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Weak Aluminum Railing From 1931 Could Not Hold Doomed Jennifer Rosoff

By Murray Weiss | August 2, 2013 2:27pm
 Jennifer Rosoff, 35, fell from her 17th floor balcony.
Ad Exec Plunges From Sutton Place Balcony
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MANHATTAN — Ad executive Jennifer Rosoff plunged through a 78-year-old aluminum railing that gave way because it could not hold the weight of an adult leaning against it, DNAinfo New York has learned.

Investigators believe the railing outside Rosoff’s 17th floor condominium at 400 East 57th St. was installed in 1931 without welded rivets. The non-welded rivets that were used popped out as Rosoff pressed her body against it just as she brushed aside her date’s warning that “you know, you shouldn’t do that.”

“I do it all the time,” she replied moments before a section of the railing broke free, sending her plunging to her death in front of his horrified eyes.

According to sources, city engineers summoned to the scene immediately knew that the welding was not up to today’s codes and that the railing was unable to bear the weight of the 35-year-old who had worked for a digital sales start-up and had previously worked for Conde Nast.

“There were clearly a failure of the rivets,” a law enforcement source explained to “On The Inside.”

The sources explained that the railing on the 20-story apartment house was installed in 1931 when the applicable city building code from 1926 did not mandate certain weight-bearing requirements that would address riveting, the type of metal used and how they were fastened to the structure.

The building code was upgraded in 1969, the sources explained, and again in 2008. Buildings are not required to immediately upgrade to new codes when enacted, but once new construction work is started on a building or its edifice, it must then be brought up to the most current code.

Sources say the various owners of the building filed paperwork over the years regarding improvements on the balconies twice during the last two decades — once within the past 10 years — that indicates some work was done to strengthen the balconies and the rails.

Department of Buildings engineers and investigators have yet to determine exactly what that work was.

But the rail “could not hold the weight,” one law enforcement source said.

The building has changed hands several times since it was built.

It was not clear if the present owner, Stonehenge, did any of the improvements.

The city has ordered all residents to stay off their balconies until they are all inspected because they believe other railings could be dangerous.

Rosoff was on a first date with Steve Close, a 35-year-old real estate broker she met online, when she stepped out onto her balcony to have a cigarette.

Sources say she placed a leg on the rail as though she were stretching and then leaned or partially rested on it, prompting Close to warn that it might not be safe.

Without warning, the rails separated, sending her hurtling to her death. Her stunned date raced down to the street yelling “Oh my God” and that his friend had fallen.

Sources said detectives verified Close's account in various ways, including by interviewing tenants in nearby buildings who witnessed the tragedy.

“I heard a bang. I thought it had been a gunshot,” soda executive Steve Hersch told DNAinfo New York shortly after the accident.  

Rosoff, the middle of three sisters from Long Island, was the director of sales for advertising company TripleLift, according to her LinkedIn profile. She had previously worked for various Conde Nast magazines including The New Yorker, Lucky Magazine and Cosmopolitan.

"We are all deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of our dear friend and co-worker," TripleLift co-founder and CEO Eric Berry said in a statement.

"She was well-loved and a highly respected member of our team. Her tremendous energy and humor brought so much joy to the office. The entire company is distraught by the loss of Ms. Rosoff — she will be deeply missed."

According to a DOB spokeswoman, the agency received an inspection report for the entire facade — including all balconies — in February. Under local law, facades must be inspected once every five years.

The department slapped Stonehenge with two violations because of the incident, a spokeswoman said. The property company declined to comment.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing.