Metro-North service back to normal

Faced tough commute after building collapse
March 4, 2008 6:35:34 PM PST
Metro North said Tuesday evening that train traffic on its four tracks going in and out of Grand Central Terminal was back to normal. It was good news after a nightmare afternoon commute. The problems all started with the collapse of a building which started to crumble in East Harlem Tuesday morning.

The building is at 102 East 124th St near Park Avenue. Officials say the five-story apartment building was vacant at the time. It lost its facade about 12:30 p.m., and by mid-afternoon, the entire building came down.

"We were forced to stop the traffic on all four Metro-North tracks," an FDNY official told Eyewitness News, "because we were concerned that the vibrations would cause the collapse of an adjoining building."

No Metro North trains were going in or out of Grand Central Terminal late Tuesday afternoon. Metro-North said inbound trains were being stopped at train stations closest to Grand Central Terminal above 125th Street.

That changed just around 5:00 p.m. when the FDNY gave the all clear for traffic to start rolling on two of the four tracks. But even though two tracks of the four did reopen, Metro-North warned there would be extensive residual delays through the evening.

By 6:00 p.m. the system was back on, but delays were still ranging from at least 30 minutes to an hour. By later Tuesday night, traffic was back to normal.

A spokesman for the building's owner, Jared Kushner of the Kushner Co., said that before the collapse the owner initially had planned to rehabilitate the building, which had been vacant for six months, and one next to it.

Then, two days ago, bricks began falling from the building, spokesman Howard Rubenstein said. Engineers for the company visited the site, deemed the buildings unsafe and contacted city buildings officials to get permission to begin demolishing them on Wednesday, Rubenstein said.

The partial collapse occurred while inspectors from the buildings and fire departments were at the site, he said.

The Department of Buildings visited the property six times in the past year when residents called to complain about falling debris. Demolition of the buildings was under way Tuesday evening, Rubenstein said.

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