Pols to Spitzer: Stop ‘Yards’ work

The paraphet on the front of the historic Ward Bakery collapsed today, sending concrete, brick and tile debris cascading down 5 floors to the sidewalk below.
The Brooklyn Paper / Gregory P. Mango

Stop Bruce Ratner — now — before he hurts someone!

That’s what a coalition of elected officials — some of them supporters of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development — want Gov. Spitzer to do, one day after hundreds of pounds of debris crashed onto Pacific Street during demolition of one of Ratner’s buildings within the project’s footprint.

“This was a serious accident and we need a state-appointed construction supervisor who is responsible and accountable,” said Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), one of a handful of elected officials who was scheduled to speak at a Friday afternoon press conference near the site of the accident.

“There should be no construction or demolition activity at Atlantic Yards until that person is appointed,” Yassky added.

Councilmembers Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights), an opponent of the project, and Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), a supporter, were scheduled to also call for a halt in construction at the Friday press conference.

“This is still a neighborhood filled with residents and businesses,” James said in a statement. “The current situation is hazardous to the health and safety of my constituents, and these demolitions, accidental and intentional, are entirely premature in the process.”

The accident occurred just a few days after a judge refused to bar demolition work while several lawsuits against the entire project are pending.

The appointment of a construction supervisor is part of the project plan for Atlantic Yards, but the Empire State Development Corporation has not filled the job. The ESDC did not return a call for comment, but said in a statement that Ratner has agreed to temporarily suspend asbestos removal work until an investigation is completed.

The city Department of Buildings hit Ratner’s company, Forest City Ratner, with a violation for failing to maintain an exterior wall in the collapse of the parapet atop the building.

No one was hurt in the 9:30 am partial building collapse, which rained bricks and cement — and asbestos, opponents of the project charge — onto Pacific Street. More than 300 residents of a nearby homeless shelter were evacuated as a precaution.

The workers had been doing asbestos abatement on the roof of the building, a historic tile-lined structure that once housed the Ward Bakery.

New York 1 reported that the damage may have been caused by the heavy rains from last week’s Nor’Easter.

“It very well could be a residual effect of the heavy rains that we had,” FDNY Assistant Chief James Nichols told the station.

Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender told New York 1 that the company was not responsible for the partial building collapse.

“At the time of the purchase, in March, 2006, the building was already in a state of disrepair,” Bender said. “We will, of course, work very closely with the Buildings Department and other agencies to determine the cause of the collapse and to ensure public safety.”

The company’s spokesman, Loren Riegelhaupt, told the New York Times that workers on the roof were using “hand-held chippers” to remove asbestos, but were not working on the parapet.

He admitted that the company did not have a sidewalk scaffolding on site to protect passers-by. The Times reported that Riegelhaupt “said the removal of the shed was necessary to allow access to sewer lines under the sidewalk that the city will require to be blocked before demolition of the building is begun.”

The Brooklyn Paper / Gregory P. Mango

More from Around New York