Exclusive: New violations at Bronx high-rise

Friday, August 11, 2017
Exclusive: New violations at Bronx high-rise
Investigative reporter Jim Hoffer has the story of a brand new seven-story building, potentially having an unsafe foundation.

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- It took three months, but the Department of Buildings has finally confirmed what we revealed in our investigation last May: That the foundation of a brand new seven-story condo building is potentially unsafe.

They've ordered emergency repairs, but the bigger question is how did this happen, especially when someone had been alerting the city to the problem for nearly two years.

"The only place you would see something like this is a third world country," landlord John Smith said. "It absolutely threatens my building."

For the second time, a 7 On Your Side Investigation at this construction site has led to violations and this time, emergency repairs.

Last May, we reported that the wall of a new condo site abutting Smith's apartment building was built on soil. That required the wall's foundation to be four-feet beneath ground to be stable, but we reported the foundation was only inches deep.

"You should be seeing the same wall all the way down," engineer Anthony Marmo said, describing what appears to be a big hole in the ground.

Days ago, the Department of Buildings hit the condo contractor with a violation for improper foundation. They've been given five weeks to shore up the foundation with thousands of pounds of cement. But Smith, who has filed numerous complaints with the buildings department, says the city only acted after Channel 7's investigation. He says a simple check of the city's own records dating back nearly 100 years would have shown the lot was mostly clay, therefore requiring a 4-foot-deep foundation.

"This was in their own files they failed to check it," he said. "They failed to check their own files and paperwork."

Smith says those files show the ground underneath is not bedrock.

"It's been an historical fact for a century," he said. "The fact they didn't check their own files is outrageous."

A buildings department spokesperson says pictures show part of the building rests on bedrock and is therefore structurally sound and stable, bu that the city is requiring the builder "to underpin the foundation" to bring it up to code.

Smith says video of a worker digging at the work site proves that what lies underneath the wall next to his building is clearly soil, not bedrock. It something he's been trying to tell the city inspectors for a long time.

"Why were they allow to proceed for two years and actually go higher with this structure by more than three stories?" he said.

The city insists the building is completely safe, but Smith says the builder has been cutting corners since day one.

"They're playing Russian Roulette with the lives of the residents of this building," he said.

The spokesman says there are no signs of instability at site, adding that they have come down hard on the builder. He points out they inspected the site several times, even shutting down for months and hitting him with several violations.


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