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Manhattan Building Collapses No One Killed Or Injured, Engineers Saw Warning Signs

Wed., Dec. 31, 1997

Just a half block from the center of Wednesday night’s New year’s Eve celebration, a narrow, six-story building collapsed shortly before the morning rush on Tuesday, raising questions about whether recent signs of structural problems with the building were properly addressed.

Engineers hired by the developer of a major Times Square project nearby had noticed potential structural problems on Monday after having been alerted that cracks had opened up in the ground floor. But city officials said no one connected with the project informed the Buildings Department of the potential danger. And even though a major storm was approaching, no efforts were made to shore up the building.

The collapse of the largely vacant building caused no injuries, and officials said they felt the New Year’s celebration would not be disrupted. But the accident forced the shutdown of 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

The circumstances bore some similarities to the crumbling of a brick wall on a Madison Avenue tower three weeks ago. In both cases, engineers hired privately found signs of potential structural dangers, but because city law did not require them to report such problems, officials were unaware of the hazards.

At City Hall, Alicia Fink, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, said city officials would investigate both the causes of Tuesday’s collapse and “what decisions were made and when they were made.”

Officials said that the building had apparently been weakened by the demolition of several nearby buildings to make way for a new retail complex and hotel, and that the gale-force winds from Monday night’s storm provided the last straw.


 

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