More than a dozen adults and children were forced to flee their apartments in Flatlands on Monday when a massive crack in the building prompted fears of an imminent collapse.
Firefighters evacuated twelve units of the building on Kings Highway between East 34th and East 35th Street after inspecting a crack that opened up around the wall of one tenant’s living room on Aug. 4.
The fateful fissure follows the outline of the wall — up one corner of the room, across just below the ceiling, and down the other corner — as if the entire wall was about separate and fall away.
The tenant said she reported the growing gap to her landlord when she first noticed it in late July, and later alerted the city as the fracture progressed, but was annoyed that neither seemed to appreciate the urgency of the problem.
“I don’t know why they didn’t come at two o’clock on Saturday afternoon,” said Margie B., who asked that her last name be withheld so her family wouldn’t worry about her safety.
She said she showed the crack to a worker for the management on July 31, and his blasé assertion of the building’s durability was less than comforting.
“He said, ‘It’s 100 years old — don’t worry,’” she said. “I said ‘That’s exactly why I’m worried!’ ”
She began calling 311 on on Aug. 2 after she noticed a strong, musty odor coming from the crack in her wall. The stench gave the 67-year-old former lung-cancer patient coughing fits, but she said it wasn’t until her fifth call to 311 on Aug. 4 that the workers asked her if the problem was imminent.
The Department of Buildings said that the 311 system only forwarded information on three calls about the building — two in July and one on Aug. 2 — and one of those wasn’t about the cracking.
“We only have three documented complaints,” said Alex Schnell, a spokesman for the department.
Schnell said the discrepancy could be explained by the fact that 311 complaints may not always handled in a uniform way, depending on whether a person uses the website or the phone line, and whether or not the complaint lists specific concerns.
“It depends on how the caller called it in,” he said.
The Department of Buildings responded to two complaints about the cracking on Aug. 4, according to Schnell — one from the Fire Department and one that he said was an internal complaint from the Department of Buildings about the crack.
Schnell said the building’s owner is responsible for the repairs, which the Department of Building will oversee, but he couldn’t say when the repairs would be complete.
“We can’t really give a timeline, just because it is upon the building owner to fix the issue,” said Schnell.
In the meantime, the problem appears to just be getting worse, according to the tenant who reported the problem after she was allowed back in briefly to retrieve some belongings.
“The wall in the living room was halfway out,” she said.