NEW YORK (AP) — Crews used cranes to lift cars, one by one, out of the rubble of a New York City parking lot on Wednesday, as building inspectors sought to identify the cause of the century-old structure’s deadly collapse.

Grim work also continued to recover the body of a garage worker presumed dead under tons of concrete and dented vehicles.

“Right now we are in transition to bring that building down safely,” Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said at a news conference, a day after the multi-level parking garage collapsed just as a stream of clients returned from work to retrieve their cars. .

It was a delicate operation to remove up to 90 vehicles scattered on the structure’s sagging upper deck and amid tons of shattered concrete.

A preliminary investigation found that all three floors of the garage partially or completely collapsed, according to the city Department of Buildings. The rear wall of the garage partially collapsed and the front façade bulged.

Authorities said recovery efforts were made more difficult by the possibility that ongoing work could further destabilize the structure and make it more difficult for the victim to recover.

Two decades ago, city building inspectors cited the property owner for failing to properly maintain the building, finding at the time that there were “cracks and defects” in the concrete. A more recent inspection, conducted in the fall of 2013, showed no further structural problems, according to an update provided by the Building Department Wednesday afternoon.

Starting last year, parking garages in parts of Manhattan were required to undergo structural inspections and report to the city by the end of 2023, with additional inspections at least once every six years. City officials said the garage owners had not yet complied.

“There is an investigation into what exactly happened here and we’re making sure there’s something we can put in place to prevent something like this from happening,” Mayor Eric Adams said.

Theories abounded, and officials said they would consider all possible explanations, including the possibility that the structural integrity of older parking structures is being undermined by today’s fleets of larger and heavier SUVs.

The mayor said that this could be a matter worth investigating.

“We live in a new environment and we have to constantly analyze and update everything from weight capacity to how many cars can be in there,” Adams said.

The garage collapsed around 4 p.m. Tuesday, a few blocks from City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Pace University had evacuated an adjacent dormitory and classroom building and canceled all evening classes while it assessed the safety of the buildings. City inspectors told the school it could resume use of the buildings, though the school said it would hold some classes online and staff would work remotely for now, said Jerry McKinstry, the university spokesman. .

In all, six nearby buildings were under evacuation orders pending inspection, according to city officials.

The Building Department said that in 2009, the garage’s owners were cited for failing to maintain the building due to cracks and defects in the concrete. The officials ordered the building owner to hire a professional engineer and correct the violations. The owners began compliance in January 2010 and submitted applications to make structural repairs and install 34 car lifts in the building.

In November 2011, a city inspection found the building’s interior maintenance to be “in good condition.” But city officials said they never received the required certificates of correction for previous violations, even though the building’s owner paid all associated fines.

The mayor said the body of the man killed in the cave-in was discovered by a dog-like robot deployed by the Fire Department to search the ruins.

“We didn’t want to send people in there. We couldn’t even send a cadaver dog in there because that cadaver dog would have gone in there and could have collapsed and hurt someone,” Adams said.

The mayor took advantage of the tragedy to defend his decision last week to allow your Police Department to use the robotic canines after the pushback from critics.

“If we didn’t have that robotic dog, we would have endangered those firefighters. That was how we found the person who is still there,” he said.

Some parking lot regulars returned to the building to see if their cars had been recovered and to pay their respects to the deceased worker, who they said was always kind.

“Every morning I would see it,” said Ahmed Scott, a regular customer of the parking lot. “When I was leaving that morning, the last time we saw each other, we smiled, we waved at each other. See you in the afternoon, in the same place, at the same time.

Adam Cohen, who lives in a building near the parking structure, said his family has not been allowed to return home. A nearby hotel was also temporarily closed as a precaution.

Cohen held up a photo of the parking garage’s upper deck and pointed to his Nissan Pathfinder, which had been swallowed by a massive fissure, its rear end pointing skyward.


Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed to this report.

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