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Tenants Evacuated From Unstable Harlem Building

By DNAinfo Staff on March 9, 2012 11:20am

By Trevor Kapp and Wil Cruz

DNAinfo Staff

HARLEM — Dozens of tenants were evacuated from their apartments Friday morning while firefighters checked the stability of their building, fire officials said.

Residents at 3750 Broadway were rousted just after 9 a.m. after the FDNY got a call about broken joists in a row of apartments in the six-story building, officials said. A joist is a supporting beam that holds up ceilings.

"I was sleeping and they came banging on the door. I thought it was a fire," said Gary Garcia, 30, who lives on the second floor.

Firefighters rushed him out of the building.

"They asked, 'Do you have anywhere else to stay because you can't be here,'" Garcia added. "They said, 'The building slanted over more, and it's moving.'"

There were no reported injuries, an FDNY spokesman said.

Some tenants were allowed back into the building to collect some of their things, but it wasn't immediately clear when they'd be allowed back in permanently.

The Department of Buildings did not have any immediate information about the structural damage. On its website, a complaint states that an inspector is "reporting broke joists in apts 41 and apt 51."

"The broken joist are in the bathroom, concerned about the structure stability," the complaint read.

Garcia said the stability of the building has been a recurring problem.

"We had to put up wood beams to keep the ceiling from coming down. It's pretty dangerous," he said. "We've had fires, but nothing like this."

The American Red Cross of Greater New York was on scene to help residents from at least five apartments were who forced out of their homes, said spokesman Michael Devulpillieres.

"We are there to make sure that people displaced and not allowed to go back have a place to stay tonight," Devulpillieres said.

If the tenants aren't allowed back in the apartments Friday night, the organization can put them up in a local hotel for up to three nights, and provide referrels for long-term housing plans if the displacement goes beyond that, he said.