New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
Bill Morris in Building Operations on April 20, 2023
The collapse of a parking garage in Downtown Manhattan on Tuesday that killed one worker and injured five other people has served as a reminder to many garage owners — including co-op and condo boards — that time is running out on the first round of mandated garage inspections.
Under Local Law 126, all New York City parking garages must undergo inspections by a city-certified inspector every six years. Then, much like the Facade Inspection and Safety Program, the law mandates that garages must be deemed safe, unsafe, or safe with a program of repairs.
The law went into effect at the beginning of 2022, and all buildings below Central Park and on the Upper West Side — an area that includes the collapsed garage at 57 Ann St. — must be inspected by the end of 2023. Garages in the rest of Manhattan and Brooklyn must be inspected by the end of 2025, and in the other three boroughs by the end of 2027. Then the six-year cycle starts over.
“My phone was off the hook yesterday,” says Tai Mahmuti, a partner and senior engineer at Hoffmann Architects + Engineers. “There wasn’t much inspection activity during 2022, and then my phone started ringing at the beginning of this year. The attitude was sort of wait-and-see, but this tragedy has put garage inspections out front. Time is getting short for buildings below Central Park and on the Upper West Side. The end of the year is right around the corner.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is investigating the collapse of the three-story structure on Ann Street, which was built in 1925 and converted to a parking garage in 1957. The garage had a capacity of 102 vehicles.
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Eric Cowley, the principal at Cowley Engineering and one of 52 city-sanctioned garage inspectors, says inquiries about garage inspections from his co-op and condo clients began picking up before Tuesday’s collapse. “We had an uptick of interest a couple of weeks ago,” he says. “We’ve given price estimates to 25 co-op and condo boards that have to do inspections this year, and we’ve only been hired to do two so far. Right now the world is behind the curve.” He offers a word of encouragement: “Clearly, if a garage is properly maintained, there’s no reason for panic. But since there are only 52 of us inspectors, the earlier you do it, the better.”
Cowley has not experienced a repeat of the aftermath of the deadly condominium collapse in Florida in 2021, when he received several requests to inspect buildings for structural integrity, mainly to mollify residents’ fears.
Mohammed Yousuf, a structural engineer at Lawless + Mangione Architects and Engineers, advises co-op and condo boards and their property managers to be on the lookout for signs of trouble. “I would say look for any signs of water leaks, or concrete chipping or spalling,” Yousuf says. “It has to be so bad that they’re using tarps to protect cars from leaking water, or plywood to cover up potholes in the concrete. Those are major signs that they need to get their garage inspected right away.”
(To read the cover story of Habitat's February issue on the fallout of Local Law 126, click here.)
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