Bad news last week for a Brooklyn, N.Y., family whose home, damaged during Hurricane Sandy, was undergoing repairs: The house fell off its temporary cribbing and collapsed, leaving a newly framed lower story in splinters. Officials in New York's "Build It Back" program suspended all work by the contractor responsible for the project while investigators tried to get to the bottom of the story.
"The two-story home at 70 Beacon Court was elevated onto stilts in March and toppled over at about 2 p.m. while workers were making further repairs on the home," DNAinfo reported (see: "Sandy-Damaged Home Collapses After Being Raised Onto Stilts, Officials Say," by Ben Fractenberg, Katie Honan and James Fanelli). A spokesperson for the New York Police Department (NYPD) said no workers were injured and that the home was not occupied.
Authorities suspended rebuilding work citywide following the accident, according to neighborhead news site Sheepshead Bites (see: "Build It Back Suspends Construction In Brooklyn After Gerritsen Home Collapses," by Alex Ellefson). "The company overseeing more than 400 Brooklyn home elevations for the city’s Build it Back program has suspended all construction work after one of its houses collapsed Wednesday in Gerritsen Beach," the Bites reported. "Luis Tormenta, CEO of the LiRo Group, the construction manager for Build it Back’s housing recovery in Brooklyn, said he ordered work to be stopped until Friday while safety inspectors reviewed all its projects." Tormenta told a Gerritsen community meeting later that night: "At this point, we’re trying to figure out why the home collapsed. Whether it was due to human error or whether it was a technical situation having to do with the way the house was constructed. It’s very fortunate no one was hurt. But that’s no excuse. And what we want to make sure is that going forward this does not happen again.”
Tormenta, a former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction, a city agency created during the tenure of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, is CEO of the LiRo Group, a construction management firm that has a $275-million-dollar contract with the city to manage Sandy reconstruction work under the city's Build It Back program. The LiRo Group also manages billions of dollars worth of other construction work for city and state governments. The Build It Back program is rushing to deliver on Mayor Bill deBlasio's promise to complete repairs on homes in the program by the end of 2016, according to Courier Life's Brooklyn Daily (see: "Contractor: ‘My careless workers caused Sandy-damaged home to topple’," by Julianne Cuba). But that's 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," Brooklyn Daily reported, adding: "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."