LOWER MANHATTAN, Manhattan (WABC) — The victim of a lower Manhattan garage collapse was formally identified Thursday as building inspectors tried to pinpoint the cause of the century-old building’s deadly collapse.
It was a delicate operation to rescue the victim, remove the 90 vehicles scattered on the structure’s roof, and among tons of broken concrete. Crews used cranes to pluck the cars one by one from the wreckage, but made only modest progress.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has opened an investigation into the collapse, a spokeswoman said. A preliminary investigation indicated that all three floors of the garage had partially or completely collapsed, the city’s Department of Buildings said. The back wall of the garage has partially collapsed and the front facade is swollen.
The cause is unknown and it is in the early stages of the investigation, with city officials looking at the weight of vehicles on the roof and the age of the building.
According to NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iskoll, more than 50 cars were parked on the roof. That’s more than half of the 90 cars believed to have been parked in the garage at the time of the collapse.
The sheer weight of the cars — a quarter of a million pounds — may have been enough to trigger the collapse.
According to the contract signed by the private contractor, the controlled demolition of the garage could take up to 25 days — and could be done sooner.
The renovation of the building is being coordinated with the building department’s investigation. So if investigators need a cleared area to facilitate their investigation, construction crews will prioritize that area.
“The buildings say they’re going to clean up one area, so we can look safely, and the demolition will focus on that area,” a city official explained.
The general plan is to remove approximately 90 cars and demolish the area after the cars are removed.
Cars are gas-filled, and electric vehicles can also get caught up in debris — a constant safety concern.
After removal the cars will be taken to Pier 36. The scrapping process is supposed to result in all cars being totaled, but owners can claim them if they choose.
Also | Dash Cam video offers first look inside Lower Manhattan parking garage as it collapses
The investigation continues
Two decades ago, city inspectors cited the property owner for failing to properly maintain the building and found “cracks and imperfections” in the concrete. The most recent inspection, done in the fall of 2013, found no further structural problems, according to an update provided Wednesday by the Department of Buildings.
“There’s an investigation into exactly what happened here and we’re making sure we can do something to prevent something like this from happening,” said Mayor Eric Adams.
Starting last year, parking garages in certain parts of Manhattan must file structural inspections and reports with the city by the end of 2023, with additional inspections at least every six years. Municipal officials said the garage owners are yet to comply.
“The inspectors are going to look at the loading of the structure, what the structure was actually designed for, what changes were made over the years, and I’m sure the structure as it is now is capable of withstanding the loading that it is now. Car,” said Kathleen Needham Inocco with Midtown Conservation.
The building’s certificate of occupancy in 1957 specified that far fewer cars should be allowed on the roof of the building than on the lower floors.
“Parking garages are very corrosive environments that bring water and salt into the structure, corroding the steel reinforcement,” Inocco said.
Read more | A Manhattan parking garage was previously cited for cracks that appeared before it collapsed
Remembering the victim
Neighbors and shopkeepers panicked as the 98-year-old building collapsed with a loud bang. Firefighters arrived at the scene within minutes. Several parking attendants were injured and one was killed. Neighbors identified the deceased as 59-year-old parking garage manager Willis Moore.
New York City officials formally identified Willis as the victim late Thursday.
Some regular customers returned to see if their cars had been recovered and to pay their respects to the missing worker, who they said was always friendly.
“I see him every morning,” said Ahmed Scott, one of the regulars. “As I was leaving that morning – the last time we saw each other – we smiled and waved at each other. We knew we would see each other in the afternoon, at the same place, at the same time.”
First responders were initially concerned that the dead worker’s body would not be recovered for several days, but saw an opportunity to clear some of the debris from above his remains, which ended up at the site on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the garage’s tenant, Enterprise On Parking, said the company is devastated by the death of longtime employee Moore and the injuries sustained by others.
The company says it is cooperating fully with city agencies investigating the incident.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Read More | FDNY sends robotic Dalmatian dog to investigate unstable collapsed parking lot in Manhattan
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