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194-Year-Old Building Partially Collapses on Canal Street

By Julie ShapiroAidan Gardiner and Joe Parziale  on January 16, 2013 2:05pm  | Updated on January 16, 2013 2:58pm

TRIBECA — A wall of a nearly two-century-old building on Canal Street collapsed Wednesday afternoon, the FDNY said, following years of complaints from neighbors and government agencies that it was falling into disrepair.

A wall within 502 Canal St. collapsed about 12:30 p.m., dropping a metal roll-down gate onto the sidewalk, a fire spokesman said.

The landmarked building has been vacant for years, and no one appeared to be injured in the incident, authorities said.

In 2010, the Landmarks Preservation Commission found that the building's facade was so badly deteriorated that it was in danger of collapsing.

The building's landlord, Ponte Equities, quickly agreed to make repairs, which satisfied the commission at the time. 

But on March 23, 2012, the landlord was written up for failing to maintain the building's "defective brickwork," according to the Department of Buildings website. The landlord received additional violations in July and October of 2012 after parts of the building fell off and landed on the sidewalk, according to DOB records.

Ponte Equities did not immediately return a call for comment.

The three-story brick building was built in 1819 for John Y. Smith, who ran a starch and hair powder business out of the ground floor and lived with his family above, according to the LPC.

Neighbors have long been concerned about the crumbling structure, said Misha Lopato, 22, who lives in a nearby residential building. Locals have repeatedly called 311 about the rundown Ponte Equities' building, which has been covered with a scaffolding for the past 12 years, Lopato said.

He said he and others in the neighborhood are hoping the city will condemn the structure and tear it down.

"At this point, the whole neighborhood just wants this building gone," he said. "[Ponte] hasn't done any renovations on it. It just looks bad. and more importantly, it's dangerous."

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