Kerry Burke, Rocco Parascandola, Janon Fisher, Michael Gartland, Ellen Moynihan
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — A four-story garage collapsed Tuesday afternoon, killing one person, injuring five others and sending lower Manhattan into chaos, according to emergency officials.
The structure at Ann and William streets “pancaked” just after 4 p.m., Buildings Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik said at a press conference near the scene.
The upper floors packed with cars crumbled, sending vehicles into the void below, jaw-dropping photos taken from adjacent buildings show.
“A couple of floors of the concrete slab floors collapsed, crushed some of the cars that are inside,” FDNY Chief of Operations John Esposito said at a press conference near the scene.
“It was a pancake collapse all the way to the cellar floor,” Vilenchik said. “We are going to continuously review and research property profiles to understand the history of the building, certificate of occupancy, and all other records.”
City records show that building owners paid fines on code violations, but the DOB did not register a fix to the underlying infractions.
In 2003, the Buildings Department cited the owners for “failure to maintain [building] hazardous” and noted “first floor ceiling slab cracks” and “missing concrete covering steel beams.” Inspectors also found “defective concrete with exposed rear cracks.”
On Tuesday, the facade of the building also buckled and was in danger of falling into the street.
Officials did not immediately name the victim who died, but a man who lives next to the garage said it was the site’s manager, who was on his way home at the time of the collapse.
“He was on the second floor when it came down,” said the neighbor, Adam Cohen. “He was a great guy.”
Cohen said he’d parked his car at the garage for years, but never imagined the building would fail.
“Pieces of it would flake off on my car, but I never thought it would collapse,” he remarked.
Emergency workers blocked off the street as firefighters tried to extract people that could be trapped inside.
Six victims were taken to local hospitals, with one dying, four others in stable condition and another refusing medical attention, according to officials.
“We’re continuing to do searches, there are some cars in there that are crushed. We’re trying to see if we can get up close to make sure that there’s nobody in those cars. But as I said before, we believe that we had everybody accounted for,” Esposito said.
Ahmed Ali said he was jarred by the noise of the floors caving in.
“I heard a boom,” he said, adding that he rushed to see what the commotion was and saw the fire escape between the two buildings had crumbled.
“The emergency metal steps fell down. Then the ceiling came down. One car from above fell on top of the other.”
Ali, 63, who works next door for a food supply company, saw an injured garage worker trapped under the metal wreckage of the staircase.
“One man was injured when the steps fell on him,” he said. “I tried to go in, but they pulled me out. I thought my life was going to end. I thought that was it.”
Firefighters initially entered the building to look for injured employees trapped in the rubble but then pulled out because the structure was deemed unstable and could collapse further.
Drones and a robot dog known as a Digidog were sent inside, instead, to search the wreckage until officials determined that all the garage employees were accounted for.
“At this time, this building is completely unstable,” Mayor Eric Adams said alongside Esposito. “We’re using the necessary technology to be able to give a clear view of what’s happening inside the building for the most part, and to do whatever we can to see if there are any more victims.”
Following the collapse, one worker got trapped on the remainder of the garage roof, according to Esposito.
Firefighters used a tower ladder to pluck the man off the roof and deliver him safely to the roof of a nearby building, the chief said.
“This was an extremely dangerous operation for our firefighters,” he explained. “We responded to a call of a collapsed building. We had firefighters inside the building and development searches. The building was continuing to collapse.”
Authorities shut down Ann St. from Gold to Nassau streets and the MTA ordered subway trains in the vicinity of the nearby Fulton St. station to run at slow speeds. The 2, 3, A, C and J lines were affected.
Jim Slattery, 64, parked his car in the garage just before the catastrophe while on his way to a doctor’s appointment.
He first grabbed a cup of coffee and walked past the scene on his way to his physician.
“I came out and there was a commotion on the street. Someone was telling me, ‘There’s a movie being shot.’ It’s New York City — everything is always going on,” said Slattery, a Staten Island engineer.
He went to the doctor’s and his phone started ringing.
“My wife’s calling, my friend’s calling me — because they know I’m down here today,” he said.
He was stunned when the doctor’s employees told him about the collapse.
“I guess I should play lotto,” he joked. “But I was struck by it. It hasn’t settled in yet … It’s my lucky day,” he said.
With Evan Simko-Bednarski
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