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NYTimes
New York Times
16 Dec 2023
Patrick McGeehan


NextImg:New York Suspends Engineer Who Inspected Bronx Building That Collapsed

An engineer who oversaw inspections of a Bronx apartment building that partially collapsed on Monday “misdiagnosed” a column that was holding up the building, calling it a “decorative” element in plans he filed in June, city officials said Friday.

Mayor Eric Adams and the city’s buildings commissioner, James Oddo, said the city had suspended the engineer’s authority to inspect building facades and would seek to permanently revoke that authority.

Nobody was killed or seriously injured in the collapse. But it left more than 170 residents of the building, at 1915 Billingsley Terrace, with no place to live. In addition to the Buildings Department, officials said, the Bronx district attorney’s office and the city’s Department of Investigation are investigating what caused the collapse.

“When those who are entrusted to keep us safe cut corners and make catastrophic mistakes, we’re going to take swift action and hold them accountable,” Mr. Adams said in a statement. He added that the engineer had “no business assessing the exterior walls of buildings in New York City.”

Mr. Oddo said in a statement that the engineer had “failed to recognize a clearly structural column as such.”

“We got lucky that no one was killed in this collapse,” he continued. “We will not take that risk again.”

Mr. Oddo did not identify the engineer, but Richard Koenigsberg, a veteran inspector of facades in the city, said in a brief interview on Friday that he had filed reports about the building’s condition. His name is on a June filing that was updated in September, Buildings Department records show.

Mr. Koenigsberg declined to comment on the allegations by the mayor and Mr. Oddo. He said he had not been contacted by city officials since being interviewed the morning after the collapse.

“I haven’t been disciplined in my lifetime so I am not familiar with the procedures,” Mr. Koenigsberg said, adding that he would hire a lawyer and follow the lawyer’s advice.

Mr. Oddo said the unnamed engineer had 368 filings under the city’s facade inspection and safety program and that the Buildings Department would review them all as part of its investigation.

Mr. Koenigsberg said in an earlier interview that he had filed reports with the city that deemed the facade unsafe, but he said he was indicating in those reports that pedestrians needed to be protected from falling debris, not that the building was structurally unsound.

A corner of the seven-story building cascaded onto the sidewalk in midafternoon Monday, sending pedestrians and motorists running for cover and leaving bedroom walls exposed and clothes flapping in the breeze.