NEW YORK — In what could be described by some as a miracle, the FDNY reported Monday night it had completed its search of the rubble and found no victims in the Bronx partial building collapse.
A corner of the seven-story building on West Burnside Avenue and Phelan Place in Morris Heights came crashing down at around 3:30 p.m. CBS New York was told there are six commercial businesses in the buildings and dozens of residential apartments.
The building was evacuated. The stability of the building remains in question.
as the building collapsed just feet away.
The building superintendent told CBS New York’s Lisa Rozner he believed everyone was accounted for, though at first, given the busy nature of this street, it was unclear.
Felix Vargas said he was working on a unit when his wife called from their third-floor apartment.
“My wife called me. She said the building is moving,” Vargas said. “When I go downstairs to check, the bedroom, everything collapsed.”
The owner of the first-floor bodega says in Spanish he ran out just in time.
“We heard a crack and were able to leave. That’s when everything came tumbling down,” Jason Castillo said.
Watch: Officials discuss Bronx partial building collapse
FDNY members were on the scene 1 minute, 36 seconds after the call came in, OEM Commissioner Zach Iscol said.
“We immediately vacated evacuated the building and started to concentrate on the debris pile in front of the building — to search for any victims,” FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said. “We don’t know what caused the corner of this building to collapse, and we don’t know if any more of it is going to come down.”
FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh went into further detail on the work her firefighters were doing, saying drones, K9 units, specially trained firefighters, tactical units, EMTs and rescue medics were deployed.
The FDNY gave the address as 1915 Billingsley Terrace. The portion of the building which collapsed, however, is located on West Burnside Avenue, and the address was initially given as 172 West Burnside Ave.
There are, CBS New York’s Tim McNicholas reported.
Witness describes moment of collapse
A witness described to CBS New York’s Alice Gainer what he saw and heard as the corner of the building came down.
The man works in a bodega across the street from the collapse site.
He said in the three months he’s worked at that location, the building has been under construction.
“We heard something, like, some people screaming across the street. So we go out to see what’s going on. We see this construction stuff start cracking. There was two guys doing some construction up there. We see, like, big rocks start falling down. And then the whole building just fell down in, like, a second,” he said.
“I think about people that have to go to work tomorrow and children that have to go to school and their lives are disrupted right now,” Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson said. “This is not new to us in the Bronx and when you look at some buildings and structural integrity and what we do with investment, new roof, new HVAC, making sure our buildings can last for the next 100 years.”
The residents of 172 West Burnside Ave. still can’t believe what they saw … and felt.
“The ground was shaking a lot. It was like an earthquake. I was scared,” tenant Angel Soto told CBS New York’s Naveen Dhaliwal.
Soto was working remotely Monday afternoon when a part of his apartment building came crashing down.
“I grabbed the emergency bags that the city gives out, the phones, and the dog,” Soto said.
When he got outside he saw the unbelievable site.
“We were panicking trying to get to the car,” Soto said.
What caused the partial building collapse?
Kavanagh said there was no immediate word on what caused the collapse, but that will be part of the investigation.
All utilities were shut off at the building.
The FDNY, NYPD and Department of Buildings were among the emergency responders at the scene. The Red Cross was assisting residents.
Metro-North Hudson Line service was suspended in both directions between Grand Central and Spuyten Duyvil because of the collapse.
What happens next?
The majority of the apartment building is still standing. The corner of the building collapsed, all the way from the roof down to the street. Several rooms within the building are now exposed to the street.
Personal items, such as a hanging shoe organizer loaded with shoes, could be seen from the street below. A bed appeared to be crushed in one of the crushed rooms. A small jacket could be seen hanging on the wall of one of the rooms.
The base of the building has a sidewalk shed on it. The shed is now partially surrounded by an extensive pile of rubble.
Residents of the building were being directed to a service center at P.S. 390, which is nearby. The MTA also brought in four buses to keep residents warm.
“Any residents that need a place tonight, please go to P.S. 390. We will have teams there to help find you a place to stay for the duration of this event,” Iscol said.
In seconds, the collapse displaced more than 30 families, leaving them with so much uncertainty just two weeks before Christmas.
“You can’t express your feeling because today you have a house, and tomorrow you don’t have anything,” a tenant named Carlos said.