220 buildings in New York must now take protective measures after a woman was killed by a piece of a facade that fell off a 17 story building near Times Square earlier this month.
According to the Wall Street Journal, building owners must install sidewalk sheds and the city is doubling the number of its facade inspectors to 22. It’s also increasing the frequency of facade inspections for buildings taller than six stories.
After 60 year old architect and philanthropist Erica Tishman was killed on December 17, building department workers went on an inspection spree, checking 1,331 buildings that had outstanding violations. About one in six of those buildings lacked proper safeguards and owners were issued summonses on Monday.
Tishman was hit by debris walking past 729 Seventh Ave. The building’s owner had already been issued a violation in April for failing to maintain the facade. In September, the owner challenged the violation in a city administrative court where a judge downgraded the violation to state that it didn’t pose an “immediate danger”.
Which it obviously did…
After the hearing, the building’s owner was issued a permit to put up a sidewalk shed and repair the facade, but no work took place prior to the incident. The building is owned by a limited liability company controlled by commercial real-estate firm Himmel + Meringoff Properties.
The company said the work had been delayed because a neighboring building owner wouldn’t give it access to perform the work. A spokeswoman for Himmel + Meringoff said: “The safety of our buildings, and our tenants, remains our highest priority, and we will continue to do everything to ensure the safety of the public in and around our properties.”
On Monday, city officials said that under new rules the city will reinspect a building within 60 days of it being found to have an unsafe facade, in order to ensure that safety measures are taken. Officials also said that if owners fail to install protection for pedestrians, city contractors will do it at the owner’s expense. Facade inspectors will now also conduct follow up inspections every 90 days until repairs are completed.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said: “The tragic death of Erica Tishman was preventable, and while these new facade enforcement efforts cannot bring her back to life, they can help avoid another tragedy.”