1 in 5 Manhattan parking garages inspected so far have unsafe conditions

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By Dan Sears

Twenty percent of Manhattan parking garages inspected after a fatal garage collapse in April had unsafe conditions–including cracking, corrosion and delaminated concrete–and one garage had to be shut down, according to the city’s Department of Buildings.

Some 110 parking structures out of 550 garages categorized so far have unsafe conditions such as cracks, crumbling concrete or missing handrails, according to data published on the city’s website. Roughly a thousand garages were given an end-of-year deadline to file inspection reports, but only 62% of garages have complied.

“The absolute worst garages, the fear is that they’re not even aware of this inspection requirement or they don’t have the money to comply with it,” said Jason Damiano, a senior structural engineer at RAND Engineering and Architecture, which has conducted some of the inspections.

The city adopted a new inspections mandate last year after a garage collapse in Lower Manhattan in April killed a worker. Garage owners are required to hire a private engineer to inspect their structures. The requirement is being rolled out in phases to eventually include all garages by 2027.

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So far, only approximately 13% of the city’s garages have been inspected.

One garage, at 214 W. 80th St., was issued vacate orders after the inspector, Eric Cowley with Cowley Engineering, P.C, found significant damage to the concrete.

“Enough for injury to people and damage to cars, and a real question about the structural capacity of the floor slabs,” Cowley said in an interview.

Cowley cautioned that just because a building is found to have unsafe conditions, it doesn’t mean it is in danger of collapsing. However, most do require repairs.

“I don’t think I’ve walked into a garage yet–and I’ve done probably 20 of them–and there hasn’t been one that I haven’t found something,” Cowley said.

The building department issued fines to some 400 parking garages for missing the inspection deadline–$1,000 a month for failing to meet the deadline and an additional $5,000 penalty at the end of the year for owners still not in compliance.

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“Most of these property owners are complying with the law, and many are taking steps to repair their buildings,” Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said in a statement. “For those who have not lived up to this legal responsibility, get those late reports in as soon as possible because monthly penalties have already started, and will continue to rack up until we get compliance.”

Damiano said he was surprised by the number of unsafe conditions he’s found.

“Just the number of garages that have conditions,” he said. “You get people who work there for 10, 20 years, they don’t think much of it. And then you get an engineer coming in there one day for a snapshot and saying whoa, whoa, whoa, this is pretty serious.”

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