A devastating accident occurred on the dreary morning of December 17, 2019, when 60-year-old Erica Tishman was tragically killed after she was struck by debris that fell from a building façade in Times Square. Department of Buildings (DOB) Engineers continue to investigate the incident.
Part of the building façade collapsed at approximately 10:45 a.m., on W. 49th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, falling onto Tishman as she passed below. She was found lying on the sidewalk and was pronounced dead at the scene. Despite that corner being one of the busiest in the city, food vendors in the area said that they did not hear or see anything happen.
DOB Deputy Press Secretary Abigail Kunitz told reporters, “This is a tragedy, and the family and friends of the victim are in our thoughts. No pedestrian should be at risk from dangerous façade conditions. Department of Buildings Engineers are on the scene to perform a full structural stability inspection of the building to ensure all New Yorkers are safe, and conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this tragic incident.”
Erica Tishman was a prominent architect in Manhattan. Our hearts are with the her loved ones after this terrible accident. Unfortunately, pedestrians are left vulnerable to building collapse accidents as it is nearly impossible for them to protect themselves from the falling debris.
Further investigation into the incident reveals that the owners of 729 Seventh Ave. knew about the hazardous façade issue for over a year before Tuesday’s accident. In October of 2018, the owners, 729 Acquisition LLC, obtained permits to repair the building’s roof and 17th floor façade. After failing to make the repairs, owners received a $1,250 citation from the city on April 29,2019 for “Failure to maintain exterior building façade and appurtenances.”
The DOB classified the deteriorated façade as a “class 1” violation, a violation that requires immediate repair. However, building owners continued to ignore the issue and never made the repairs.
In July 2019, owners renewed the building’s construction permit for roof repairs. Two months later, an architect hired by the building owners issued a permit to construct a sidewalk shed that would protect pedestrians passing underneath construction. However, the shed was never installed. The sidewalk shed was only put up after the Tuesday’s tragic accident.
Building collapse accidents are a premises liability issue. Building owners, landowners, and property managers have a legal duty to maintain a safe environment for those passing through their property. If the person responsible for maintaining the building fails to provide safe conditions or fails to adhere to New York Building Codes, then they are putting the safety of others at risk.
In New York City, owners of buildings taller than six stories are required by law to have all exterior walls inspected every five years. A technical façade report must then be filed with the Department of Buildings. Guidelines for the façade report dictate that:
- Buildings with ongoing construction work cannot be designated as “Safe”
- If a building is classified as Safe with a Repair and Maintenance Program (SWARMP) then all necessary repairs must be made by the next cycle to be classified as safe
- Reports must include details on how repairs were made
Building owners are expected to follow all regular safety procedures to avoid accidents. If they neglect to adhere to proper safety standards, they must be held responsible for any consequences.
If you or someone you know has been injured due to someone else’s negligent behavior, you may be able to file a case to obtain compensation for your losses. The Premises Liability Attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy understand the tragic impact an accident can have on a person’s life. Our lawyers are dedicated to seeking justice for those severely injured in catastrophic accidents.
Select cases include:
- $5,850,000 settlement for a woman who sustained multiple injuries after her apartment ceiling collapsed on her
- $1,650,000 settlement for widow of a 73-year-old man who died in an apartment fire that started due to a building code violation
- $1,650,000 settlement for the family of a 67-year-old man who died in a fire that spread faster due to improper fireproofing