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Queens Chronicle

Side of Rego Park apt. building may collapse

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:29 am, Thu Apr 17, 2014.

Not only are a number of evacuated apartments inside a Rego Park residential building unlivable, but they’re apparently too dangerous for even a reporter and a construction manager to be in.

Standing inside of vacated apartment 5C on Tuesday, building superintendent Badge Bicic and Samson Management director of construction management Mike Santoro noticed a newly formed crack running along one of the unit’s walls and nervously called an engineer to inform him.

“That scares me more than any of the other cracks,” Santoro said after leaving a voicemail on the man’s phone. “Let’s get out of here, this is a serious situation.”

The crack is just one of many ripping apart a portion of the apartment building at 94-01 64 Road.

According to Santoro, poor excavation of soil at an adjacent site at 64-24 Booth St. in preparation for a six-story residential building to be constructed has damaged the neighboring structure’s foundation and rendered the side of the building facing the excavation in danger of collapse.

There are numerous cracks ranging from hairline fractures to inch-wide ruptures covering much of the exterior of the building from the ground all the way to the roof.

Inside the structure, cracks up to two feet long that are large enough to allow daylight to pass through are present on the walls of the basement, with similar-sized cracks running along the floor and ceiling.

The same goes for six apartments, including Bicic’s, which he shares with his wife and son.

Bicic and his family were forced to relocate to a one-bedroom apartment elsewhere in the building, while the 19 other tenants in the cracking units were relocated to area hotels and other apartment buildings owned by Samson Management in the Rego Park and Forest Hills area.

Santoro said the cracks began appearing on Feb. 11 and got progressively worse until Feb. 26, when a tenant called 911. After the FDNY surveyed the building, it was determined that it was unsafe for those select residents to remain in the building.

According to a Samson Management official, the building’s owner is paying for the relocated renters’ hotel fees and is charging those who moved to other apartment buildings their original rent instead of the higher rates in their new structures.

Those tenants were given approximately one week’s notice prior to the evacuation and were forced to remove most, if not all, of their belongings from their former residences.

There is no time table for their return, but Santoro says he’s relieved everyone was evacuated when they were.

“If they really excavated a lot of soil, this building could have collapsed with people inside,” he said. “We’re just looking out for everyone’s safety.”

Booth Holdings, the owner of the neighboring site, installed crack monitors to register the amount of movement in the walls on a small number of the fractures throughout the building. Both Santoro and Bicic say, that most were not improperly installed, however.

Despite his calm appearance, Bicic said the constant worrying over the building and its residents is extremely stressful.

“We’re suffering,” he said after a tenant stopped him in the building’s foyer to ask him what was going on. “Everyone always asks me if the building is safe.”

Measures to shore up the interior of the building in the form of vertical steel beams were put in place in the basement and every impacted apartment, but Santoro and Bicic are calling on the Department of Buildings and Booth Holdings to act swiftly to prevent more damage.

“These people are like criminals,” Bicic said of Booth Holdings. “It makes me crazy.”

“Rather than doing it carefully, they were excavating right up against the building,” Santoro added, pointing to an area of chipped brick on the structure’s cracking exterior. “They don’t care.”

When contacted by the Chronicle, Yury Yagudayev, the project manager for the construction site, said he had no comment. The DOB did not respond to inquiries for comment by press time.

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