Prominent Architect Killed in Freak Midtown Accident

"No pedestrian should be at risk from dangerous façade conditions," the Department of Buildings said in a statement

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What to Know

  • A woman was struck and killed by falling debris in the heart of midtown Manhattan Tuesday, authorities said
  • The accident happened on 49th Street, near Seventh Avenue, shortly after 11 a.m.
  • The Department of Buildings called the case a tragedy, saying in a statement it was conducting a thorough investigation

As New York City's Department of Buildings continues its investigation into the death of a woman who was struck and killed by falling debris near Times Square, scaffolding has been erected to prevent anymore tragedies.

The DOB ordered the building's owner to immediately put up protections the sidewalk of one of the busiest areas for pedestrians in the city. Erica Tishman, a prominent architect and vice president of a Midtown-based construction firm, was one of those pedestrians walking near her workplace when her life was cut short Tuesday.

"This is a tragedy, and the family and friends of the victim are in our thoughts. No pedestrian should be at risk from dangerous façade conditions," a spokeswoman with the department said in a statement.

Investigators were still working to determine what kind of debris fell from the building on West 49th Street and hit the 60-year-old in her head.

DOB inspectors in April cited safety violation against the 17-story building at the scene of the deadly incident and issued a $1,250 fine for failure to maintain the facade, noting "damaged terra cotta at areas above 15th floor in several locations which poses a falling hazard for pedestrians."

However, it is unclear if this is the same area where the unidentified debris broke off.

There is one word that encapsulates Erica: indefatigable. To every opportunity, meeting, or event, she always brought her full self. Her presence will always be felt in every corner of our organization.

nonprofit, Educational Alliance

While the building's owner paid the fine, the violation remained open because the owner didn't file paperwork confirming the conditions had been fixed.

Property owners in New York City are responsible for hiring a professional to conducted inspection every five years, according to personal injury lawyer Sara Director.

Building owner Himmel + Meringoff Properties said it was "saddened by this tragedy" and would fully cooperate with city officials.

While a safety platform has been installed above the scene, the incident left many wondering if it could have been prevented.

"It's really scary. It could have been anybody. It's one of those freak accidents, you never know what's going to happen. Life is so unpredictable," New Yorker Amy Warren said.

Before her untimely death, Tishman served on the board of the nonprofit Educational Alliance for more than a decade, three years of which as the first woman chair in the organization's 130-year history, the group said in a statement.

Video posted to the Citizen app showed a heavy emergency presence, with police and fire engine sirens blaring in the heart of midtown.

Based on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Educational Alliance offers programs including Head Start for preschoolers, hot meals for senior citizens, addiction treatment, art classes and more.

"Erica not only gave over her time, resources, and professional talent to EA, she was deeply connected to our community and staff," the statement read. "There is one word that encapsulates Erica: indefatigable. To every opportunity, meeting, or event, she always brought her full self. Her presence will always be felt in every corner of our organization."

A graduate of Harvard and Princeton universities, she also was on the board of a synagogue, according to her bio.

Plummeting bricks, facade pieces and other debris have proven to be a deadly danger in New York before.

In 1979, a Barnard College student was killed when a chunk of concrete broke loose from a window ledge and plummeted nine stories. Her death prompted a city law that requires regular facade inspections for many buildings.

There have been other fatalities since, including the 2015 death of a 2-year-old killed by bricks tumbling from a window sill at a senior citizens' residence in Brooklyn.

"It's important to remember that many accidental deaths are preventable," state Sen. Brad Hoylman said after Tishman's death, which happened in the Democratic politician's district. "If there was any wrongdoing in this case, those responsible must be held to account to the fullest extent of the law."

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