SoHo Building Evacuated After People Complain it was Shaking

The Wall Street Journal - September 20, 2013

by Sarah Armaghan and Josh Dawsey

City officials evacuated a building in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan on Thursday for more than four hours after receiving a complaint that the structure was shaking, a Fire Department spokesman said.

The six-story building, at 188 Avenue of the Americas, consisted of 17 apartments and two businesses on the ground floor, the spokesman said. No one was hurt.

Officials received the call around 3:22 p.m., and tenants were allowed back inside around 8 p.m., after FDNY and Department of Buildings officials determined it was safe, the spokesman said.

“The building … is stable. We have a little bit of movement going on inside there but we have nothing of substance,” said Timothy Lynch, a structural engineer with the city Department of Buildings.

A construction project is underway on the lot adjacent to the building. As part of that construction project, developers are placing placing a new foundation under the 188 Avenue of the Americas, which dates back to about 1890, Mr. Lynch said.

“The developers have to be vigilant in maintaining the adjacent building in a safe condition,” Mr. Lynch said. Older buildings are “a little ductile. As they age, they get a little creaky.”

People who live in the building said they frequently feel the structure swaying.

“I’ve been feeling shaking every day; I live with constant shaking,” said Marcia Salo, a freelance photographer who has lived in the building for 35 years. She said she’s felt shaking since construction began about three months ago.

Complaints of the building shaking date back several years, according to city records. A complaint was filed in May and declared unfounded by the city. In 2009, a resident complained of shaking, which city officials said may have been caused by nearby demolition.

Inspectors from the city Office of Emergency Management and ConEd were still surveying the scene after the evacuation order was lifted.

“We are pleased that we were able to put the building back into service tonight and we’re working with the neighbor, the developer to resolve any issues at the site but everything looks fine,” Mr. Lynch said.