Pier pressure: Bad welding caused Greenpoint pier collapse, report says

EXCLUSIVE: Ferry company responsible for collapsed dock never inspected underwater
Photo by Jason Speakman

It blew its fuse.

The ramp of a Greenpoint pier collapsed into the East River last year because it was poorly welded together, a long-awaited report reveals.

The study, which was commissioned by India Street Pier-owner Red Sky Capital, found that the piles that held up the structure were spliced together from shorter sections, but the contractor that welded the joins did a shoddy job, ultimately causing several piles to fail underground.

Three of the four piles collapsed during a snowstorm in February last year, sending the gangway between the pier and the ferry collapsing into the icy water below just moments after a gaggle of passengers had walked over it. The pier was then out of commission until July.

The city, which oversees the publicly-subsidized ferry service, says boat operator Billybey performs weekly inspections of the pier, but an official from the company told The Brooklyn Paper after the collapse that it had only ever inspected the dock above the water line, which gave no indication of the disaster looming below the surface.

The city does not perform any inspections of the pier at all, relying on Billybey to self-report any issues, and could not provide the paper with copies of Billybey’s inspection records, said Ian Fried, a spokesman for the city’s economic development corporation. Fried claimed that inspecting under the water would not have made a difference, since the pile break happened underground.

East River Ferry riders say they feel uneasy after learning that the pier was both poorly constructed and never inspected underwater.

“That does not make me feel very safe,” said Hannah Ballard of Williamsburg. “The government is supposed to look after its people and it looks like they did not in this case.”

The city needs to take more responsibility for maintaining and inspecting the pier to ensure ferry riders’ safety in the future, said one local.

“It is a comedy of errors that is not so funny,” said Greenpoint resident and transit activist Teresa Toro. “It really is a miracle that no one was hurt this time. I understand that there might be extra expense involved with doing underwater inspections, but this is public safety.”

Local pols and residents grew increasingly frustrated with Red Sky Capital’s failure to produce an explanation for the debacle in the months after it happened. The report is dated Oct. 28, 2014, but was only released to the city in recent days — 16 months after the collapse and almost a year after ferry service resumed at the site.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.