Enter the kill zone: Owner of collapsed Carroll Gardens brownstone says he’s scared to live in its replacement

Enter the kill zone: Owner of collapsed Carroll Gardens brownstone says he’s scared to live in its replacement
File photo by Benny J. Stumbo

A townhouse is being built on the site of a Carroll Gardens brownstone that fell down last year and was cleared away brick by brick, but the owner of the property says he is not sure if he will move his family back in to the new home because they are still reeling from the shock of the collapse.

Howard Schneider and his family have been living in a Downtown apartment since the side wall of his four-story Carroll Street building caved in and sent them packing and, though they were not home at the time, the thought of the moving into a building on the site of the collapse might be too much to bear.

“I’ll be honest, there are psychological issues,” Schneider said. “No matter how well I make this building I don’t know if it’s good for my kids.”

Schneider, his wife, and their three kids were taking a summer vacation in West Point, New York last year when Schneider got the harrowing call in the middle of the night. A fire official told him that the wall of his home between Court and Smith streets had just come crashing down and said he should come back immediately.

“It was shocking,” Schneider said, recalling the moment he laid eyes on the 19th-century building where he had lived for a decade, now stripped of an entire side, his children’s beds sticking out into the open air.

“We’re beyond lucky,” he said.

Several tenants were home at the time and, although none were injured, fire officials told Schneider that his kids’ beds were in the “kill zone.”

Like a rock: A new townhouse that is being built to replace one that collapsed wil be made of concrete and steel with a brownstone front.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Within hours of the collapse, which officials said was caused by rotting floor joists and buckling walls, the Department of Buildings ordered the rest of the building be demolished by hand, a mammoth undertaking that Schneider claims cost him $535,000.

Over the course of the months-long project, Schneider said that he stood in front of his former home nearly every day watching workers take apart his home brick by brick and sometimes heading in to the wrecked house to grab irreplaceable items including family photos, home videos, and a painting by his grandmother.

Now Schneider has partnered with developer Gino Vitale to raise a new five-story townhouse on the site and they say it will be built to last.

“It will last 500 years,” said Vitale, a Brooklyn developer. “It’s going to be all steel and concrete.”

The new building will have a brownstone facade, a full stoop, and will blend in with the rest of the block, Vitale said.

The new Carroll Street building will be completed in six to eight months, said Vitale, adding that each floor will have a balcony in back.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.
Filling the gap: Developers say that the new building will blend in with other houses on the block.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham