Exclusive: Construction on Bronx high-rise shut down again after investigation

Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Exclusive: Construction on Bronx high-rise shut down again after investigation
Jim Hoffer investigates the story

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- For the second time in a year, construction on a building in the Bronx has been shut down after 7 On Your Side Investigates started asking questions about unsafe conditions.

City officials shut the site down in 2016 after our first investigation into worker safety at the high-rise located on East 236th Street. This time, it's the building itself that could be unsafe.

As a result of our report, the city sent inspectors who again shut the site down, over concerns about the foundation and building stability.

Our initial investigation uncovered jaw-dropping unsafe practices, with workers seven stories up walking along the edge of walls without attached safety harnesses. After our investigation aired, the Department of Buildings shut the site down for months.

But workers returned in recent weeks, and again, we have found serious safety problems.

Structural engineer Anthony Marmo was hired by the owner of the building next door, after he noticed cracks in the newly built wall next to his property.

"This wall could continue to sink," Marmo said. "This wall should extend three to five feet down below (ground)...It ends right there."

His engineer dug two test holes to check the new wall's foundation, and he was stunned to find no footing below ground necessary to support the wall. It is something that city construction code requires when building on top of soil instead of rock.

"This building is new, it's not fully loaded yet," Marmo said. "It's in the process of developing its load, and over time, it's likely this can continue to move."

Video taken by DroneCam7 showed how close the new structure is to the older building, with just inches between them. The landlord, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, believes the wall of the new building is defective and could damage his building or even compromise its stability, although there are no current signs it has.

We wanted to get a second expert opinion about the new building's foundation, so we brought in a former New York City buildings Inspector, who drew the same conclusion.

"I can see down in this hole that there is not footing that is supporting this structure," construction safety consultant Michelle Depew said. "Very important to have a footing as the base of any building to support the building above."

When we brought this to the Department of Buildings, they sent in inspectors, stopped all work at the site and launched their own investigation.

We went to the construction supervisor and building owner to ask about the foundation, but Ray Kahn was not interested in answering questions.

"I don't need to answer anything to you, because you are not a fair person, you have no reason," he said.

He later changed his mind, deciding to answer two questions.

"My building is very safe, and it's stable," he said, before asserting that all the necessary footing is in place for the foundation.

The Department of Buildings said in a statement that "all the evidence we've seen shows the building is stable," but the spokesman added that "further investigation is warranted to confirm that part of the foundation complies with the city's building code."

If it doesn't comply, the spokesman said the city will require the building to fix the foundation. The site has been shut down after being hit with a violation for inadequate inspections involving the foundation.


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