on Manhattan's Upper West Side, failed to file a required facade inspection report from 2005 to 2007 and hired a subcontractor whose engineer certified the building's safety in 2011 without actually inspecting it, the Department of Investigation probe found.

The engineer, Maqsood Faruqi, 55, of Jackson, New Jersey, was arrested on a charge of offering a false instrument for filing Tuesday morning. He pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Joseph Lo Piccolo, called the toddler's death tragic, but said Faruqi followed city rules as required.

"This case represents massive breakdowns in basic public safety rules," DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters said in a statement.

Greta Greene was with her grandmother when she was hit by a piece of terracotta that fell eight stories this past May. She died the following day at a hospital.

Department of Buildings officials had fined The Esplanade for failing to secure the building's facade but didn't send out inspectors, even after a private consultant noticed alarming cracks and notified top buildings officials two months before Greene's death, the report found.

"I would get someone over pretty quick on this," the consultant emailed a top buildings official, according to the report.

A local law established after a similar deadly accident in 1979 requires owners of buildings six stories or taller to file facade safety inspection reports every five years with the Department of Buildings. Officials there receive about 27,000 of them each reporting cycle, according to the report.

Investigators examining such reports found that 2,490 buildings, many of them city-owned, filed such reports in February that concluded the facades were unsafe, the report found. Four months later, fewer than half had filed reports noting the unsafe conditions had been fixed, it found.

A City Hall spokesman said buildings officials will revamp how the department handles facade inspection reports.

A spokesman for The Esplanade didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.