How New York’s Aging Buildings Get Inspected

Good morning. It’s Friday. In the wake of a building collapse in the Bronx, we’ll look at inspections that every building in New York City is supposed to undergo. We’ll also find out who will be the Republican nominee for the House seat vacated by George Santos.

Credit…Dakota Santiago for The New York Times

The partial collapse of an apartment house in the Bronx on Monday raised questions for tenants, especially those in older buildings: What warning signs can residents watch for — and what should they do if they see them?

The city’s Department of Buildings “strongly encourages” anyone who suspects there is an unsafe condition in a building to call 311, unless the issue is an immediate emergency, like falling bricks. In that case, a spokesman said people should call 911 instead.

The department sends inspectors to check on complaints to 311 that it considers high priority — such as shaking, leaning or cracking in a building — within 4.8 hours, on average. Inspectors respond to complaints that do not involve safety, like an elevator that is out of service, in about 11 days, on average, the department says.

Beyond that, inspections are done according to schedules set by the city. Facades must be inspected every five years. Parking garages must be checked every six years, retaining walls every five years, gas piping every four years, boilers annually and elevators twice a year.

But the city does not do the inspections. Meera Joshi, the deputy mayor for operations, said at a briefing that the city had more than one million buildings and “500-something inspectors, so we will never, with boots on the ground, get to every building.” It depends on engineers or other specialists hired by building owners.

Facade inspections

The collapse in the Bronx once again underscored the limited oversight of aging infrastructure. The engineer overseeing that building had declared the facade unsafe in 2020, but repairs were delayed by the pandemic. The engineer, Richard Koenigsberg, said on Monday that the collapse was “certainly not foreseeable as a result of not doing the work” sooner.

Just over 15,700 buildings must comply with Local Law 11, as the current statute mandating facade inspections is known. The city has required periodic inspections of apartment building facades for 40 years, ever since a Barnard College student was killed by masonry that fell from a building on West 115th Street.

Building inspections are supposed to be rigorous. Inspectors sometimes go up and down the exteriors of buildings on suspended scaffolds that look like window-washing rigs. Sometimes they rappel down from the roof, like a mountain climber on the way home.

Inspectors can even drill into walls to see what is behind the veneer.

Their findings are sent to the Buildings Department, which follows up with a field inspection — a visual check with binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens.

In 2024, parapet inspections, too

Starting next year, property owners must arrange inspections of parapets — the parts of a building that extend above the roofline.

These inspections do not have to be done by an engineer or a licensed construction professional. They can be done by a building superintendent, a handyman or someone in a construction-related trade, or by an architect.

The report on the parapet inspection does not have to be sent to the Buildings Department, although an owner must make it available if the agency asks to see it.

Stephen Varone, an architect who is the president of RAND Engineering & Architecture, a consulting firm, said the parapet inspection would be the first for buildings like four- and five-story walk-ups. The facade law covers only buildings taller than six stores.

He also noted that the facade law involves only the exterior of a building. It does not require a check for damaged columns or sloping floors.

“There is no law requiring your building to be inspected throughout,” he said. “That’s the missing link here. There is no comprehensive structural inspection, à la what they’ve instituted in Florida. We’re an overregulated city, but on this, there’s nothing.”

Also new: Garage inspections

After the collapse of a condominium in Florida in 2021, the city announced an inspection requirement for parking structures. More recently, a garage in Lower Manhattan collapsed, killing one person and injuring five others, and officials soon identified dozens of garages with potential hazards.

Now, under the inspection requirement, 1,020 garages in Lower Manhattan, Midtown and the Upper West Side are to submit inspection reports by the end of the year.

All of the other garages in the city have more time but must do a less rigorous visual inspection — and report the results to the Buildings Department — by next August.

Full reports on garages in Brooklyn and the rest of Manhattan are due by the end of next year. Garages in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island have until 2027 to file their first reports.

“We’ve all seen garages where there’s rusted steel and giant water stains — none of that is kosher,” said Varone, of RAND Engineering. “Some of the conditions we’ll find really should have been repaired years ago.”


Enjoy sunshine and temperatures that are higher than in recent days, with a high in the mid-50s. At night, it will cool down with a low around 40.


In effect until Dec. 25 (Christmas Day).

The latest New York news

Credit…David Dee Delgado for The New York Times
  • Defenders dispute: Since the Hamas-Israel war began in October, allegations of antisemitism have dogged the Bronx Defenders, one of the nation’s most influential public defense organizations.

  • Majors case: In closing arguments at the assault trial of the actor Jonathan Majors, a defense lawyer claimed Majors’s ex-girlfriend had injured herself and pinned the blame on him.

  • Former spy hunter to prison: Charles McGonigal was given a four-year sentence. He had pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and laundering payments from a Russian oligarch.

  • What we’re watching: The Times’s architecture critic, Michael Kimmelman, will discuss urban development, and an Opinion columnist, David French, will discuss protected speech and academic freedom on “The New York Times Close Up With Sam Roberts,” broadcast at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. [CUNY TV]

A candidate for Santos’s seat

Credit…Fox News, via YouTube

Mazi Melesa Pilip, the candidate Republicans chose to run for the House seat vacated by George Santos, has little political experience.

She has taken no public positions on major issues like abortion rights or gun laws that have shaped other recent House contests, beyond fierce advocacy for Israel and support for the police.

And, like her opponent in the Feb. 13 special election to fill the seat from Queens and Long Island, she is a registered Democrat.

But Republican leaders believe Pilip has the potential to be a breakout star.

They plan to introduce her today in Massapequa, two weeks after the House voted to expel Santos over findings that he had fabricated his life story and defrauded voters.

Pilip was born in Ethiopia and was a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces. She first ran for the Nassau County Legislature in 2021, promising to fight antisemitism. Now she will face the Democratic candidate for the House seat — Tom Suozzi, a fixture in Long Island politics since the 1990s who is a former congressman, Nassau County executive and candidate for governor. Analysts have called the race a tossup.

Pilip has distanced herself from Santos, whom she once campaigned alongside and described as an “amazing” friend. Republicans who have supported her twice in elections for the Nassau County Legislature were aware that she was registered as a Democrat. They say that was “irrelevant.”

Dylan tapes don’t sell


The tapes of Bob Dylan’s first album that we wrote about in Monday’s New York Today were not sold at auction. Guernsey’s, the Manhattan auction house that had said the tapes could go for as much as $1.2 million, said there were no bids above the $200,000 threshold set in advance.

The album, “Bob Dylan,” was released on the Columbia label. A spokeswoman for Sony Music Entertainment, of which Columbia is now a subsidiary, noted that the tapes in question — which a sculptor who now lives in Detroit has had since the 1960s — are not unique copies and that the original reels are not lost. Sony Music’s archives has the original versions.



Dear Diary:

To the kid who sat next to me on the subway that day: We squeezed in next to each other when I had to find a seat. I saw you watching my phone.

You saw me write a poem between Chambers and 14th Streets, and update my grocery list between 14th and 34th.

Once I knew I had a captive audience, I played a spelling game for the rest of my trip.

Thank you for nodding when I got the pangram.

— Bellajeet Sahota

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

A reminder: It’s time to vote for the best Metropolitan Diary items of the year. Read the final five contenders and cast your ballot between now and midnight Monday. Look for the winner the following week.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Kellina Moore and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


Related Articles

Back to top button