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Department of Buildings suspends engineer's license for 2 years following Bronx partial building collapse

Engineer blamed for Bronx building collapse has license suspended
Engineer blamed for Bronx building collapse has license suspended 04:08

NEW YORK -- The city has suspended the license of the engineer who they say is to blame for the partial building collapse in the Bronx in December

The partial collapse of the seven story building left dozens of families homeless

The side of the building has since been repaired, but the investigation continues into what caused the incident. 

CBS New York's Ali Bauman spoke exclusively to the commissioner of the Department of Buildings about the decision. 

Days after the Bronx apartment building unexpectedly crumbled during construction work back in December, the city said it was an independent engineer who made an egregious mistake while inspecting the building before work began by labeling a crucial load-bearing column as simply decorative. So when crews started working, corner apartments collapsed like a game of Jenga. 

"Sloppy work that endangers New Yorkers is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said. 

Oddo said that engineer is now banned from inspecting any buildings in New York City for two years and must pay a $10,000 fine. The agreement was reached with the engineer Thursday, avoiding a formal hearing. 

"There are some New Yorkers wondering are two years enough? Do we want him inspecting buildings again in two years?" Bauman asked. 

"We think, given what we have uncovered to date, this is an appropriate settlement, and we will allow various investigations to continue to play out and act accordingly based on what those investigations reveal," Oddo said. 

City suspends license of engineer in Bronx partial building collapse 02:16

With over one million buildings across the five boroughs, the DOB relies on landlords to hire their own licensed engineers for inspections.

"Do you think the DOB needs to change how these inspections go and have more oversight from the city on top of these independent engineers?" Bauman asked.

"We continue to be aggressive in our inspection programs ... The system is built so that licensed, registered, insured professionals act competently," Oddo said.

Since the collapse, the city audited all 368 building inspection reports filed by the engineer. 

"I'm happy to report to New Yorkers we found all of those to be sufficient," Oddo said. 

The city is allowing the engineer four months to finish inspecting the 30 other buildings that he's current working on, and senior city engineers will doublecheck his work once he's done. 

"I want New Yorkers to understand there will be a third-party entity, an independent entity, selected from a group of prequalified entities approved by this agency that will review all of those cases. Those cases, and those reports, will be submitted to the DOB, where senior engineers will review them again," Oddo said. 

Thankfully, no one was injured in the collapse.

Two months later, all but seven households are now allowed back in their apartments. 

"They upended their lives and made various arrangements in the interim. We're committed to getting remaining tenants into their homes as quickly as possible when it's safe," Oddo said. 

Juan Ricart spent the past 30 years living on the second floor of the building, but the 76-year-old has been staying in a homeless shelter ever since the collapse.

"It's like being in jail -- with the freedom to go in and out, but it's like jail," he said. 

And yet this week, Ricart received a bill from his landlord charging him more than $2,000 for unpaid rent since December.

"If I'm not living there, how should I pay?" he said.

Another displaced tenant says she was also billed after the collapse, but called her management office and was able to clear it up.

We did reach out to both the landlord and engineer but have not gotten responses from either.

The DOB is still investigating if any other factors contributed to the collapse. 

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