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Woman Killed When Debris Falls Onto Sidewalk In Times Square

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Manhattan woman was killed Tuesday morning while simply walking down the street in Times Square.

Investigators said a piece of the facade fell from a building and hit her. The accident shut down a major thoroughfare in the heart of the city, CBS2's Tara Jakeway reported.

The NYPD and FDNY blocked off the scene at 49th Street and Seventh Avenue, where every New Yorker's worst nightmare played out. Erica Tishman, 60, was walking by when she was fatally struck by falling debris, while commuters looked on in horror.

Pedestrian Killed By Falling Debris In Times Square
A woman was killed when debris fell on her in Times Square on Dec. 17, 2019. (credit: CBS2)

Pablo Black of the Bronx said he was on his way into work Tuesday morning when he walked across the street to see what the commotion was about.

"I see a lady, a female, an older female, that was laying on the ground as if something hit her," Black said.

"I just saw, you know, them working to try to revive her," one man said. "We all work right over here. It could've happened to anyone. It's very scary."

By the time first responders arrived at around 10:30 a.m., it was too late. Tishman was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities would later say she was struck by a piece of the building's facade.

"When I looked to my left, I seen a bunch of people surrounding somebody on the ground as if they had a heart attack or something. But the word was they got hit by something from the top of a building," Black said.

It turns out the Department of Buildings warned the building owners about the risk that an accident like this could happen. In a report filed back in April, the DOB recorded numerous violations at 729 Seventh Ave., including "failure to maintain exterior building facade," noting "damaged terra cotta at areas above [the] 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 that the violations were fixed.

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

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

Hoylman, like many, is outraged and thinks there needs to be a better system created once a full investigation is complete.

"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 at Tishman's Upper East Side apartment said she was actually well versed in New York City buildings. She was vice president of Zubatkin, a property development firm, and had 30 years of experience in design and construction. According to her company's website, she was an experienced architect who graduated from Harvard and Princeton universities.

She also served on the board for the Educational Alliance, the first woman to serve as board chair. EA released a statement that reads in part, "To every opportunity, meeting, or event, she always brought her full self. Her presence will always be felt in every corner of our organization."

Both the management company and the DOB released statements expressing condolences about what they called a tragedy.

"This is a tragedy, and the family and friends of the victim are in our thoughts. No pedestrian should be at risk from dangerous façade conditions. Department of Buildings engineers are on the scene to perform a full structural stability inspection of the building to ensure all New Yorkers are safe, and conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this tragic incident," said DOB Deputy Press Secretary Abigail Kunitz.

Until the engineers deem the area safe, 49th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues will remain closed. Late Tuesday night, crews were working to put up scaffolding around the building.

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