LITTLE ITALY, Manhattan (WABC) -- The demolition of a landmark building in Little Italy has been ordered after an exterior brick wall partially collapsed on Wednesday.
The Department of Buildings says they found that the "illegal" and unauthorized construction work done on the first floor and in the cellar of a four-story commercial building located at 188 Grand Street "significantly destabilized the structure," and now have ordered the property owners to demolish the building.
"Our engineers have determined that the damaged building is now posing an imminent hazard to the public, and in order to prevent an uncontrolled collapse we have ordered the property owners to start preparations for an emergency demolition of the entire building," the DOB said in a statement.
A DOB spokesperson says the contractor had permits for some electrical work to upgrade an electrical panel in the cellar, the partial removal of non-load bearing partitions on the first floor, and some other minor operations, but there was illegal work being performed included a major gut renovation including demolition of the interior of the first floor, and the installation of new steel I-beams, steel joists, and a steel staircase.
The work undermined multiple structural steel columns in the cellar of the building and removed existing bracing necessary for stability.
Due to the risk of interior collapse, the DOB says that it's not safe to allow construction workers back inside the building to perform stabilization work.
The construction work was performed by contractors without approved engineering plans, DOB approval and DOB work permits.
The department has ordered the property owner's contractors to extend the perimeter of the construction fence around the building in order to create a "safety zone," install sidewalk sheds and overhead protection to protect people from potential falling debris.
They have also been ordered to perform some temporary emergency stabilization work on the outside of the building to prevent additional damage to the building during the upcoming storm this weekend.
The building was once home to the iconic Alleva Dairy that was open for 130 before it closed in March 2023.
"Is a neighborhood that was historically built as a slum, we have the tenements down here, we have all this stuff. Is that worth preserving as much as something like the beautiful little row houses or the Gilded Age mansions on the Upper East Side," said Billy, a New York City tour guide.
Down the block at Benito's One, a family-owned restaurant that's been open since 1968, the wine flows freely. It's been a fabric of Little Italy for decades, but the owner says his main concern is that the area will be deemed unsafe and it will keep patrons away.
"The streets are open. People are walking around as you see. People are eating here. On the other side of the dining room we're full," owner Anthony Romano said.
The DOB says the property owner's contractors are planning to start demolition work after the weekend.
As for what might replace it, residents expressed their fears.
"Ugh. I just hope they don't put a high rise," resident Mike Killmon said.