Chelsea building facade collapse prompts evacuation

December 26, 2012 8:37:18 AM PST
The first floor facade of a seven-story building collapsed in Chelsea on Tuesday evening, prompting a Christmas evacuation.

The collapse occurred around 7:20 p.m. at the landmark building on Sixth Avenue near West 21st Street.

Parts of some decorative pillars, about 15 feet off the ground, crumbled off the ornate surface of the block-long building. The damage left a 4- to 5-foot-tall pile of bricks on the ground.

Around 30 residents were evacuated, with no injuries reported.

The evacuation was ordered as a precaution after officials saw some small cracks in the wall where the facade fell, Fire Chief Tom McCarthy said.

It caused some concern on our part," he said. He said engineering inspections Wednesday would determine how soon residents would be allowed to return.

Resident Eva Laboz told reporters she'd seen a crack in the wall some days before.

"They put the yellow tape over, but I didn't know it was going to be that serious," she said.

The seven-story building on Sixth Avenue, between and West 20th and West 21st streets, was built in 1887 as a department store called O'Neill's.

The building was converted into 49 condominiums in recent years. A recent real estate listing offers a two-bedroom apartment for sale at $3.7 million.

Buildings Department records show the facade was inspected in February and declared safe.

Records show some sprinkler system work and first-floor restaurant renovations have been under way in recent months.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.) ---
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