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Architect, mother of three killed by debris falling from Manhattan building; owners ignored city order to repair

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A New York City woman’s tragic death from a building’s falling debris may have been completely avoidable.

Falling masonry from a 17-story Manhattan building killed 60-year-old Erica Tishman on Tuesday but it seems the owners of the structure had known for more than a year about the crumbling facade, the New York Post reported.

(Video: YouTube/ABC7 New York)

Scaffolding sheds were quickly erected in front of the building, which was constructed in 1915 after the architect and mother of three was killed instantly by a falling piece of masonry. But the owners of 729 Seventh Ave. had made no repairs or set up protective scaffolding before the incident despite warnings and violations dating back to more than a year ago.

The owners were cited by the city in April 2019  for “failure to maintain exterior building facade and appurtenances.” But that $1,250 citation was connected to an October inspection in which it was reported that there was “damaged terra cotta at areas above the 15th floor in several locations which posed a falling hazard for pedestrians.”

The Department of Buildings ranked it a “class 1” violation, requiring that the violation “must be corrected immediately.” But records indicated Tuesday that the violation had never been addressed although the fine had been paid back in April.

(Image: CBS New York screenshot)

The owners, 729 Acquisition LLC, renewed a construction permit in July for “Masonry repair and parapet replacement at penthouse and main roof level,” according to records seen by the New York Post. A permit was issued and an architect was hired to erect the sidewalk coverings that would protect pedestrians below the building, but no work was ever done and the sidewalk sheds were never put in place.

But structures quickly went up this week at the building on 49th Street near 7th Avenue, just by Times Square, after the Department of Buildings ordered them erected following the death of Tishman, whose office was just a few blocks away.

‘This is a tragedy, and the family and friends of the victim are in our thoughts,” the building’s owners said in a statement. “No pedestrian should be at risk from dangerous facade conditions. Department of Buildings engineers are on the scene to perform a full structural stability inspection of the building to ensure all New Yorkers are safe and conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this tragic incident.’

“It’s a horrible incident,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“My heart goes out to the family. There’s obviously a full investigation going on,” he added. “We need to know how that happened and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“If there was any wrongdoing involved, the full weight of the law must be directed at the responsible parties,”  Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents the district, wrote.

Frieda Powers

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