Manhattan Avenue Building Vacated Indefinitely

By Meredith Hoffman on March 9, 2012 12:14pm 

226 Manhattan Avenue was evacuated Monday night.
226 Manhattan Avenue was evacuated Monday night.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

WILLIAMSBURG — Residents could be out of their homes for up to a year after a chimney collapsed in their Manhattan Avenue building earlier this week, the owner's insurance broker said.

The 13-unit apartment building, at 226 Manhattan Ave. near Maujer Street, was evacuated by the Department of Buildings Monday night due to an "unstable chimney," according to DOB spokeswoman Ryan Fitzgibbons.

But the owner's insurance broker, Antonio Cook, said the boiler chimney had already buckled in the rear apartment at least one day earlier. He said no one was injured in the accident, but that repairs would be costly and likely take about 12 months.

The building owner, Veraldo Fleites, declined to comment on the situation, but Cook said Fleites and his daughter lived in the residence.

"I guess I'll give him a place to sleep in my office," joked Cook, but then noted that Fleites had other family to stay with in the area.

The Red Cross, which offered assistance at the time of the evacuation, said only one family needed immediate shelter and has been residing in a local hotel until a city agency connects them with more permanent housing.

"If we're informed of new residents that need assistance we'll go back and help them," said Red Cross spokesman Michael Devulpillieres.

Cook said engineers would come to Manhattan Avenue Thursday evening, to evaluate the cause and necessary work on the structure.

"The problem is the money," said Cook of potential delays in repair work. "The buckling could have been because of age, or water seeping between the buildings."

Residents had only 15 minutes to collect their belongings, he said.

The collapse happened on the side of the structure next to 224 Manhattan Ave., and Lynn Maliszewski, who lives in the adjacent residence, said her building had also been forced to evacuate Monday evening for about an hour and a half and then allowed to return.

"These are old buildings, you have to sacrifice something," said Maliszewski, who just moved into her apartment in December. Still, she said she couldn't imagine the hardship her neighbors were facing in their ban from reentry.

Fitzgibbons said the DOB has asked the owner to repair the structure and would monitor his work, but she did not specify the amount of time he would have to fix the issue.

"They have to hire an engineer," she said. "If they don't make progress the city will step in."

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