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Inwood Apartment Building Evacuated Due to Unsafe Conditions

By Carla Zanoni | February 18, 2011 9:35pm | Updated on February 19, 2011 12:36pm
552-556 Academy Street was evacuated by the Department of Buildings on Friday, Feb. 18, 2011.
552-556 Academy Street was evacuated by the Department of Buildings on Friday, Feb. 18, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Carla Zanoni

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — Residents of 30 apartments were evacuated from their homes on Academy Street Friday after the Department of Buildings deemed their apartment building unsafe.

A partial vacate order was issued for the 76-unit apartment building at 552-556 Academy Street by the Buildings Department (DOB) as well as a violation for "structural stability and egress issues," according to the department's website.

A sign posted on the door by the DOB stated that the building was shut down for "failure to maintain" the building, with defects including structural cracks throughout the building, sagging floors and roof, leaning parapets, exposed electrical wiring, a defective chimney and collapsing concrete. 

The Red Cross set up a reception area in the neighborhood to assess the level of housing need.

"We will make sure that everyone has a place to go, nobody will be left on the street," said a Red Cross spokesman.

Only half of the building was occupied when the evacuation took place Friday afternoon as part of the longrunning maintenance issues with the building.

In 2009, the building's tenants association won a fight to have their building taken from its landlord and appoint an administrator to initiate repairs.

Roughly 50 residents were at Junior High School 52 at 650 Academy Street by 7 p.m., but the Red Cross expected more.

Community Board 12 district manager Ebenezer Smith said the Red Cross is currently looking for Spanish translators to help. (Those interested can call 877-Red-Cross.)

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Buildings Department were working to ensure the building's safety, said DOB spokeswoman Jen Gilbert, who added that emergency work would continue through the weekend.

"Residents will remain evacuated until the building is deemed safe," Gilbert said.

Although the building has been problematic for years with charges listed with the Department of Housing dating back to 2000, the evacuation came suddenly for residents.

In 2006 the building was evacuated by the DOB out of fear that part of the building might collapse, the New York Times reported.

The Office of Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez learned about the evacuation at 2 p.m. through the building’s realty agency, according to Angel Audiffred, Rodriguez’s chief of staff.

Families raced Friday afternoon to pack whatever belongings they could carry and made plans to stay with friends and family when possible while they wait for housing officials to fully assess the situation by Tuesday.

For now, apartments have been padlocked for security while security guards and NYPD monitor the building.