New York

Long-Crumbling Harlem Church Collapses, Briefly Trapping Motorcyclist: FDNY

What to Know

  • The first floor of a three-story building in Harlem collapsed into its basement Thursday morning, the FDNY said
  • No workers were inside the building when it collapsed; a man on a motorcycle suffered a non life-threatening injury
  • The building is owned by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and was slated for demolition

The first floor of a church in Harlem collapsed into its basement Thursday, and though demolition wiped out the building in seconds, the building has been in a slow, steady decline for years. 

The FDNY received a call about a collapse at 316 W. 135th Street in Harlem at 11:52 a.m., it said.

Witnesses at the scene told NBC 4 New York a man on a motorcycle was leaving a parking garage behind the building when falling rubble from the building trapped him.

"All I heard was a loud crash," said Donald Ruff, who had just parked his car in the garage below. "I was getting my ticket, came up the ramp and saw a guy on his motorcycle underneath the rubble." 

FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Joseph Woznica said, "Had he been there a half-second earlier, he would have been crushed by the weight of bricks." 

EMS rescued the man and took him away from the scene after he complained of back pain, according to witnesses. His injury was considered to be non life-threatening, the FDNY said. There were no workers inside the building when it collapsed.

The three-story church, which has slowly been crumbling over the last year, finally caved in under demolition. The building is owned by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, city Department of Buildings records show. 

A representative filed for permits to demolish the structure in June, records show. The DOB issued a permit on Nov. 9. 

Records show the DOB received multiple complaints from people concerned about the building's stability over the past year.

"The vacant building is unstable and leaning.... Looks like it is slowly imploding," a complaint dated July 10 reads. 

"Caller states that building looks very unstable and leaning," another complaint dated Sept. 21 says. "There are cracks in the exterior and it has been like that for a while." A complaint filed the same day warned that debris was falling off the building.

A DOB spokesman on Thursday said the department was responding to the scene after receiving reports of a partial collapse. 

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