When a Building Collapse Makes You Grateful

When a Building Collapse Makes You Grateful

Early Monday morning, disaster struck at 241 Carroll Street (between Court and Smith Street), when the building’s exterior wall collapsed. Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. The owners, tenants, and neighbors have been remarkably resilient in the face of a disaster. And the response from City employees – at the Department of Buildings, Housing Preservation & Development (who will oversee demolition), the Fire Department, the NYPD, and the Office of Emergency Management – has been truly impressive.

The building was built a century ago, in the middle of a row of brownstones. About 50 years ago, when PS 58 was built, the buildings to the east were demolished, leaving this building at the end of the row. That seemed fine for five decades, until Monday morning.

First and foremost, everyone is grateful to be alive, in a situation that could very easily have been tragic. The owners’ kids’ bunk-beds were adjacent to the collapsed wall, but miraculously they were upstate. And the tenants who were in the building were sleeping away from that wall. This was truly by the grace of God.

Once the collapse happened, New York City’s emergency response team swung into action. Firefighters were on the scene immediately. The Red Cross was there to help families with relocation. The Department of Buildings quickly moved to assess the situation and offer relocation. The site was quickly secured, and they were able to safely get some essentials -- medicine, a hard drive, a few family photos – out of the building. By mid-day Monday, a demolition contractor (Tucci Construction) had been selected. On Tuesday, they will begin to demolish the building by hand, from the top down starting with the roof (using a crane), in order to reduce the risk of any further collapse.

Three neighboring buildings had to be vacated, so ten families will have to move out for a week or so. In the collapsed building itself, of course, the owners and tenants – while deeply grateful for their safety – have lost an enormous amount. Our hearts are with them, and we’ll keep people posted on efforts to help them out.

This disaster is a frightening reminder of how fragile things in life can be, even things that seem solid (and also, as the building's owner asked me to encourage everyone, to consider purchasing some extra insurance against disasters we can’t foresee).

But it’s also a reminder to be grateful – for our families and our safety, and for miracles of course – but also for the public employees and emergency response team working so quickly, diligently, and expertly in the face of crisis. Emergency response is one of those roles of government that you take for granted until the moment it is needed. Then you are very grateful it’s there.