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Deadly Debris Fall Has Pedestrians On Edge As Lawmakers Scrutinize Inspection Protocols

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -  A day after a woman was struck and killed by falling debris, pedestrians in the busy area are on edge, and lawmakers are taking a closer look at New York City's inspection protocols and consequences.

The Department of Buildings says it is taking action following Tuesday's deadly incident

"Following this tragic incident, we have been sweeping facades around the city that have already been identified as needing immediate repairs, going building by building to order additional protections for the public if needed. Owners must be held accountable for the safety of their buildings to keep New Yorkers safe," the DOB said in a statement.

Some 1,331 facades had previously been identified as needing immediate work, the DOB said.

Scaffolding now protects on 49th Street where Erica Tishman was killed Tuesday morning.

Wednesday, people were walking the same path she did, but with a great deal of hesitation.

Architect Jim Smart
Architect Jim Smart (credit: CBS2)

"It scares the hell out of me. I hadn't thought about it. I'm here all the time, hadn't thought about it until today. I'm walking around going, oh, I wonder where I should walk," said Jim Smart.

Tishman was walking on 49th near Broadway when a piece of the building's facade fell on her.

"I saw, kind of, debris off to the side, and there was blood. It was pretty horrifying," said Joe St. Onge.

The owners of the building at 729 7th Avenue were warned it could happen. Back in April, the Department of Buildings issued numerous violations at the address, like "failure to maintain exterior building facade" and "damaged terra cotta at areas above 15th floor in several locations which poses a falling hazard for pedestrians."

The owner was fined $1,250 and paid it, but the violation remained open because the property owner did not confirm the violations were fixed.

Himmel and Meringoff Properties owns the building and say it's cooperating fully with the city.

"I think part of the problems with inspections and fines is that it seems for some building owners it's the cost of the doing business," said St. Sen. Brad Holyman.

Hoylman says the city's building inspection protocol needs to be changed before more people are hurt or lives are lost.

"It might lead to something like criminal charges. And boy, when somebody is killed by falling debris that could've been averted had the building owner taken the appropriate steps? I think it's warranted," Hoylman said.

Neighbors told CBS2 Tishman was an architect with 30 years of experience in design and construction. She also served on the board for the Educational Alliance, the first woman to serve as board chair.

EA released a statement:

It is with great sadness that we write about the passing of Erica Tishman, an invaluable force and irreplaceable ally to our organization. Erica served on the EA board for more than a decade, three years of which she spent as our Board Chair, the first woman to do so in our 130 year history. Under her leadership and support, EA flourished. She oversaw some of our milestone projects: the rebuilding of the Manny Cantor Center, the opening of our Center for Recovery and Wellness, and, most recently, our work on the 14th Street Y.

But Erica not only gave over her time, resources, and professional talent to EA, she was deeply connected to our community and staff, judging our Youth of the Year contest, giving out annual Peer Awards for staff members, and regularly visiting our campuses and programs. Despite rotating off of our board earlier this year, Erica continued to be deeply engaged in our community – just two weeks ago, Erica – along with the Central Synagogue community - volunteered at their annual Thanksgiving dinner for families at P.S. 188.

There is one word that encapsulates Erica: indefatigable. To every opportunity, meeting, or event, she always brought her full self. Her presence will always be felt in every corner of our organization.

In the coming days, we will announce more formal ways in which we will honor Erica's life. In the meantime, we send our sincere condolences to her husband, her family, and to all of her friends who are shocked by this tragic loss.

Building inspectors were on the scene again Wednesday.


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