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Photos: Man’s body recovered amid controlled demolition of collapsed NYC parking garage

Firefighters and FDNY’s robot dog located the sole victim’s remains in the rubble


Photo/Luiz C. Ribeiro/Tribune News Service

UPDATE 12:15 p.m. Central time, April 20):

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The body of an unaccounted for employee has been recovered from the collapsed Lower Manhattan parking garage, the FDNY confirmed Thursday.

The remains of long-time parking garage general manager Willis Moore was taken out of the destroyed parking garage Wednesday night.

The FDNY and its robotic dog located the remains in the rubble of the Ann St. garage shortly after the 4 p.m. collapse Tuesday but the building was too unstable to recover the body until demolition was underway, officials said.

No official identification had been made by Thursday morning but Moore is missing and presumed dead in the collapse.

Moore, 59, was on the second floor when the building literally went to pieces as he was about to call it a day after finishing his shift, co-workers and neighbors said.

“He was a great guy,” said Kam Wooden, 53, a former colleague at Central Parking Systems. “Oh goodness, he was a great co-worker and he took care of his employees — always put them first ... I was just so shocked.”

The levels of the parking garage pancaked down on top of each other, with vehicles parked on the roof tumbling into the void like dropped Matchbox cars.

City officials believe the weight of the cars parked on the roof deck and the age of the building sparked the collapse.

On Wednesday, a gigantic crane painstakingly snatched mangled cars off the roof as the controlled demolition of the building began.

The building’s demolition was continuing Thursday.

Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said the city’s efforts were focused on how to safely demolish the garage.

“It’s incredibly complex,” he said. “There are over 50 cars on the roof. The building is not structurally sound. You think about hazardous materials that are in the garage — gas tanks, fluids, further complicated by the fact that there are possibly some electric vehicles in that garage.”

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By Thomas Tracy, Michael Gartland, Ellen Moynihan
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A “controlled demolition” is underway at the century-old lower parking garage that collapsed and shook lower Manhattan as first responders painstakingly try to recover the body of the worker crushed in the debris, FDNY officials said Wednesday.

While no one is unaccounted for at the four-story Ann St. garage following Tuesday’s building failure, the remains of 59-year-old parking garage manager Willis Moore remains trapped under the rubble, officials said.

Firefighters and the department’s robotic dog, which is painted as a Dalmatian and goes by the nickname “Spot,” located Moore’s remains in the rubble Tuesday, according to FDNY sources.

The weight of the vehicles left on the roof deck and the age of the building contributed to the collapse, they said.

There was no work being done in the building or any other buildings nearby and there is no indication of any kind of foul play.

There’s an indication that all was not right with the building.

Dana Friedman, a lawyer from Kew Gardens who has parked his car there for years, said he saw an inspection going on in the garage last month.

“I know that the district manager above Willis was in the garage with some people with clipboards,” Friedman said. “I asked him what was going on and he said because of the building collapse in Florida they’re inspecting the garages here.”

He was referring to the June 2021 collapse of a 12-story building in a Miami suburb that killed 98 people.

“I’m kind of wondering if there was a problem with the building that someone was aware of or if it was coincidental,” Friedman remarked.

Firefighters will continue to have a presence at the site to put out any potential blazes as the recovery effort continues, a department official said.

All utilities to the building were shut off as preparations for the demolition were made, city officials said.

Neighbors remained rattled by the massive collapse, which was felt on the entire block.

“It shook like an earthquake,” neighbor Ben Aberle, 31, said Wednesday. “I was working from home. I thought it was a huge dump truck. A lot of shaking. Then I saw the videos. It was wild.”

Another neighbor said their building shook for at least five seconds after the collapse.

“I was a little bit nervous to sleep at night,” the resident said. “Because it can happen and it just made me worry a little bit — is our building gonna fall? All the buildings are connected.”

Block resident Jordan Schlotterbeck said that many neighbors, along with his own relatives when they visited, used the now-destroyed parking garage.

“It’s sad because somebody died. Super sad. We’re lucky it’s not worse,” Schlotterbeck, 33, said. “There could’ve been more people in there.”

The collapse has made him and his neighbors wonder if their buildings, which were all built around the same time, are safe from collapse.

“All the buildings down here are that height and that old,” he said. “You hope everybody’s checking what they’re supposed to be checking.”

Mayor Adams said that building owners, not the city, are responsible for ensuring the structural stability of their property.

Under city law, the building owner must hire an engineer to carry out the inspections, according to Hizzoner.

“It’s a law. They gotta abide by that law,” he said at a press conference. “There’s an investigation into exactly what happened here and making sure if there’s something we can put in place to prevent something like this from happening, we will.”

Much of the city’s efforts Wednesday shifted to how to safely demolish the parking garage without causing further damage and injury, said Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol.

“It’s incredibly complex,” he said. “There are over 50 cars on the roof. The building is not structurally sound. You think about hazardous materials that are in the garage — gas tanks, fluids, further complicated by the fact that there are possibly some electric vehicles in that garage.”

Civil rights groups had criticized Mayor Adams for spending money on the robot pooch after it was photographed outside a public housing unit.

“If we didn’t have that robotic dog, we would have placed those firefighters in jeopardy. That’s how we found the person that’s still there,” he said Wednesday.

“Now you see why I got the dog — to save lives,” Adams added.

The first phase of the demolition, currently underway, will be the removal of the vehicles that were in the garage when the top floor pancaked down on the levels below, officials said.

A massive crane has been put in place to start ripping off pieces of the top floor and bring down vehicles parked on the roof.

The upper floors packed with cars crumbled, sending vehicles into the void below, jaw-dropping photos taken from adjacent buildings show.

Seven people suffered minor injuries in the 4 p.m. collapse. A handful of the injured were garage parking attendants, officials said.

Forensic engineers will conduct a study, but the collapse appears to be an accident, an FDNY source said.

The FDNY entered the building briefly Tuesday but the garage was too unstable to remain inside, a department official said. No firefighters have been inside the building since as they shore up the rest of the structure for the demolition.

It may take days before the building is demolished and the rubble is cleared, a FDNY official said.

Buildings Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik said Tuesday his inspectors will “continuously review and research property profiles to understand the history of the building, certificate of occupancy, and all other records.”

City records show building owners paid fines on code violations but the Building Department did not register a fix to four open violations between 2003 and 2013. Sixteen other violations filed against the building over the last three decades were marked as “resolved,” according to city records.

In 2003, the Buildings Department cited the owners for “failure to maintain [building] hazardous” and noted “first-floor ceiling slab cracks” and “missing concrete covering steel beams.” Inspectors also found “defective concrete with exposed rear cracks.”

That same year, the Buildings Department discovered the building did not have proper lighting by exits and in emergency stairwells.

In 2009, building owners were accused of having “broken and defective fire stairs” and “defective exits.” The southwest side of the building was “rotten” with “loose pieces of concrete in danger of falling,” the violation noted.

The Buildings Department cited the owners for not keeping the building up to code and for having inadequate doorways and exits in 2013.

There are two additional open violations for minor defects found during periodic elevator inspections, but those defects would not jeopardize a person’s safety, a Buildings Department spokesman said.

Attempts to reach the owners of the building were unsuccessful Wednesday.

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