New York City is known for slamming the door after the horse has left the barn. When mortar worked loose from a building and killed a pedestrian, the city passed Local Law 11, now known as the Facade Inspection and Safety Program, which requires inspections and necessary repairs every five years. When faulty gas lines led to fatal explosions and fires, the city passed Local Law 152, which requires gas line inspections and repairs every four years.
When it comes to inspecting parking garages for structural problems, the city finally slammed the door before the horse left the barn — sort of. In 2021, the city passed the proactive Local Law 126, which requires inspections of the city's 1,200 parking garages every six years. The first of three two-year cycles — covering Manhattan below Central Park and the Upper West Side — runs to Dec. 31, 2023. Garage owners in the rest of Manhattan and Brooklyn have until the end of 2025 to comply, and owners in the other boroughs have until the end of 2027.
But Local Law 126 didn't prevent the collapse of a garage on Ann Street in Lower Manhattan last month that killed one person and injured five others. The garage, due for inspection by the end of this year, had not been inspected. In the wake of the collapse, the Department of Buildings (DOB) rushed to inspect more than 170 garages across the city. Inspectors identified dozens of garages with potential hazards, ordering some shuttered and closing off sections of others until their structural defects could be repaired.
Now a report by The New York Times reveals that serious structural problems are widespread in the city's parking garages — and in many cases have been allowed to persist uncorrected for years. Reporters identified more than three dozen garages across the city that have been cited recently for crumbling ceilings, exposed and rusting reinforcing bars and other defects.
The Ann Street garage itself had several outstanding violations that appeared never to have been corrected before the collapse, including a case from 2003 in which inspectors cited the building for cracked, degraded and defective concrete.
“(Local Law 126) couldn’t have happened soon enough,” says Muhammad Rahal, a structural engineer certified by the DOB to conduct parking garage inspections. “There are a lot of buildings with issues, and a lot of things will be discovered. I just hope that now more of these building owners will take it more seriously.”
Good news for co-op and condo boards and their property managers and engineers who want to take garage safety more seriously. Rand Engineering & Architecture will host a live, one-hour webinar on May 24 at 1 p.m. The webinar, "Parking Structure Safety: Post-Collapse Focus on Inspections, Maintenance & Local Law 126 Compliance," will feature the Rand engineers Jimmy Vignola, who is a certified garage inspector, and Jason Damiano. They'll walk viewers through Local Law 126 and a similar state law, address common problems in parking structures, offer guidance on effective maintenance and repair, and answer viewers' questions. To register for the free webinar, click here.
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