Landlords in New York City repeatedly flout laws when it comes to building facade safety and have ignored enforcement actions including amounts in fines of over $31 million, a recent investigation by The New York Times found. According to a Times report, an apartment building in the Bronx that houses a day care center on the ground floor has had an unsafe façade for nearly 20 years. The violation was issued in 2001, but 19 years later, there is still a three-foot gap in the brick facade with its playground remaining closed.
The building’s owner has ignored at least 19 violations, failed to pay $49,000 in fines and has not even bothered to show up to seven hearings regarding dangerous conditions on the property. And yet, the city has not been able to force the owner into making any of the repairs. Instead a 150-foot piece of scaffolding that was erected in 2011 to protect pedestrians continues to be in place.
Incomplete Repairs, Violations Ignored
The Times reports that across New York City over 1,400 buildings have sidewalk sheds around them – not due to any ongoing construction activity, but because their facades can collapse and pose safety threats to pedestrians. An analysis of city data has found these sites to have major structural issues including corroded masonry and fractured terra cotta, which may come loose and strike pedestrians on the ground. Many of these buildings with crumbling and unsafe facades line the city’s most crowded sidewalks and include everything from luxury condo towers to office buildings near Central Park and midtown Manhattan.
In New York, scaffolding often stays up for years without any repairs being done. In spite of rigorous city building laws and a series of high-profile accidents including the death of a woman who was fatally injured by falling terra cotta in December, the Times found that building owners routinely break the laws and ignore enforcement actions without facing any consequences. Just in the last 10 years, building owners have ignored more than $31 million in fines for dangerous facades.
Repairs at these buildings have stalled or not started at all. During that decade, the owners of over 6,000 buildings that had six floors or more failed to inspect their facades and/or failed to report their findings. One building in Manhattan reported to the city in 2011 that its façade was safe, even though the site was never inspected. Four years later, a 2-year-old girl was struck and killed by collapsing terra cotta that fell from the building’s façade.
Who Can Be Held Responsible?
Dangerous facades have the potential to cause catastrophic if not fatal injuries. Just over the last two months, two women have been killed after they were struck by pieces of building facades that fell on them. Pedestrians who are struck in this manner face the risk of major injuries such as head trauma, spinal cord damage, broken bones and internal organ damage.
Construction companies, managing agents, building owners, some contractors and sub-contractors may have a responsibility to ensure that scaffolds and other structures at a construction site are properly secured so they don’t pose a danger to workers, visitors or pedestrians at or near the worksite. If you have been injured as the result of poorly-maintained or poorly-protected facades, please understand that you have legal rights, and that landlords (building owners) and other parties have responsibilities.
In such cases, injured bystanders or passersby can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, cost of hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injury, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc. Families of deceased victims may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for damages such as lost future income, funeral costs, medical expenses, pain and suffering, etc. Liable parties may include construction companies, general contractors, sub-contractors, property and building owners/managers, manufacturers of defective products, etc.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
Whether you are a worker who has suffered injuries at a construction site or a bystander or pedestrian who has been injured by falling debris, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you.
Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker (an undocumented immigrant) who was injured on the job – one of the highest construction case settlements in New York that year. Also, one of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury and medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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