Department of Buildings

Manhattan Building Owner Cited After Stories-Tall Crack Prompts Major Evacuation, Concerns About Collapse

What to Know

  • Residents of an upper Manhattan apartment building were forced to leave their homes Thursday after a stories-tall crack developed in a wall
  • It's not clear what caused the crack at the building on East 96th Street and Second Avenue -- right over the new Second Ave line's last stop
  • City officials said Friday the building owner had been cited for failing to maintain it; in total, 25 apartments and a store were evacuated

The owner of an upper Manhattan building that developed a stories-tall crack, forcing an evacuation of 25 apartments and a store, has been cited for failure to maintain the structure, the Department of Buildings said Friday. 

Officials have issued a full vacate order for the building on East 96th Street and Second Avenue -- directly over the new Second Avenue subway’s final stop -- while crews conduct structural stability inspections. There's no estimate on how long those estimates will take. The Red Cross is helping displaced residents.

Tenants were forced out Thursday as authorities investigated. 

Lara Wilson said the crack -- at least a couple centimeters wide -- ran up an exterior wall that splintered up from the second floor to the roof. She said it had widened to the point she and others in the building could see out to the street.

Fire officials said it’s unclear what caused the crack, but they said the owner had known about it for some time and had called in engineers to make a fix. Wilson said she had even been moved out of her top-floor apartment so work could be done. A tenant called the city on Thursday afternoon when they were unhappy with the fix, prompting the evacuation.

FDNY Chief Roger Sakowich said Thursday evening that monitors showed the wall had moved an inch in the last 24 hours, and they made the decision to evacuate the building, which they said was in danger of a partial collapse. Metal barricades surrounded the building to make sure people stayed away from it. 

The MTA says there's no reason to believe that the Second Avenue subway construction had anything to do with the crack in the building, noting that the excavation happened five years ago and there was no problem or impact at the time, either.

Displaced residents believe that construction next door caused the building to shift.

"To me, it's very clear that the building next door is what's causing this," said Highfill. "I don't know how any of those construction workers with a clear conscience can be at work today, jackhammering next to this building that we can't even go in." 

Building management has declined to comment to News 4. 

Four tenants were in the home at the time the evacuation was ordered and only had 20 minutes to grab as much as they could. Many left thinking they wouldn't be back. 

"It's very unreal," said Elliot Highfill. "I was making flash decisions about what to keep and what to leave. I don't know if we will ever get the stuff that we left back." 

"I grabbed any documents I needed, birth certificate, Social Security card," said Michelle Leonard. 

Wilson told News 4 that her cat was still inside and she didn't know when she'd be able to reunite with her pet.

“They said we can get the cat but I don’t know where we’re going,” she said, tearing up. “So I don’t know if I can bring her with (me).”

She added, “I just hope she’s safe up there.”

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