NEW YORK - Poor design, poor construction, and a rubber-stamp approval by an engineer who self-certifies his own work: It was a perfect storm of incompetence, which is what Eyewitness News Investigates has discovered happened to a scaffolding shed that blew down last fall in Manhattan.
Five people were hurt, and now, the Department of Buildings has issued a report revealing disturbing findings. Officials concluded the collapse could have easily been prevented, and that the contractor and engineer cut corners and almost cost lives.
When the sidewalk shed collapsed last November, builder Simranpal Singh blamed mother nature.
"I think it's the wind that caused it," Singh said. "So we're looking into it."
We've now learned that the builder, Rock Group, constructed an inferior shed that lacked the required structural support to withstand winds. The DOB also found that the engineer, Daniel Odigie, submitted a poor shed design, and an agency spokesman said Odigie is now barred from filing any future shed permits with the city, forever.
Related: Collapsed SoHo shed should have withstood 98 mph winds
Besides the SoHo collapse, Odigie and the Rock Group have partnered on 47 other sidewalk sheds. City officials say they have since inspected all of them and found 73 safety violations, including one that was immediately hazardous.
Former Buildings Department Inspector Michele Depew said it sounds like a classic case of an engineer using cookie-cutter design plans for one sidewalk shed after another.
"He has one set of plans, and whoever needs a set of drawings for a sidewalk shed, he just gives them the same set," Depew said. "Each plan has to be site specific. One plan doesn't fit all."
Related: Family of former model injured in SoHo scaffold collapse files lawsuit
Our own records search seems to bear this out. We found that Odigie filed drawings for 700 different construction projects, many of them sidewalk sheds. And all of them he self-certified as being safe -- 700 jobs in 2017 alone.
"He has 700 plans for one person to maintain," Depew said. "Seven hundred sets of plans, and review them and inspect, is very difficult for one person to do."
Also, there was more than a strong hint from the Department of Buildings regarding additional penalties. A spokesman said, "We will take further enforcement actions against all parities involved, as needed, once our investigation is complete."
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