A vacant 19th century building cited just this week for loose bricks and cracks partially collapsed in Lower Manhattan Thursday morning, causing no injuries but creating a mess of debris that closed streets and jolted residents.
A 50 feet by 60 feet portion of the empty five-story building at 71 Reade Street in Tribeca tumbled to the ground shortly after 6 a.m., burying at least one parked car and startling passersby and nearby tenants.
"Not surprised, it was in such bad shape," said Frank Schroeder, who used to live on the block.
Rescue crews scoured through the rubble and used search dogs as a precaution but officials said no victims were found. Inspectors checked the stability of surrounding buildings and crews shut gas lines on the street, which is near City Hall and about seven blocks north of the World Trade Center site.
Officials said they were investigating the cause, however the city's buildings commissioner said his inspectors knew the landmark building, which dates to about 1890, was "fragile" and they had recently ordered repairs to shore up the structure.
"We do know that this buidling was fragile and was slated for demolition," said Robert LiMandri, Buildings Commissioner.
Building inspectors had been at the site Tuesday and Wednesday responding to complaints that the building was "shaking" and looked unstable. They issued violations for loose bricks and cracks on its north and west sides, according to city records. On April 10, the city also cited the building for unrepaired cracks on its parapet and window sills. The owner, Aaron Vaknin, did not return calls. LiMandri said work was being done to shore up the building, which is next door to a construction site. The building also had three open violations for "failure to maintain," dating to November 2007.
The owner had planned to turn 71 Reade and an adjacent building into a boutique hotel but a contractor involved in the plans said financing had dried up. He said some of the support work on the landmark structure had been underway.
"Some of the work was done, they put supports on the corner of the building" said Parviz Abrishamchi, of FMC Construction.
Demolition crews began taking down what was left of the building by afternoon as Reade and Chambers Streets remained shut. The accident sheared off the front half of the landmark building, exposing interior floors, leaving a mountain of bricks and sections of dangling wood.