The Department of Buildings commissioner admitted her agency knew a Harlem building was in danger of collapse but somehow it got lost in the shuffle and collapsed on its own. On Tuesday, bricks fell off 102 East 124th Street, a vacant building, and a few hours later, the roof and top floor collapsed. Its neighboring building was compromised and authorities moved to demolish it, asking the MTA to suspend all train activity near by in fear the trains' vibrations would cause more problems.
Here's DOB Commissioner Patricia Lancaster's statement:
The preliminary investigation into the cause of the collapse on Tuesday indicates that on January 11, 2008, the Buildings Department determined that 102 East 124th Street was unsafe. On that day, the Buildings Department put the owner on notice of the building’s condition and issued an Immediate Emergency Declaration to enable the City (through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)) to secure the building at the owner’s expense, if the owner did not immediately perform the work. It appears the Immediate Emergency Declaration was not properly processed by the Buildings Department and although inspectors from Buildings and HPD performed a joint-inspection on January 23rd, neither the owner nor HPD performed the emergency repair work authorized by the Immediate Emergency Declaration before the building collapsed on March 4. In addition, a permit was issued to the owner for repair work on January 31st. The Buildings Department is investigating why the Immediate Emergency Declaration was not acted on, and why a permit was issued for work after the Immediate Emergency Declaration was in place. This lapse is unacceptable and we will take appropriate measures—including disciplining anyone who did not do their job—to ensure that this does not happen again. We have also undertaken a review, with HPD, of every outstanding emergency declaration in the City to ensure that the building owner or the City has taken appropriate steps to maintain public safety.”
In other words, the DOB and HPD are really lucky no one was injured.
Here's the DOB's record of complaints for the building. Lancaster also said "something changed structurally in the building" since the DOB's last visit, for the building to worsen so much. Kushner Companies, the owner of the two buildings, says it had asked the DOB for a permit to demolish the buildings earlier this week.