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100 Evacuated After Wall Collapses in Hudson Heights

By Claire Cameron | June 8, 2013 10:29am | Updated on June 8, 2013 2:04pm
 A collapsed retainer wall caused 100 people to be evacuated from their apartments early Saturday morning on Pinehurst Avenue and Cabrini Boulevard in Hudson Heights. 
Collapsed Wall Evacuates Hudson Heights Buildings
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HUDSON HEIGHTS — A retainer wall collapsed early Saturday morning between apartment buildings on Pinehurst Avenue and Cabrini Boulevard, leaving 100 residents briefly displaced. 

The Fire Department responded to the emergency call at 5:25 am, and 35 apartments were evacuated. By mid-morning Saturday, all except for three units had been approved for reentry. The residents in those units had until 6 p.m. to clear their possessions from the building Saturday.

Officials said only 67 Pinehurst and 81 Cabrini were impacted by the collapse debris, but a parenting listserv in the residential enclave reported that 74 and 76 Pinehurst Avenue had seen detritus from the incident, as well as 75 Cabrini Boulevard.

Maria Rivera lives in one of the evacuated apartments with her husband and daughter. She said she was woken just after 4 a.m. by the rear fire escape crashing through her bedroom wall.

"It was quite scary, my room is small and the bed and other furniture is quite damaged," she said, adding that the walls were all cracked. "Because we were out quickly I don't know how bad it is. I wasn't thinking of these things, only of my daughter."

Although the area around the wall was blocked to residents for their safety, no one was injured in the wall collapse, said an Office of Emergency Management spokesman.

Those residents who live at the back of the building had a lucky escape, some said. Rivera's neighbor Michael Jackson was also woken by the crash as the wall came down and smashed his bedroom window. 

"I thought an air conditioner had fallen in because I woke up and my window had fallen in and I was covered in glass and debris," he said. "I just grabbed a bathrobe and went out. I got pretty freaked out."

Most residents had congregated across the street, preferring to stay by their apartments rather than go to a shelter point set up by the American Red Cross at a nearby school. The center was closed by 2 p.m., according to a spokesman.

The wall collapsed may have been caused by a combination of factors, most likely age and water damage, said John Postel, director of response, from the Office of Emergency Management.

Aside from the three apartments still too dangerous to live in, the yard area between the Pinehurst and Cabrini buildings was also closed off, as the concrete pavings could be unstable, he said. 

The buildings' owners were issued an order by the Buildings Department to hire fire guards to ensure residents' safety until new fire escapes have been installed at the rear of the building, said a spokesperson.

For those people still barred from entering their homes, Postel said it would be up to the building owners and contractors how quickly they would be let back in. He urged that all complaints be directed to the buildings' owners.