East Harlem Building Evacuated After Man Falls Through Stairs

By Jeff Mays on August 30, 2013 9:19am 

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 A six-story East Harlem apartment building was evacuated Thursday after a 34-year-old resident fell through the stairs and down two to three stories, according to fire officials. The incident happened around 2:05 p.m. at 29 E. 104th Street which is located between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue.
East Harlem Building Evacuation
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HARLEM — A six-story East Harlem apartment building was evacuated Thursday after a 34-year-old resident fell through the stairs, according to fire officials.

The incident happened around 2:05 p.m. at 29 E. 104th Street which is located between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue.

Family members identified the victim as Charlie Vargas, a security guard. They say he was transported to an area hospital where he was getting an MRI due to head pain.

"We are very nervous," said Tirado Breledo who identified himself as Vargas' father.

Firefighters and police had to pull Vargas out of the staircase. The Department of Buildings determined that the stairway's instability made the entire building unsafe.

Several residents said that management was doing some sort of work on the stairwell of the walk-up building.

At one point, residents were stuck inside the building as workmen brought in pieces of wood to try and shore up the staircase. They then brought down families in small groups and allowed some people upstairs to retrieve necessary medicines and clothes.

The Red Cross was on the scene helping residents who needed to make other housing arrangements.

Debbie Quinones waited outside the building for her 89-year-old mother Olga to come down from the sixth floor.

"I had just finished walking in the same spot a few minutes before," said Olga Quinones, who was walking with a cane and holding onto her daughter, who was clutching her black overnight bag. She was headed to her daughter's apartment 15 blocks away.

Olga Quinones, who has lived in her two-bedroom apartment for 63 years, said she has been worried about the building's condition for a while.

"The whole building shakes when a truck comes down the street. You can feel the vibrations," she said.

Department of Buildings records show only one minor active complaint before Thursday's incident.

Representatives on scene for the ownership, listed in DOB records as San Francisco Associates Limited, declined to comment, saying they wanted to wait for architects and engineers to assess the building.

DOB officials said they would re-assess the building's stability after crews finished working and that the lower floor residents might be allowed back in.

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