Scaffold Crackdown Coming Following Architect’s Death, City Says

NEW YORK, NY — New York City will crack down on buildings with unsafe facades, forcing more than 200 to install new scaffolds, following the death of a prominent architect who was hit by a piece of falling debris, Department of Buildings officials announced Monday.

In the 30 hours following the Dec. 17 death of Erica Tischman, DOB investigators inspected every building listed as “unsafe” in the city’s Façade Inspection & Safety Program, city officials said. The sweep resulted in 220 class 1 violations, which requires the installation of a scaffold, city officials said.

In addition to the crackdown, the DOB will double the size of its facade inspection team by hiring 12 new staff members, city officials said.

“In the wake of this tragedy, we are doubling-down on the proven tools at our disposal. New Yorkers should know that we are out in force holding owners feet to the fire, so they get repair work done as quickly as possible while still protecting the public,” DOB Commissioner Melanie La Rocca said in a statement. “With our enhanced inspection protocols and expanded staff, owners who choose to skirt their obligations will face swift consequences.”

With a larger inspection team, the Department of Buidlings will be able to conduct “proactive re-inspections” when buildings are found to have unsafe facades or facades in need of timely repairs. Buildings with violations requiring the installation of a scaffold will be re-inspected after 60 days. If the building has not set up a scaffold, the city will bring in contractors to do the work at the building’s expense, city officials said. Another inspection will take place 30 days later to ensure that the scaffolds are being well maintained, city officials said.

Tischman, a 60-year-old architect who lived on the Upper East Side, was hit and killed by a piece of falling debris while walking on West 49th Street and Seventh Avenue. Tishman was hit by the crumbling facade of the 17-story building at 729 Seventh Ave., Department of Building records show.

DOB inspectors cited building owners on April 29 for “damaged terra cotta at areas above 15th floor in several locations which poses a falling hazard for pedestrians,” according to city records.

A spokesperson from real estate firm Himmel + Meringoff Properties, which owns the building, said in a statement, “We are saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the family. The company will fully cooperate with the City in the ongoing matter.”

City Council members recntly introduced legislation that would allow the city Department of Buildings to use drones to inspect building facades.

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