Tenants were forced to vacate a three-story brownstone in Prospect Heights on Tuesday, July 20, after the building’s facade partially collapsed and destroyed the front stoop.
An investigation by the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) determined that a decorative stone arch above the front door of 626 Carlton Avenue collapsed just after noon, causing the front stairs to crumble.
There were believed to be no injuries associated with this incident. But the DOB has issued a full vacate order for the landmarked building, since the damaged front entrance has made it difficult to safely enter the building.
The displaced residential tenants have been offered relocation assistance by the American Red Cross, the DOB said.
The agency has issued the property owners a violation for failure to maintain the building. DOB has also ordered the owners to install a sidewalk shed in front of the building and to hire an engineer to compile a full engineering report determining what caused the collapse.
Residents Evacuated After Brownstone Decorative Arch Collapsed @CitizenApp626 Carlton Ave Jul 20 11:58:57 AM EDT
DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky said that the owners, whom public records identify as Joseph Celestin and Jacqueline Celestin-Andre, have thus far been complying with the orders. Attempts by Bklyner to reach the owners via phone were unsuccessful.
A recording studio which lists its address as the Carlton Avenue building, Stonebrown Studios, also did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
DOB records show there were no active violations associated with the building at the time of the collapse.
In February, the agency launched a facade and scaffolding “safety blitz” that included inspection sweeps on facade work sites across the city along with educational outreach to construction workers and industry professionals. But the blitz focused only on active construction sites.
In June, an apartment building on South Third Street in Williamsburg was declared unsafe to live in after its facade partially collapsed, forcing tenants to relocate.
The department has sought to strengthen and expand its Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) in recent years, particularly after a December 2019 incident in which a piece of debris from a Midtown building that had recently been fined for its unsafe facade broke off and fatally struck a 60-year-old woman.
Nevertheless, a recent audit by the state comptroller of the DOB’s oversight of city sidewalk sheds found multiple cases of unsafe conditions and concluded the agency “needs to be more proactive in ensuring that owners and other responsible parties comply” with rules pertaining to the installation, maintenance and removal of sheds.
While it is not yet clear what caused the collapse at the Carlton Avenue building, or whether there were visible signs of damage to the ornamentation before its collapse, there are steps brownstone residents can take to ensure the safety of their buildings.
“When you start to see the facade flaking or cracking, especially when you see horizontal crack or you see water penetrating the facade, you should call an engineer or contractor who does this type of work to analyze and make sure the facade is not in danger,” Maraz Hyder, a managing partner at Excellent Contracting told Bklyner.
The DOB has also published an ‘Illustrated Glossary” of facade conditions with images of most of the typical facade problems encountered in brownstones and other New York City buildings, though it warns that defects can not always be identified without deeper inspections.
"If the owners of a brownstone building have concerns about the condition of their building’s facade," DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky told Bkyner, "the Department strongly encourages them to reach out to a registered design professional, such as a Registered Architect or Professional Engineer, to have the building properly inspected."