Residents flee crumbling building

Firefighters were on the scene immediately at 2194 Barnes Avenue, where a wall collapse in the basement left the entire structure compromised, leading to a complete evacuation in the early evening. - Photo by Victor Chu

A severely damaged wall in the basement at 2139 Barnes Avenue has compromised the integrity of the structure, leading to a Monday, June 23 partial evacuation of the premises. 

A routine fire inspection uncovered a massive crack in the supporting wall in the building’s basement.   

Representatives from the Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Team, Department of Buildings, and the Fire Department arrived at the scene by 4:30 p.m. to help expedite the evacuation proceedings for those living in the 8 and 9-line apartments; a total of 13 units.  The building consists of 59 total units. 

An engineer made an initial assessment the next morning on June 24 that the structural cracking may have been the result of compromised connections of the 1st floor joists.

The Red Cross confirmed on Tuesday that 11 people registered for assistance, with three families asking for housing assistance.  Financial aid was also provided. 

Oscar Valdes, a member of the 49th Precinct Council and the local CERT, was at the scene and described the fear of building residents. 

“The people were scared because they thought the building was going to fall,” he said. 

He explained that the building was evacuated completely in the early evening, but residents were allowed later in the night to go back inside to retrieve some personal belongings when professionals deemed the area safe.  As of Tuesday afternoon, the building had not been reoccupied. 

“By 12:30 a.m., the building was completely shut down,” Valdes said. 

An interagency meeting was held the next morning at 9:30 a.m., attended by building management, Salamon Engineering, the FDNY, Department of Buildings, the OEM, NYPD, and Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta.

An investigation followed in which the joists were exposed by removing the sheet rock from the ceiling. Emergency shoring was put in place while the joists were exposed.

An inspection was scheduled for 3 p.m. on Tuesday to evaluate progress.

The owners of the building, Emmanuel and Blanche Binder, of Englewood Cliffs, NJ, would not comment on the situation. 

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