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Collapsed Bronx apartment previously flagged for 100+ building violations

More than 25 complaints were lodged against the building last month alone, per city records


Firefighters respond to a partial building collapse on West Burnside Avenue and Phelan Place in the Bronx, New York City on Monday, Dec. 11, 2023.

Gardiner Anderson/TNS

Téa Kvetenadze, Tim Balk and Ellen Moynihan
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The Bronx apartment building that partially collapsed Monday, leaving a harrowing skeleton of a structure but miraculously sparing anyone serious injuries, had been flagged for more than 100 building violations, according to city records.

The corner of the 96-year-old, seven-story building, located on Billingsley Terrace in Morris Heights, came crashing down late Monday afternoon. More than 25 complaints were lodged against the building last month alone.

In recent years, residents of the brick complex complained of strange odors, elevator outages that lasted days or weeks and, in some cases, a general sense that building was not structurally sound.

“Multiple apartments in this building are overcrowded and you can hear the building deteriorating,” said a complaint filed in 2017, according to the city Buildings Department.

In 2015, a resident’s complaint said, “the building is highly unstable,” adding, “you can hear it cracking and deteriorating from the inside,” according to city records.

Still, the building had no open structural violations, Buildings Commissioner James Oddo said at a news conference Monday. Seven violations were open.

The 47-unit building is owned by 1915 Realty LLC, which could not immediately be reached for comment.

Firefighters spent hours sifting through a 12-foot-tall mound of debris after the building collapsed Monday, finding no victims, according to the Fire Department. Two people were reported to have sustained minor injuries as they exited.

Six apartments were destroyed.

One resident, Sadie Martinez, said the building had long been “crooked” and not quite straight. She was preparing something to eat when the building crumbled.

“I heard like a boom,” said Martinez, 36. “I thought it was an earthquake or they were fixing the street.”

She and her brother looked out the window and people on the street were gesturing for them to get out. They grabbed her 1-year-old baby — who had been sleeping — a pet dog and raced downstairs.

“I said ‘Let’s go, let’s go, just leave everything,’” she recalled. “I was scared for my baby, not me.”

On Tuesday morning, the intersection where the building corner fell was taped off, as an excavator rumbled on the street below. The Buildings Department was also on scene. In a post on X, the agency said its “forensic engineering team is monitoring preparations for emergency demolition operations on the building’s collapsed corner. Our investigation into the cause of the collapse is ongoing.”

The top floor was the only level of the building that had not collapsed. A wood-framed bed peeked over the edge beside a weight set, while a dream catcher on the ceiling fluttered in the breeze.

Ground-floor businesses that were affected by the collapse include a beauty parlor, a nail salon, a sandwich shop and a tax service office.

The Bronx district attorney’s office said it had sent an assistant district attorney to the building and was working with the Fire Department and the Buildings Department. A spokesman for the Bronx district attorney’s office, Eric Steltzer, said the office had not opened a formal investigation.

The building sits a block from a fire stationhouse, and the city said it responded to the collapse within two minutes on Monday.

“Thank god we didn’t lose any lives,” Mayor Adams said at a Tuesday news conference. “It’s miraculous.”

The Red Cross and the city were working to find places for more than 100 displaced residents to stay. Twenty-six families — including 79 adults and 22 children — accepted temporary housing, said Zach Iscol, the city’s emergency management commissioner.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Iscol said.

One displaced resident, Jacqueline Tomlinson, 64, said Tuesday that she was focused on retrieving important papers from her sixth-floor apartment — which did not collapse — and finding her beloved black-and-white cat, Panda, who she said was “probably starving.”

Tomlinson, who has lived in the building since 1987, said it has had leaks in its lobby, and that a “big chunk” of the ceiling fell in a few weeks ago.

“It’s a lot of stuff that’s wrong that they need to fix,” she said. “They say that they will fix it. So I guess that’s probably why this happened. I don’t know.”

Tomlinson, who lives with her youngest daughter and son, said she was glad she recently purchased renters’ insurance. She stayed with her daughter on Monday night.

“I’m hoping that we get a decent apartment that we could go move into with whatever we can salvage and take with us,” she said. “That’s the most I guess I could hope for right now.”


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