Residents of a tony upper east side neighborhood were left terrified after bricks and debris fell some 30 stories to the ground last evening. The bricks and debris fell from a building that was undergoing a renovation near First Avenue and East 63rd Street. Reportedly, a side of the building crumbled, converting the area from a tranquil oasis in the city to a panic-stricken zone of fear. An article in The New York Daily News quotes eyewitnesses as saying “The bricks flew all over the place. It was like an explosion.”
Emergency personnel rushed to the scene and attempted to secure the area. They closed several nearby streets and zeroed in on the problem. Their reported observations are frightening, to say the least. Apparently, a two-story by 100 foot portion of the façade was now brick free, indicating that bricks from that entire portion of the building cascaded down 30 stories landing unmercifully on our revered concrete jungle. Miraculously, there were no reported injuries. For this we can be thankful. Investigators are looking into how and why this dangerous situation unfolded.
It is called pointing or repointing when the brick exterior of a building is being renovated. It is typically required after the passage of time, wear and tear and the impact of mother nature causes gaps between the exterior bricks. These gaps permit water and other substances to permeate the bricks and cause the façade of a building to slowly deteriorate. The aesthetics of a building will suffer but, more importantly, the structural integrity of the building becomes compromised over time. Pointing is detailed, meticulous work and can be expensive. There is a temptation for builders and developers to try and do pointing work in the least expensive way possible. Understandable? Yes, but that does not make it safe; nor does it make it right.
We will be watching how this investigation unfolds to learn why this job failed so miserably. If the public was placed at risk because someone wanted to do a less expensive and less safe renovation of the brick façade of this building than they should be held accountable. Stay tuned.
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