Building Collapse in Brooklyn
At Twilight, a crane seven stories tall was ripping into this apartment
building across from St Thomas Aquino Church on the corner of Flatlands and
Flatbush Ave in this bedroom community in Brooklyn. Flatbush Ave was
totally sealed off to traffic. People watched with interest as the city
proceeded to tear down the faceless 5 story apartment building which
suddenly failed this morning, causing 81 people to run for their lives as
the corner of the building collapsed. One eye witness to the sudden
collapse of the building said - "The entire "V" on the corner sunk down
floor by floor until it hit the ground". Firemen at the scene were
questioned about the sudden collapse. Speculation was all that could be
offered as to why this one building suddenly failed. One Fireman reported
that with the heavy rains over the last few days, this building, with holes
in the roof, just collapsed. One thing was certain, at 7AM the sky was
filled with Helicopters again in Brooklyn as the Police succeeded in saving
everyone in the building.
It seems unlikely though that holes in the roof could be the primary cause
for the collapse. Just south of Kings Highway, the construction of this
area is mostly Postwar buildings, not extraordinarily old, in a thriving
neighborhood. Certainly there are many buildings in the Borough even older
and with more wear, which didn't just collapse suddenly. But whatever the
cause, the sudden collapse took the neighborhood by surprise. Standing
across the street, you could look into the building to see refridgerators
with food in them, Bath Tubs, and pictures on the wall. It looked very
much like a doll house, open on one side, a 50 foot high doll house!
According to one representative of Brooklyn Union Gas on the sight, the
Gas Company felt very lucky to get to the scene in time before a Gas Leak
and an explosion. A whole was dug in the street with the gas main exposed.
Gas has been shut off on the block and may not be up even by tomorrow.
One Police Officer on the scene worried about the possibility of asbestos
in the dust cloud being created by the destruction of the remnants of the
building. The Department of Enviormental Protection was on the scene
and the Fire Department was on hand spraying the rubble down. Unlike other
areas of the City, below Kings Highway much of the borough sits on
Landfilled swampland. It is possible that the ground underneath it has
become hollow. If so, this can be an ominous long term problem for the
southern part of the borough.
copyright August 10 1997 Ruben I Safir
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