Major miracle: Bronx building collapse results in no deaths or serious injuries, FDNY reports

Firefighters at major building collapse in the Bronx
Firefighters comb through the rubble of a major building collapse in the Bronx on Dec. 11, 2023.
Photo by Dean Moses

Call it an early Christmas miracle.

A partial building collapse in the Bronx on Monday afternoon resulted in no deaths or serious injuries after firefighters combed the rubble for hours looking for possible survivors, FDNY officials said Monday evening.

Sections of the six-story building at 1915 Billingsley Terrace, near Phelan Place, in Morris Heights fell to the ground at about 3:38 p.m. on Dec. 11.

Some 200 firefighters were on the scene looking for any individuals who may be trapped under the rubble. NYPD drones and search dogs also combed the site in an all-out effort to find any individuals.

All residents who were not in the collapse zone were safely evacuated, according to FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens.

And after more than six hours of digging through the debris, it became clear to the firefighters on scene that luck was on the side of everyone involved — both the residents who lived there and the first responders who feared the worst.

Firefighters comb through the rubble of a major building collapse in the Bronx on Dec. 11, 2023. Photo by Dean Moses
Sparks fly as firefighters saw through debris. Photo by Dean Moses

“Miraculously, no one was severely injured at the partial building collapse at 1915 Billingsley Terrace,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh tweeted Monday night just after 10:30 p.m. “From looking at the scene and surveillance footage, it could have been so much worse. … For hours, they searched for anyone who may have been trapped or injured. We have confirmed that no one was under that pile.” 

The cause of the collapse is under investigation, but the building did have “unsafe façade conditions” dating back to 2021, according to Buildings Commissioner James Oddo. Conditions such as deteriorating mortar and cracks within the façade were outlined in a report the building’s owners submitted to the Department of Buildings.

There have been 48 violations at 1915 Billingsley Terrace with the NYC Department of Buildings since 1984, according to the Buildings Information System, with two of those DOB violations still active. One of those violations, issued in February of 2020, pertains to a safety facade program, as well as a hazardous condition of possibly the same façade in March of 2021, according to Buildings Information System.

“There are seven open violations,” Oddo said, “but they are not structural violations.” Oddo expects more answers to come once department inspectors gain access to the site after search and rescue operations have ended.

A scaffold had been erected around the building; part of it fell after nightfall Friday as first responders continued their efforts to find any potential victims. Oddo noted several of the open violations related to the shed itself.

Meanwhile, impacted residents were provided assistance from the city and the American Red Cross, according to Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol. Residents were directed to nearby P.S. 390 for further aid.

The MTA also dispatched four buses to the location to help residents keep warm amid the cold, Iscol added.

Scaffold falls at Bronx building collapse site
Part of the scaffold falls at the Bronx building collapse site.Photo by Dean Moses

The NYPD advises all nearby residents to avoid the area while the emergency operation continues.

The Buildings Department is also on the scene to investigate the cause of the collapse.

Metro-North also suspended service on its Hudson Line between Grand Central and Spuyten Duyvil due to the collapse investigation.

This is a developing story; check with amNY.com later for further updates.

Exterior of Bronx building before the collapse
The exterior of 1915 Billingsley Terrace in the Bronx is shown in this Google Street View photo, taken in November 2022, with a scaffold near the façade.Photo via Google Maps
Firefighters on ladder searching Bronx collapse site
Firefighters on a ladder searching the Bronx collapse site.Photo by Dean Moses
Firefighters comb the rubble of the Bronx collapse site
Firefighters comb the rubble of the Bronx collapse sitePhoto by Dean Moses
The sheared off portion of the building.Photo by Dean Moses