Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 14 August 2009 00:00
In the aftermath of the July 30 roof collapse at 221 Middle Neck Road in the Village of Great Neck, the village’s mayor and board of trustees are seeking to develop new legislation to prevent further safety hazards. During the Aug. 4 board meeting, there was preliminary discussion, with village attorney Steve Limmer directed to draft new legislation.
Mayor Ralph Kreitzman told the Great Neck Record that the new laws are indeed “in response to the roof collapse.” First, the village is considering a law that would require property owners with multifamily buildings to have their buildings regularly inspected “to determine if the building is structurally sound and safe,” he added. The cost of the structural engineer would be borne by the property owner.
The mayor said that such inspections could possibly be required for only older buildings, with inspections to be conducted possibly every five or 10 years. More inspections could be required as a building ages or if problems are discovered.
Another possible feature of the law could be if a building failed the required inspection, remedial work would need to be immediately proposed to ensure that the building is structurally safe and sound.
Mark Birnbaum, village trustee and public safety commissioner, endorses this new legislation. He told the Record: “This law is consistent with the board’s priority of the safety and quality of life for our residents.”
At this time, there is no proposal to require such inspections of private houses.
Mayor Kreitzman noted that in responding to the recent roof collapse, this new legislation has precedence elsewhere. He said that New York City adopted a new law about 20 years ago when materials fell off a building façade and killed a pedestrian. The city now requires periodic façade inspections. “The concept of our law was modeled after that,” the mayor said.
Several years ago, the Village of Great Neck Plaza responded to an accident with new legislation, too. When a crane fell at a building site in the Plaza, then-mayor Bob Rosegarten immediately called for a “crane law.” Legislation was discussed, but when a second crane fell only days later, the mayor pushed through emergency legislation.
According to Mayor Kreitzman, he is ”hopeful that new legislation will avoid hidden problems … this is for the safety of our residents.”
Also concerned with safety, Deputy Mayor Mitchell Beckerman has researched the prospect of a law that would require residential rental property, which is required to be registered with the village, to be voluntarily inspected by village personnel for safety issues. The deputy mayor has been in touch with officials at the Village of East Syracuse, where such a law is currently in effect for at least three years.
“This law should make rentals safer for our residents,” Mr. Beckerman said.
Work continues at the site of the collapsed building roof at 221 Middle Neck Road. As of Friday evening, Aug. 7, the parking lot was reopened. This parking lot accommodates parking for all 10 of the buildings at that address.
Additionally, Mayor Kreitzman reported that inspections soon will be undertaken at the rental apartment complex across the street, Millbrook Court. Village Building Superintendent Norman Nemec discovered that those buildings were designed, in 1950, by the same architect as the one who designed 221 Middle Neck Road.
Mr. Nemec did tell the Record that the Millbrook Court roof “was designed in a conventional way this time with roof rafters sistered to attic floor joists at the exterior wall supports unlike 221 Middle Neck Road.” Nemec will accompany the inspector. Mr. Nemec confirmed that the inspection would take place on Thursday, Aug. 20, and that he would accompany the owner and their architect “to examine the roof construction in the interest of public safety.”