Violations not cause of deadly Chinatown wall collapse, DOB says

Buildings Department inspectors check the site of the collapse on Lafayette Street on March 7, 2023.
Photo by Dean Moses

The fatal wall collapse that killed one worker and injured three others in Chinatown on March 7 was not a result of previous violations, amNewYork Metro has learned from the Department of Buildings (DOB) on Thursday.

When a wall collapsed during the demolition process of a three-story building at 126 Lafayette Street on Tuesday, the DOB revealed that the worksite had a laundry list of violations, with DOB Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik postulating that the fatal incident could have been a result of one of the previous violations. However, upon further investigation, DOB sources said that this tragedy appears to be unrelated to past write-ups.

Although the job site received multiple infractions in February for overloading construction material, this week’s deadly wall collapse happened on a different floor, a DOB source revealed. DOB also stressed that the February violations were corrected at the time of the collapse and the exact cause is still under investigation.

According to the DOB, the five previous violations were 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, the sprinklers were removed from the building out of sequence from the demolition plans and storing 50 tons of construction material on the first floor—this caused overloading on that floor.

The DOB has issued a full stop work order at the site while the investigation is being carried out jointly by law enforcement and the Operational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). DOB sources also revealed that although the five February violations were corrected after another stop work order on Feb. 23, these write-ups remain open since demolition contractor RJB Contracting Carting Corp did not file the appropriate paperwork to close them. A hearing for the five violations at OATH is currently scheduled on April 13.

The tragedy occurred when the wall collapsed onto a 64-year-old worker, crushing him to death and sending another three toppling onto the rubble. According to police sources, the surviving 27-year-old, 40-year-old, and 60-year-old workers are still recovering after being rushed to Bellevue Hospital. 

This is the first recorded construction worker death of 2023.