Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dangerous Fart: Williamsburg Demolition Endangers Neighbors

Remember the Giant Fart Cloud Building, aka Five Roebling? It's the one that the blogger Bad Advice lives next to. She has been afraid demolition work would destroy her home and, at least, seriously effect her life. Well, it's happening and it's scary. Her story gets the at the heart of the powerlessness that everyone that lives near a building project must feel when work starts: If work starts, their homes might be endangered and they will have nowhere to turn.

Here's is Bad Advice's first email to us this morning, at 12:37 AM. It came with the subject line "Help!":
I'm really freaked out about what's going on next door. They've knocked out my phone (the lines are laying on the ground across N. 11th!), the cable TV/internet and the building is rocking like, uh, a building is NOT supposed to when they're working. Thank christ Con Ed and the water supply is underground. I've spoken to Marie Grasso [who owns the demolition company] several times. As you might imagine, she's not been terribly helpful,
though she did demand that the backhoe operator repair my cable tv with a roll of electrical tape. (Shockingly, that didn't work.) I am losing my mind over here...
Here is this morning's email, which arrived at 7:10AM and details frustration with both the 311 system and with the Department of Buildings (Note to DOB: If you are reading this, perhaps, an inspector might visit 5 Roebling Street today.):
I've been calling 311. Last night I called them about the wires laying across the street. They asked me if they were live wires--I told them I wasn't about to check that out! So they connected me to 911 and the fire department came and made sure nobody was going to get electrocuted. Once they determined they were only phone lines, they split.

Yesterday I called Marie Grasso and told her I didn't think her backhoe was supposed to be ripping walls down. She insisted that it hadn't been the backhoe, but only her guys--by hand--were doing the demo. I insisted it had been mechanical and she insisted back that I
was mistaken.

I told her that I had photos AND video. That shut her ass up.

311 has been so completely useless. They keep wanting us to say that we think our building should be condemned! Um, no! We want them to stop the parade of incompetence before it gets that way! It seems like there's nothing you can do until your ceiling comes crashing down on your head.

I worked from home yesterday and while it was scary to have the building weaving with me in it, today I have to go into my office and I'm even more worried to leave and wonder what I'm going to come back home to. I can't figure out if it's incompetence or corruption that makes the DOB such a completely inefficient organization.
There is a post over at Bad Advice from which we have taken the photo of the heavy equipment doing the demolition. One can only hope the demolition is halted by DOB before damage happens to the building next door that causes people to become homeless. If not, it is emblematic of everything that is wrong with the system and how it fails to protect everyday citizens from being harmed. Sometimes from the threat of literal harm and homelessness that could be prevented. The DOB's failure to respond to this situation before the building is destroyed would be akin to the Fire Department's failure to answer an alarm.

We will have updates later.

UPDATE: We just got an email from Bad Advice saying that the site received a visit from the Department of Buildings and that a Stop Work Order was issued. The reasons behind the order are unclear right now, but it's encouraging that DOB acted before structural damage was done to adjacent property.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at this job that morning and the only thing i can see was that the machine was holding the steel to bring it down to the floor so we don't have a big bang this was the only demo here that did'n make noise this place was a home for the drugie we should be happy that this place is down. Jimmy

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The DOB is useless in such situations. In trying to help an elderly neighbor as demolition and excavation next door battered his house, calls were made to DOB, to no avail. Cable and phone lines were knocked out. A plaster wall and ceiling came down. The side of his house was opened up. The man was almost made homeless, in fact it was the beginning of the end for him in terms of being able to live in his house. It was terribly frightening, and very costly, and the developer laughed all the way to the bank. The developer had promised to take all precautions, including buttressing the house and then refused even to take phone calls to remedy the situation. In essence, the developer was a liar and the DOB and other official entities did NOTHING.

12:39 AM  

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