For Immediate Release
April 26, 2019
DOB ANNOUNCES GUILTY PLEA IN 2015 DANGEROUS FAÇADE INCIDENT THAT LED TO FATALITY
Esplanade Venture Partnership Held Accountable For Not Properly Maintaining Their Building
New York, NY – Today, Department of Buildings Acting Commissioner Thomas Fariello, R.A., announced that Esplanade Venture Partnership has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts for criminal violations of the City’s Administrative Code, for failure to maintain the building façade (exterior wall) of 305 West End Avenue, Manhattan. In 2015, pieces of the façade fell from the building to the sidewalk below which resulted in the death of a two-year-old girl and injury to her grandmother. DOB initially filed criminal charges against Esplanade in Manhattan Criminal Court in 2016, for failing to maintain their building, even after they were repeatedly warned of the failing condition of the building’s façade. As part of the guilty plea, Esplanade was issued the highest fine allowed by law for the two charges, i.e., $25,000 for each charge for a total of $50,000. In addition, the managing agent of Espanlade Venture Partnership, Alexander Scharf, who was also charged, has agreed to pay $5,000 in restitution to the City.
“No one should feel unsafe walking on our city’s sidewalks, least of all a child,” said Acting Buildings Commissioner Fariello. “The admission of guilt by Esplanade in this case is a message to property owners throughout New York City that the Department will hold accountable anyone that puts the public in danger by refusing to properly maintain their building.”
The New York City Administrative Code requires that all parts of a building, including the exterior walls and appurtenances, must be maintained in a safe condition. Since Local Law 11 was enacted in 1980, New York City has required owners of buildings greater than six stories to retain a qualified licensed professional to examine the façades, and report the conditions they find to DOB. Despite recommendations following one of these inspections to repair cracks in the exterior walls, a condition that posed a danger to the public, the defendant failed to make necessary repairs in subsequent years, allowing the façade to further deteriorate. Esplanade Venture Partnership owned 305 West End Avenue at the time of the fatal incident, but later sold the property in 2016.
In 2016, Professional Engineer Maqsood Faruqi, a licensed professional hired by Esplanade Venture Partnership to perform façade inspections at 305 West End Avenue, was indicted for filing fraudulent inspection reports with the Department, which claimed that the façade was in a safe condition prior to the fatal incident. Mr. Faruqi pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of offering a false instrument for filing, and agreed to voluntarily surrender all of his filing privileges with the Department.
Following the façade failure, DOB implemented changes to its own procedures to increase façade safety enforcement. Among other changes, DOB:
Established a new system to track all Local Law 11 inspection reports through DOB’s online filings portal DOB NOW: Safety;
Required that if any building fails to file a compliance report by the required deadline, DOB will conduct an inspection and, if needed, install sidewalk sheds at the location at the owner’s expense in the interest of public safety, and the owner will also accrue civil penalties until an acceptable report is filed; and
Mandated that if any building that files a report indicating there are dangerous conditions, the owner must install public protection immediately and will be given 90 days to correct these conditions. Again, if the landlord fails to do so, the City will conduct an inspection and, if needed, place public protection/sidewalk sheds at the location at the owner’s expense.