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City Seeks to Tighten Garage Inspections After Deadly Collapse

New York City

Parking garage collapse, Local Law 126, garage inspections, co-op and condo boards.

Firefighters at the deadly parking garage collapse in Lower Manhattan (Shutterstock/Ben Von Klemperer).

Aug. 7, 2023

One good turn deserves another. As the first round of the city's new six-year cycle of mandatory garage inspections draws to a close, the city council is considering even tighter rules — in response to the parking garage collapse in April in Lower Manhattan that killed one and injured five.

A package of five bills now before the city council includes a measure that would require garage owners to install weigh stations to determine whether each arriving vehicle would exceed the garage’s load-bearing ability, Crain's reports. The bill would also force owners, including co-op and condo boards, to deny entry to any car that would push a garage level past its collective weight limit.

Local Law 126, enacted by the council in 2021, introduced regular six-year inspection cycles of all of the city’s parking garages, subjecting them for the first time to the same scrutiny as other buildings. The garage that collapsed in April had been on the city’s radar over the years for isolated infractions, but Local Law 126 did not require inspections for Lower Manhattan garages until the end of 2023, and the downtown building had not yet been inspected when it collapsed.

In that vein, another of the council’s bills would shorten the inspection window to every four years once the initial six-year cycle ends on Dec. 31, 2027. Follow-up assessments would then be required every two years.

The remaining bills would double civil penalties for Department of Buildings violations issued to garage owners and require the department to conduct a general study on the load-bearing ability of parking garages — taking into account factors like age, size and structural design. The final bill would require the city to give garage owners a checklist they could use to inspect their own properties and notify DOB of any safety issues.

"These are reasonable measures," Jason Damiano, a senior structural engineer at Rand Engineering & Architecture, tells Habitat. "It does make sense to have an idea of how much weight is in the garage compared to how much weight the garage can bear."

Damiano is also a Qualified Parking Structure Inspector sanctioned by the city to perform Local Law 126 inspections. As the first deadline nears on Dec. 31, 2023, he says, "Most of the garages we've inspected have some level or work required. I think what we're going to find is that a lot of garages are going to have problems in the first six-year cycle of inspections."

Under Local Law 126, the city is divided into three two-year cycles. By the end of 2023, all garages on the Upper West Side and below Central Park must be inspected and repaired. Garages in the rest of Manhattan and Brooklyn must be inspected and repaired by the end of 2025, and garages in the other three boroughs by the end of 2027.

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