Three construction workers in Chinatown were injured, and one died, after a building collapse on Tuesday afternoon at a site where numerous building code violations had been detected, according to officials.
First responders flooded 126 Lafayette St. at around 1:15 p.m. on March 7 after a wall collapsed onto one worker and caused another three to fall, FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens reported.
The incident occurred atop a three-story building that is set to be demolished and has multiple open work violations, according to the Department of Buildings, which earlier this year had conducted a major enforcement sweep of construction sites around the five boroughs.
The workers were reportedly atop a scaffolding attached to the wall when the bricks gave way, crushing one man beneath it and sending others toppling atop the rubble. First responders were on scene in less than four minutes, Chief Hodgens said, and were able to dig the man out of the debris.
All four were rushed to Bellevue Hospital with serious injuries; the 64-year-old man pulled from the debris later succumbed to his wounds on Tuesday afternoon.
“So, we have a total of four injuries. The person that was buried has a life-threatening injury,” Chief Hodgens said. “They [firefighters] were able to use hand tools and their own hands to remove the debris quickly.”
According to acting Buildings Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik, while the site had a “fully permitted demolition application” with the Department of Buildings, the worksite had also been issued at least five violations by the DOB in February that remain open.
Not only that, but he also confirmed that the violations in question may be related to the collapse, indicating it was caused by too many workers being on the scaffolding.
“Yes, one of the violations was for overloading on the level. It’s possible. As I said it’s a preliminary indication,” Vilenchik said.
Records from the DOB show a full stop work order on June 3, 2019 due to the applicant’s withdrawal from the project. This was changed to a partial stop work order after an inspection was made on October 1, 2021, which allowed other permitted work to continue.
Per DOB records, in October 2022, during another inspection the site failed to maintain the construction fence as per code — this was marked as resolved. In November 2022, the DOB did not issue a permit for full demolition of the three-story, 40-foot-tall commercial building.
The DOB granted full demolition to begin on Jan. 1, 2023. However, a few weeks later, on Feb. 10, the site received violations for failure to maintain the shanty — it was allegedly not made from fire-rated material — as well as failure to remove hazardous materials before demolition started and scaffolding with tarps on each side causing a hazard.
Violations were also issued for inadequate housekeeping of lumber, causing a 50-ton overload; and for having mechanical equipment from the elevator glass panels placed in place on the first floor. It was recommended that demolition work be stopped until conditions were corrected. DOB marked this February report as resolved.
Another report from the Construction Safety Enforcement was made at 1 p.m. on March 7 – the same day as the collapse – stating that the building was shaking/vibrating, and that the structure’s stability was affected.
Mayor Eric Adams visited the site and praised the FDNY for their swift response.
“Thank you to the men and women who responded to save the lives of those who are involved,” Adams said.
Story updated at 6:37 p.m.