‘It was really traumatic:’ Bedford Avenue residents recount Isaias building collapse

The facade of 204 Bedford Ave. has been demolished since collapsing on Aug. 4.
Photo by Todd Maisel

A building that had collapsed on a busy stretch of Bedford Avenue during tropical storm Isaias was demolished last week, as nearby residents whose homes had been vacated by the fire department in the aftermath were allowed to return.

One local who has lived close to 204 Bedford Ave. for more than six years said they were “shaken up” by the experience. “We could see the building was in disrepair as long as I’ve lived there” and “it’s really concerning” that the building appeared to put the public at risk, they said. Parts of the roof appear to be open to the sky in old photographs.

At the time of the cave-in, “I was in my apartment,” and it was very windy, they said. Suddenly, “there was a loud bang and I ran out of the door” and into the storm, before going back inside. Moments later, the doorbell rang and there was a “sea of firefighters screaming, ‘Get everyone out of the building.’”

They added, “I felt very exposed. I was forced out of my home. It was really traumatic.”

Workers demolishing 204 Bedford Ave.Brownstoner

In the days following the collapse, city inspectors examined several buildings on the block close to 204 Bedford for structural stability. After several days, residents of structurally sound buildings were allowed to return.

The building’s owner, RedSky, had filed for a demolition permit for the structure back in 2016, and the building passed a pre-demolition inspection in 2017, but the city never issued a permit, according to online records.

Complaints about alleged illegal construction appear in the New York City Department of Buildings records in 2003 but no mention of instability shows up until after the collapse. One of three active violations issued in the days following the cave-in and and an emergency work order ordering immediate demolition describe “water damage and rot noted throughout building. Building structurally compromised and potential [for] further collapse, posing risk to public and adjacent property.”

Located on a well-trafficked stretch between North 5th and North 6th streets, the now-demolished building was at one time home to busy and well-known Williamsburg businesses Bedford Magazines & Smokes, Pinky Otto and Tai Thai.

The building in 2005.Photo by Gregg Snodgrass via PropertyShark

An old wood-frame mixed-use storefront, 204 Bedford Ave. and its neighbor at 206 Bedford Avenue are owned by local developer RedSky Capital. The firm, which owns property all over the borough and wooed Apple to Brooklyn, appears to have fallen on hard times before the pandemic.

An April 8 story in The Real Deal described RedSky as “troubled” and said it started selling off its portfolio in Brooklyn and Miami after an investor, JZ Capital, questioned its valuation in October. RedSky did not reply to a Brownstoner request for comment.

The firm had intended to replace 204 Bedford with a new storefront building back in 2016 and advertised 11,000 square feet available.

This story first appeared on Brownstoner.com.