Erica Tishman death: Who bears culpability in one prominent architect’s ‘freak accident’ death? How NYC’s Department of Buildings and a building owner came to have blood on their hands.
A Manhattan architect was killed Tuesday after a chunk of building facade fell from the 17th story while she was walking along the street below. The woman’s death comes despite building owners having known for more than a year that the structure was crumbling —only to do nothing to fix it.
Erica L. Tishman, 60, of the Upper East Side, was hit with the debris around 10:45 a.m. on 49th Street near Seventh Avenue. Police said she was pronounced dead at the scene.
The incident happened just feet from a busy subway entrance – leaving bustling New Yorkers in disbelief and trying to understand how such an incident could’ve possibly happened.
Questions are now been asked whether Tishman’s ‘freak accident’ death could have been avoided – had building owners acted on recommendations.
Tishman a prominent architect and life long New Yorker, who served on the Board of Directors for the Educational Alliance – leaves behind a husband and three children.
729 Seventh Ave previous building citation – but no action:
A report via the nypost told of the owners of 729 Seventh Ave, 729 Acquisition LLC– obtaining permits to repair its deteriorating roof and 17th-floor facade in October 2018, only to ‘sit on their hands,’ – leading to a $1,250 citation from the city on April 29, 2019, for ‘Failure to maintain exterior building facade and appurtenances.’
Buildings inspectors specifically flagged the ‘damaged terra cotta at areas above 15th floor in several locations which poses a falling hazard for pedestrians.’
The Department of Buildings ranked it a ‘class 1’ violation, which requires that the infraction ‘must be corrected immediately.’
Despite building owners paying the fine, 729 Acquisition LLC declined to actually make mandatory repairs. Records showed the violation was still active on Tuesday.
On July 18, the owners renewed the construction permit for ‘Masonry repair and parapet replacement at penthouse and main roof level,’ records cited by the nypost show.
But there’s more.
Two months later, an architect hired by the building’s owners was issued a permit to install a sidewalk shed to protect pedestrians while the repair work was underway — except the protective covering never went up.
Too little too late.
Following Tishman’s death, the Department of Buildings issued an order that the sidewalk shed be erected.
Crews were working to install the shed Tuesday night under the watch of DOB inspectors, the city said. It remained unclear why the DOB hadn’t forced building owners to immediately move forward in making repairs – when citations were issued in April.
The veteran architect of 30’s years death ( yes the irony…) led to the building owners issuing a statement saying they were ‘saddened by this tragedy’, and that it would ‘fully cooperate with the city in the ongoing matter’. Absent from their released statements was why the outlet had failed to ensure in keeping the public safe.
‘It’s their responsibility to maintain the building,’ said Sara Director, a Manhattan attorney with Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson who specializes in construction safety.
‘They were put on notice of a very dangerous condition and they failed to timely act upon it. Their negligence in not fixing this facade and putting up the sidewalk shed resulted in this preventable, tragic death,’ Director said.
‘It’s every New York City tourist, pedestrian — it’s our worst nightmare,’ she added.
‘I believe that there are many more instances of falling debris that simply is not reported because it might go unwitnessed, it might not injure somebody, or the injury might not be severe enough to be reported.’
Erica Tishman death: ‘It could have been me!’
Tishman’s abrupt death has led to fellow New Yorkers expressing disbelief and outrage.
‘It could have been me,’ Himad Zafar, 40, an accountant told via the nypost. ‘I come to New York for work and I am staying in this area, so I could have been walking by there.’
‘I’m not walking there, not on that side,’ Glenn Swan, a 50-year-old music producer whose studio is around the corner said.
‘I don’t know if something else is coming down,’ he said. ‘A lot of families are walking around here right now. Anybody, it could have been anybody.’
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will conduct an investigation into the incident.
‘It’s a horrible incident,’ he said. ‘My heart goes out to the family. There’s obviously a full investigation going on.’
‘We need to know how that happened and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’
Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents the district where the tragedy occurred, called for a probe.
‘I’m urging the city to look at this case very closely,’ he posted on Facebook Tuesday. ‘The owner did not fix a violation and now we have today’s tragedy.’
‘If there was any wrongdoing involved, the full weight of the law must be directed at the responsible parties.’
The city began requiring scaffolding and sidewalk shelters in 1980, following the death of a 17-year-old Barnard College student who was hit by falling debris.
The law also made city inspections for building facades over six stories mandatory every five years — with fines for violations.