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‘Everybody Is On High Alert’: Fatal Garage Collapse Raises Scrutiny On NYC’s Parking Owners

The fatal collapse of the century-old Ann Street parking garage has left NYC’s parking owners and operators bracing for fallout.

A city law passed in 2021 mandating routine inspections is already in effect, but owners of the city’s aging supply of parking structures — in addition to facing increased insurance costs — are about to be subject to increased scrutiny and expensive upgrades. City officials have already identified dozens of garages with dangerous defects and ordered seven to vacate immediately. 

A Park Slope parking garage located at 429 12th St. where the NYC DOB found “structurally corroded and extensively corroded slab beams and columns" in a sweep following a fatal Manhattan garage collapse.

“My first thought was, I hope no one was hurt. And then, here comes the Building Department, cracking down on all the garages throughout the city,” said Gustavo Rusconi, vice president at Argo Real Estate, which owns several city buildings with parking garages. “Here come the violations and fines.”

The parking garage at 57 Ann St. collapsed on April 19, killing one person, injuring seven more and triggering Pace University to close its neighboring building for the remainder of the semester. Willis Moore had been working on the premises as a parking attendant for operator Little Man Parking for at least 14 years, Gothamist reported.

“We are devastated at the loss of one of our long-time employees and our thoughts are with his family and those who were injured in the accident,” Enterprise Ann Parking LLC, the tenant of the garage, said in a statement following the collapse. “We are fully cooperating with City agencies and other authorities as they investigate this incident.”

Consequences for NYC’s parking sector were immediate: The New York City Department of Buildings announced it would perform a sweep of inspections on the city’s garages, while some speculated that insurance costs could dramatically increase, The Real Deal reported.

In the sweeps immediately following the Ann Street collapse, the DOB found 350 Class 1 violations across 200 parking structures in the city. Of these, 61 were related to failures to maintain the building and specifically noted structural conditions, while another 140 had Class 1 violations that were not structural.

On April 25, the DOB instructed owners of four buildings that their structures had to be vacated immediately in order to carry out repairs. Engineers found “extensively corroded” concrete reinforcement slabs at 225 Rector Place, a Battery Park City parking garage underneath a 25-story multifamily building, and an entire garage in “severe disrepair” at 2781 Stillwell Ave. in Coney Island.

The DOB’s engineers also found rusted steel beams and “extensively cracked” concrete at a parking garage under an eight-story residential building at 50 Bayard St., and a two-story Park Slope garage at 429 12th St. with “structurally corroded and extensively corroded slab beams and columns.”

Thursday afternoon, DOB ordered a further three buildings to vacate due to structural concerns. Engineers found cracked and spalling concrete at an East Village garage located at 228 East Ninth St., which is operated by the same company that operated 57 Ann St. Plumbing leaks were found at a garage below a six-story office building at 1368 Fulton St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where "mortar was found to be missing along the masonry brick walls."

Additionally, inspectors found spalling concrete slabs at an 11-story mixed-use residential building at 148 Madison St. on the Lower East Side, noting that "vertical cracks were also found on several brick columns and walls, and on ceiling on the cellar."

FDNY and the NYPD closed off the streets surrounding the Ann Street garage in the immediate aftermath of the collapse on April 19, 2023.

Manhattan alone has 1,414 parking structures, a spokesperson for the DOB told Bisnow. That’s roughly one-quarter of all parking structures in the city under DOB jurisdiction, which includes commercial parking structures as well as accessory parking facilities for residential and office properties.

DOB inspections are “not very common,” Rusconi said, but most owners carry out maintenance to avoid fines if they are inspected out of the blue.

“We inspect them, generally, when we do local low-level work or facade work,” he said. “If they don't maintain the structure and the Building Department comes around for unannounced inspections, they will issue fines.”

Parking structures are often very exposed to weather elements, DeSimone Consulting Engineers Managing Principal Borys Hayda said. Buildings have to be able to withstand temperature swings, plus vehicles also drag water and dust in with them — and in the winter, salt.

“Concrete is not watertight. It does absorb liquid — slowly, but it does absorb liquid,” he said. “Obviously, if it starts, if it's cracked, you've given water a nice highway to proceed into the structure.”

Owners should be washing down their buildings every spring to get rid of the salt and checking regularly for cracks and signs of corrosion, as well as hiring their own inspector once a year to make sure their properties are maintained. But not every owner does that, he said.

“Many of them tend to be ignored and not maintained as much as they should,” Hayda said. “Two things happen when you maintain a garage. One, you take away revenue-producing space, you can't park the vehicles in there while you're maintaining. You get a double whammy: You're spending money, and you're reducing your return in the immediate term.”

But in some cases, it’s not even immediately clear who’s responsible for repairs, according to Gregg Reuben, CEO of Centerpark, a real estate investment firm specializing in urban parking acquisitions and management. Sometimes the owner is responsible for repairs, sometimes it’s the operator, and sometimes it’s both.

“I think everybody is on high alert right now,” he said.

The scope of the problem is also unclear. When asked how many garages had been given their certificates of occupancy more than 50 years ago, a spokesperson for the DOB said “many of the records are not digitized in a way where data can be easily compiled.”

A Stillwell Avenue parking garage in Coney Island, Brooklyn, where the NYC DOB recently said was in “severe disrepair.”

Local Law 126, mandating inspections once every six years for parking garages in NYC, went into effect last year. 

“Due to the unique wear-and-tear these facilities sustain, regular inspections on a fixed cycle are necessary to spot issues and prevent structural failures,” said Andrew Rudansky, press secretary for the NYC Department of Buildings. “Property owners have a legal responsibility to keep and maintain their private property in a safe condition, and this new mandatory inspection requirement will help them do just that.”

But inspections run by the city will take time. At present, only parking garages in Community Districts 1 through 7 — anywhere south of Central Park to the top end of the park on the west side of Manhattan —  are required to file for inspection before the end of this year, per the New York City Department of Buildings.

Manhattan’s remaining districts, plus parking structures in Brooklyn, can’t file until next year, per guidelines published last summer by the DOB. Garages in Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island, meanwhile, won’t need to have filed for inspection until the end of 2027.

It’s up to the owners to check, because some members of the public don’t ever see the inside of the garages, many which are largely valet-run spaces, Reuben said. Valets and parking garage attendants aren’t trained to look for things that require maintenance — nor should they be, he said.

“As an owner and an operator, I wouldn't want to put that responsibility on the front-line staff. Their job really is to manage the customers, which in and of itself can be challenging, especially in Manhattan, in New York City overall,” he said. “We want them to be able to focus their time and efforts on managing the customers and managing the vehicles.”

Inspections have already started, Reuben said. Owners must hire third-party engineers to inspect parking structures, and owners then have to follow through on recommended work. Centerpark has already had some of its own properties inspected, resulting in fixes including replacing concrete and rebar that cost anywhere from $15K to $75K.

“It’s been expensive,” Reuben said. “It can be a burden because it can require owners that have to make a higher level of investment in the properties that may have not been anticipated. But I think Local Law 126 goes a long way in ensuring that the owners are properly maintaining their buildings.”