Building collapses in Lower Manhattan

April 30, 2009 1:00:47 PM PDT
A portion of a vacant building collapsed into a Lower Manhattan construction site Thursday morning. Three people suffered minor injuries when a large chunk of the building reportedly came crashing into an adjacent construction site on Reade Street just before 6:15 a.m.

Lewis Largent, who lives directly across the street, was looking out the window around that time when "the bricks started trickling off the top corner. I was thinking was it raining or something. Then within 10 seconds it just all came down like a wave or an avalanche."

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    The five-story building was vacant, but some residents were concerned for a homeless man who apparently slept near the building.

    "The homeless man was always sleeping there, under scaffolding in front of the building," said Koby Tokar, a neighborhood businessman.

    The force of the collapse sent debris and pieces of the building crashing onto parked cars and across Reade Street.

    It appeared the front half of the building was sheared off in the collapse, and interior floors were visible from the street.

    Pile of bricks were on the ground, and pieces of wood were hanging from the structure's remains. A car on the street was covered in rubble.

    Reade Street, Church Street and Broadway were closed for a large emergency response.

    Officials say residents of neighboring 65 and 67 Reade streets were temporarily evacuated.

    Lisa Schiller, a 20-year resident of the neighborhood, said she was surprised that the collapse occurred there.

    "We're a little freaked out about it," Schiller said when she came out for her morning walk and saw the commotion.

    Inspectors with the Buildings Department will determine the structural integrity of the collapsed building.

    Meanwhile, firefighters transmitted a third-alarm response, and the street was flooded with emergency responders. Emergency crews with a dog searched the site and a neighboring building as a precaution, and three people - two firefighters and one civilian - were treated at a hospital for minor injuries, fire officials said.

    Violations had been issued Wednesday for loose bricks and cracks throughout the building's north and west side, according to city records.

    The city had cited it Tuesday for being vacant, open and unguarded after a caller complained the building was abandoned. On April 10, the city issued a citation for unrepaired cracks on the parapet and window sills.

    The building, which was constructed in the late 1890s, is in the neighborhood that is part of an official historic district in the TriBeCa section of Manhattan. Demolition was under way Thursday afternoon, said buildings spokesman Tony Sclafani.

    According to Buildings Department records, the building was undergoing extensive renovation. The work included excavation, shoring and foundation.

    The adjacent lot, which appeared to be a former parking lot, was apparently under construction as well.

    WEB PRODUCED BY: Lakisha Bostick

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