Engineer warned of 'unsafe' facade at Morris Heights partially collapsed building

Kristin Thorne Image
Wednesday, December 13, 2023
2020 report found cracks, other concerns about partially collapsed building in Bronx
7 On Your Side's Kristin Thorne has more on the building collapse investigation.

MORRIS HEIGHTS, Bronx (WABC) -- The 7 On Your Side Investigates team has found that an engineer deemed the facade of the building that collapsed in the Bronx "unsafe" more than three years ago.

A February 2020 report conducted by Koenigsberg Engineering noted the facade - the exterior walls of the building - had "cracked brick; vertical cracks at sills and water tables; loose and damaged mortar; a slightly bowed section of parapet; cracks at the parapet interior; the parapets are less than 42 inches in height at some locations."

Under New York City code, however, an "unsafe" facade does not mean the entire building is unsafe or structurally unstable.

A later report by Koenigsberg Engineering indicated the facade was supposed to be repaired by February 2021, but was delayed due to COVID.

Eyewitness News obtained the extension letter the building's owner, Yona Roth of 1915 Realty LLC in Midwood, filed in December 2021. Roth stated the repair work would be completed within the next 12 months.

When the engineer, Richard Koenigsberg, returned to the building in March 2021, he noted the repairs had not been done.

Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne spoke with Koenigsberg Tuesday.

"Based on what I've seen, I don't think anybody is disputing that the corner column collapsed at the first floor, but the DOB and several other agencies are conducting a thorough investigation and will certainly have more information as the investigation develops,' he said.

Koenigsberg said repair work on the facade above the second floor had been completed recently, but the first floor of the facade had not. He said no work has been conducted at the site in more than a month.

Although the facade had significant masonry damage noted over the years, it did not trigger an investigation into the structural integrity of the building. However, in the case of 1915 Billingsley Terrace, the facade is a load-bearing wall, meaning it is contributing to the structure and support of the building.

"This was the building itself coming down," said Glenn Corbett, associate professor of Fire Science at John Jay College.

Former NYC Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler said it appears to him - by looking at videos of the collapse - that the facade and the joists for the building separated. Joists are the beams of the building.

"It's not like anything collapsed inside the walls," he said.

Chandler said he suspects investigators are looking into how the facade may have contributed to the collapse.

Koenigsberg said he is cooperating with the DOB and that all investigative findings will come officially through their office, but he believes the collapse was caused by a structural issue with the columns of the building - not with the facade - and that the collapse can be contributed to a failure at the ground floor.

Eyewitness News reached out to Roth and left a message at his office, but he did not contact us back.


DO YOU NEED A STORY INVESTIGATED? Dan Krauth, Kristin Thorne, and the 7 On Your Side Investigates team at Eyewitness News want to hear from you! Call our confidential tip line 1-877-TIP-NEWS (847-6397) or fill out the form BELOW.

You can also contact Kristin Thorne directly

Facebook: KristinThorne.WABC

Twitter: @KristinThorne