‘Unsettling’ concrete work led to building collapse

It was a disaster zone as half of a five-story building under construction on Brighton Fifth Street collapsed, apparently under its own weight, on Tuesday afternoon, drowning five construction workers under a tsunami of debris.
Photo by Paul Martinka

A construction crew’s haste to speed up a Brighton Fifth Street condo project led to the Nov. 8 partial building collapse that buried three workers under a ton of rubble — and caused one of their deaths.

Department of Buildings officials said workers at the site near Oceanview Avenue began pouring concrete on the top floors before the concrete on the bottom floors had hardened, causing half of the building to buckle under its own weight and collapse at 2:30 pm.

Seconds later, concrete, steel beams and construction debris rained down on 54-year-old Ivan Lendel and two others, burying them. Firefighters pulled all three out of the debris after a short search, and rendered aid to two others, but Lendel suffered a heart attack and died at Coney Island Hospital on Tuesday evening.

“We believe that the [construction crew] may have started from the top and worked their way down,” Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri told reporters. “In the coming days, we expect to take some action against some of the parties involved.”

The city has slapped a stop-work order on the project and hit the contractor, SP&K Construction, with nine environmental control board violations. Investigators sent to the scene said a fence lining the site was defective and developers failed to install protective netting around the project. Management also failed to keep the site clean or store their equipment properly, said Buildings spokeswoman Jennifer Gilbert.

The city also ordered SP&K to hire an independent contractor to clean up the mountain of debris that was slated to become a five-story residential building that could hold 14 families, Gilbert explained.

“We still have forensic engineers out there investigating,” she said. “They’re also monitoring the progress of the cleanup.”

SP&K Construction heads have refused to talk to reporters since the collapse.

City officials say building collapses like this are rare. Construction accidents are down by 30 percent this year, a city spokeswoman said, although she had no figures to back up that claim.

But the collapse did not come as a shock to some Brighton Beach residents, who claimed they knew something bad was going to happen on Brighton Fifth Street.

“I’m not surprised it fell,” neighbor Irene Slabodina said. “All of these building have been going up a little too fast.”

— with Colin Nixson

Reach reporter Thomas Tracy at ttracy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2525.

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