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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The normally quiet intersection of Charles and W. Fourth Sts. was rocked last Friday by a partial building collapse.
The site of the accident was a small, free-standing building — known as a “back building” — located in the rear yard behind 245 W. Fourth St. and which was being renovated.
The accident occurred at 12:51 p.m. as workers were pouring cement on the building’s third floor.
According to one of the construction workers at the scene last Friday, about a half-dozen workers had been pouring cement between plywood forms and the inside of the building’s exterior walls, in order to strengthen the existing walls. They had almost finished filling up all the forms with the wet cement. But the 1929 building’s structure wasn’t strong enough to take the added pressure, and about one-and-a-half floors of the rear wall suddenly collapsed outward.
The workers were left standing on top of the forms, and luckily were uninjured. No one else was injured either in the partial collapse.
Asked what he said when the wall vanished beneath his feet, the worker said, “‘Or-koova!’… It’s a Polish curse.”
The back building is owned by Andrea Soros Colombel, the daughter of George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist / activist. She also reportedly owns the two buildings in front of the back building, 243 and 245 W. Fourth St., which are being combined into one building.
According to contractors who live and work in the area, the back building has been vacant about 10 years, but renovation work has been going on inside it “for years.” The structure is in the landmarked Greenwich Village Historic District.
One contractor noted that workers had also dug down about “two stories” below the back building.
According to the Department of Buildings, a permit for “underpinning” had been issued for the excavation work.
Tenants at the adjacent 58 Charles St. and its own back building were ordered to evacuate for safety, but could return home Sunday evening.
Speaking this Wednesday, a neighbor who requested anonymity said, “There has been damage done to our building,” but declined to elaborate. “My house is covered with dust — it’s horrible. I’m coughing,” However, she added, “We are physically safe.”
Ryan FitzGibbon, a D.O.B. spokesperson, said that, following the accident, the department ordered the removal of the building’s top floor, which was done on Sunday. The department won’t order the demolition of the rest of the building, she said.
“The building is structurally stable now,” FitzGibbon said. “We’ve issued a full stop-work order for the property, and are in the process of issuing violations for failure to maintain the building and safety violations.”
With reporting by Albert Amateau