Partial Building Collapse on Christopher Street Prompts Evacuation

By Danielle Tcholakian and Gustavo Solis  on May 14, 2014 7:38pm

 The building was evacuated when the facade at the fifth and sixth floor buckled.
The building was evacuated when the facade at the fifth and sixth floor buckled.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

WEST VILLAGE — About a dozen residents and at least three cats were forced out of their Christopher Street apartment building Wednesday afternoon when portions of the top two floors collapsed, city officials said.

The fire department said the facade of the fifth and sixth floors of 85 Christopher St. were "bowing," and a second-floor tenant, Damien Sherman, said he could hear bricks and cement falling off the building onto the scaffolding erected outside.

Several tenants said the building had a history of problems.

"The building has been falling apart for years," 29-year resident Rob Avshen said.

Many of the tenants said that the landlord, Kenneth Friedman, was reluctant to perform repairs.

"He said, 'If you want to move, you can always move,'" Sherman, 60, said.

Personnel from the NYPD, FDNY, Office of Emergency Management, Department of Buildings and Con Edison were dispatched to address the partial collapse and evacuation.

The Red Cross provided emergency housing to four displaced households and offered help to anyone else from the building who needed it, a spokesman said.

The residents were distraught, however, when they were told the only shelter available for them was located near John F. Kennedy Airport.

Two officials from the Department of Buildings and the fire department told the residents they did not know when they would be able to return to their homes, but that some of them could be escorted inside to get their belongings. Fifth and sixth floor residents would not be able to access their apartments, the officials said.

One of the evacuees was a tourist visiting from France, who said he had booked a studio on the sixth floor using Airbnb. He said he did not know how to contact the owner of the apartment and was not sure where he would stay for the remaining two weeks of his visit.

The building has at least nine open violations with the city's Department of Buildings, including an unresolved one from March 2013 for failure to correct "major bulging" of the bricks on the façade at the fifth floor.

The building's landlord declined to provide a comment at the scene.

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