On Tuesday, April 18, 2023, the upper levels of a five-story parking garage in Lower Manhattan collapsed, tragically killing 59-year-old Willis Moore, the manager of the parking garage, and injuring at least five others.
The parking garage, located at 57 Ann Street in the Financial District, is owned by Enterprise Ann Parking, LLC. At around 4:15pm, the upper levels collapsed into the basement in what sounded like an “explosion,” a witness told the New York Post.
The six people accounted for were all parking garage workers who were on duty at the time. The fire department is still looking to make sure no one else is trapped. According to FDNY chief John Esposito, rescue operations were extremely dangerous, as the building started to crumble while the firefighters were inside. The first responders had to retreat, and the department sent drones and a robotic dog to analyze the scene and check for people that still may be trapped in cars or underneath rubble.
The Department of Buildings (DOB) arrived at the scene shortly after the incident. According to DOB, the garage had no recent violations. It had an active permit for electrical work. Despite the lack of recent violations, the Eyewitness News team found four violations from years ago that are still open. One violation, dating back to 2003, was marked “hazardous” in severity level. An application was filed in 2010, though that does that indicate that the violation was corrected. One thing that is worthy of mention is these unaddressed, archaic violations. The notion that some violations remain open, even from twenty years ago, underscores how understaffed investigative agencies like the DOB and OSHA are. It is impossible to expect agencies like this to be proactive and attack problems before they surface given how much they are struggling to keep qualified personnel.
It is unclear what caused the pancake collapse of the garage. DOB personnel are continuing efforts in this investigation. However, FDNY stated that given the instability of the building, the investigation is expected to be a prolonged operation. As part of the investigation, DOB Acting Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik said the organization will “review and research property files to try to understand the history of the building, certificate of occupancy and lots of records.” One thing they may evaluate is whether the ongoing electrical work contributed to the instability of the building. This will depend on the nature of the construction/electrical work being performed. Demolition is frequently a culprit in identifying the cause of a structural collapse but it is unclear if demolition was involved in the Ann Street collapse.
While building collapses are rare and unexpected, when they do happen, the results are often catastrophic, as evidenced by this incident. There are multiple reasons why a building may collapse, including but not limited to: degenerative conditions that the landlord or property managers failed to fix, improper building design or construction, foundation issues, and overloading the structure beyond its designed capacity.
The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy will continue to track the latest developments in this incident. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a building collapse, know that the law is on your side. Our lawyers have litigated significant structural collapse cases, including a serious case in which a teenager was hurt in a wall collapse at the parking lot of a shopping center. The case resolved for $9 million. In another instance, a client was cooking in the kitchen when the ceiling collapsed on her, rendering her unconscious. She sustained serious injuries to both the cervical and lumbar sections of her spine. Our attorneys secured a $5.85 million settlement on her behalf.
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