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EXCLUSIVE: Contractor: ‘My careless workers caused Sandy-damaged home to topple’

Build it back, again: A home being lifted under Build It Back collapsed on June 22.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

This time, it didn’t take a hurricane.

A Gerritsen Beach house collapsed yesterday when contractors for the city’s struggling Build It Back storm-recovery program didn’t follow safety procedures, officials said. Now the construction company, which is responsible for repairing and elevating hundreds of Brooklyn homes, has halted work borough-wide to do inspections, its chief executive said.

“Unfortunately today, work that was not scheduled to be done was done. The safety people that were supposed to have been there were not there … that obviously is a problem,” said Luis Tormenta of Long Island-based contractor LiRos Group, which has a $275-million contract with the city-run, federally funded Build It Back to fix more than 600 hurricane-damaged Brooklyn homes.

The second floor of a two-story house at 70 Beacon Ct. toppled on June 22 — just one day after workers set it atop the rest of the structure, a Build It Back spokesman said.

The program has been ramping up repair efforts recently to make good on Mayor DeBlasio’s promise to fix all participating homes by the end of the year — a goal he will almost certainly not reach, because construction takes three to six months and has yet to begin in sections of Sheepshead Bay, where the city must hammer out a deal with residents on streets it does not provide with sewer service.

But work has sped along recently in Gerritsen Beach — so much that some residents complained Build It Back was doing too much, an unheard-of gripe about the notoriously slow program.

The home’s collapse is a blow to the city, which considered the neighborhood’s reconstruction pace a success story, program director Amy Peterson told a previously scheduled town hall in Gerritsen Beach.

“I obviously planned to come here and give you a good speech about all the progress we’re making, because Gerritsen Beach is actually ahead of all the other neighborhoods in terms of the homes moving forward,” she said. “But obviously, it’s very serious what happened in your neighborhood today.”

The collapse did not damage any other homes or utilities and no one was hurt, but neighbors should close their windows to avoid dust following last night’s demolition, officials said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Sisyphean task: Workers had just finished raising the house, officials said. Here’s the view from Beacon Court.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

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