Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 07 August 2009 00:00
Last Thursday afternoon, July 30, residents of a cooperative apartment building at 221 Middle Neck Road in the Village of Great Neck were disturbed by the sound of “something falling.” In fact, at about 3 p.m. the roof of the co-op building collapsed sending bricks and debris flying. With emergency services immediately on the scene, the building was evacuated and no one was injured. The building has six apartments and is in a complex of 10 buildings, six with the identical roof.
The section of Middle Neck Road involved in the incident was closed until well after midnight. The Alert firefighters were first on the scene, turning the work over to a team of village officials once they determined that the area was secured. According to Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman, the management company, Richland Management, was on the scene, and, at the advice of the village, the building owner immediately hired a structural engineer to assess the damage and structural integrity of the damaged building as well as the viability of the other similar roofs in the complex.
The building with the collapsed roof and all of the buildings with similar roofs were evacuated until the inspection was completed. One roof was considered unstable and work began immediately. Other roofs will undergo further inspection to determine if there are any further safety requirements.
After the emergency work was completed on the second building’s roof, it was reopened to residents after mid-night, but the building with the collapsed roof remained closed for the foreseeable future. Emergency workers were able to retrieve necessary medications for the evacuated residents.
Work on the damaged roof continued the following day. Mayor Kreitzman and Deputy Mayor Mitchell Beckerman, both on the scene with the assistance of Nassau County Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Management Greg Caronia, reported that work moved at a fast pace to stabilize the roof prior to strong thunderstorms anticipated for that Friday night. The roof and building were secured by Friday morning, before the heavy rains came.
In addition to the roof work, Mayor Kreitzman said that power was shut off to about half of the buildings in the complex (and the neighboring temple) since electrical wiring was on one LIPA circuit. Early Friday morning electricians and LIPA servicemen arrived to separate the electricity and restore power to undamaged buildings, according to the mayor.
Village Hall was offered to evacuated families; the families eventually gathered at the Alert firehouse on Middle Neck Road. The American Red Cross in Nassau County quickly responded to a call from the mayor, opening a reception center at the firehouse where residents were provided with food and beverages, a place to cool off, and any necessary information.
The Red Cross reported that almost all of the displaced residents were able to find shelter on their own, “with family, friends or through their insurance companies.” One family was to be provided with housing through Red Cross efforts, but reportedly found their own housing solution. The Red Cross also provided water and snacks for emergency workers, first responders, and local officials.
Because the parking lot for the complex runs next to the damaged building it was closed and remains closed at press time. The engineers are working on a temporary parking solution. Village streets and parking lots and the near-by Town of North Hempstead streets, along with the Clover Drive school parking lot, are available as a parking option.
At the deadline for the Great Neck Record on Monday morning, Village of Great Neck Building Department Superintendent Norman Nemec reported that, without completion of the necessary work, and without “adequate overhead protection,” the damaged building was still “off-limits” and residents were still unable to retrieve belongings. Mr. Nemec said that they were still awaiting specific boards that would allow them to finish the job; he hoped that the work could be finished this week.
According to Mr. Nemec, the roof’s building “was not designed right and it was not built right.” And that, he said, is why the roof ultimately collapsed. He said that there were two main reasons why the roof collapsed, the first being that there were “a substantial amount of collard ties missing compared to the original plans … only every three or four roof rafters had the ties and there should be a tie on every rafter.”
The second reason contributings to the collapse, according to Mr. Nemec, was problems with the floor jousts.
At press time, Mr. Nemec reported that engineers were working to devise plans to safely fix the damaged roof and any other roofs at risk, “so this does not happen again.”