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Thread: A retaining wall in upper Manhattan collapsed

  1. #1
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    Default A retaining wall in upper Manhattan collapsed

    Henry Hudson Parkway Is Buried After Hillside Gives Way


    A retaining wall in upper Manhattan collapsed, closing the parkway in both directions.


    By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
    Published: May 12, 2005

    A sizable section of retaining wall collapsed onto the Henry Hudson Parkway in hilly northern Manhattan this afternoon, sending tons of dirt, rock and trees onto the roadway, snarling traffic for miles around and leading to the evacuation of nearby buildings.

    "The good news is that no one has been injured, as far as we can tell," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said this evening in a news conference in Washington Heights, near the site. "The rest of the wall at the moment appears stable."

    The mayor said that a police officer happened to be on the scene when the wall collapsed and had reported that there was "no pedestrian or vehicle traffic at the time."

    When the retaining wall gave way, debris - including entire trees and hundreds of huge stones - cascaded onto the roadway, which is lined on the east side with high-rise apartment buildings situated on terraces. Immediately after the collapse around 4 p.m., firefighters rushed to the site near 181st Street in Upper Manhattan and used thermal imaging equipment and search dogs to try to determine if anyone was trapped beneath the landslide, which covered both an access road and the north side of the parkway.

    Television pictures from news helicopters hovering overhead showed a number of cars parked along the base of the stone-and-mortar wall on the access road, which just a few feet south becomes Riverside Drive, but there was no sign that any occupied vehicles had been buried. Residents said that as many as a dozen parked cars were under the mound of dirt and rubble. Television pictures also showed a playground next to the collapse, behind a portion of the wall that remained intact.

    Repair work on the wall, built about 1908, will begin as early as next week, Mayor Bloomberg said.

    Judging by the portions of the wall that remained standing, the section that collapsed appeared to be about 300 feet long and 50 feet high. Rubble was piled at least 25 feet high on the access road, with a lesser amount spilling out onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, which is also called Route 9A.

    The southbound lanes of the divided highway, as well as railroad tracks farther west, along the Hudson River shoreline, were not directly affected, although the authorities closed the parkway in both directions to traffic in the area.

    The northbound parkway is "going to be closed for awhile - we don't know what awhile is," Mr. Bloomberg said.

    Castle Village Apartments, a 16-story building near the collapse, remained evacuated early this evening while officials determined whether it was structurally sound. The commissioner of the Department of Buildings, Patricia Lancaster, said a preliminary investigation indicated that the building was safe.

    The residents of the other buildings in the area were allowed to return home this evening.

    The section of the parkway where the wall collapsed was not heavy with traffic at the time because most commuters typically exit two or so blocks south to get to the George Washington Bridge, across the Hudson River, or to the entrance to the Cross Bronx Expressway.

    Television pictures showed traffic tied up along much of the West Side of Manhattan. The Holland and Lincoln tunnels were initially backed up for more than an hour as New Jersey commuters sought alternate routes home. But by 8 p.m., many of the tie-ups appeared to be easing.

    City officials said that the wall was last repaired in the 1980's, and that it might have been damaged by water from a private park above the wall.

    Engineers "had been doing a number of things on this wall for 15 to 20 years," Mr. Bloomberg said.

    Residents told WNBC-TV that it was well known in the neighborhood that the wall appeared to be unstable. WCBS-TV showed pictures it said were taken recently and showed part of the wall bulging.




    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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    Ouch, and I was going to use that road tomorrow. Anyone know a good alternate route to I-84 from the West Side?

  3. #3

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    Pictures from Sept. 2003:


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    LANDSLIDE BURIES H'WAY


    CRASHING BLOW: Miraculously, no one was
    believed hurt yesterday when a large section of
    the retaining wall along the Henry Hudson Parkway
    came tumbling down late yesterday afternoon north
    of the George Washington Bridge.
    Photo: Thomas Hinton


    By DOUGLAS MONTERO, LISA MARSH, MARK BULLIET and BILL SANDERSON

    May 13, 2005 -- A 100-foot retaining wall above Riverside Drive and the Henry Hudson Parkway collapsed with explosive force in Washington Heights yesterday, burying cars in rocks, dirt and trees and shutting down one of Manhattan's busiest arteries during rush hour.

    "It was pretty quick — it looked like watching reality TV," said Dwight Bonner, who lives near the scene. "You saw trees, you saw boulders, you saw a little of everything falling."

    Nobody was believed hurt or killed in the 4 p.m. collapse of the wall, owned by the private Castle Village apartment complex — although searchers used rescue dogs and heat-seeking probes to look for anyone beneath the rubble.

    "There are no reports of anyone missing, and the dogs don't seem to think anyone is under the rubble," Mayor Bloomberg said.

    Even before the collapse, repairs were to have begun Monday on the 1,000-foot-long buckling wall. In fact, a structural engineer was on the scene just hours before the disaster, Bloomberg revealed.

    "He did not think it was going to come down," the mayor said.

    The firm, New Jersey-based Langan Engineering, could not be reached for comment last night.

    Bulldozers began removing the mountain of dirt and boulders last night to a Sanitation facility in Flushing, Queens.

    The retaining wall, built in 1908, buttresses the land surrounding Castle Village. Some residents that it was reinforced last fall but that an engineer recently found that the structure needed more work.

    Before the collapse, engineers had an appointment to meet at the site with city officials to discuss their plans, said Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall.


    Residents said it was easy to tell something was wrong. "There was a big fault going through it. You could see it," said L. Turner, who has lived for 15 years at 1380 Riverside Drive, at the bottom of the collapsed wall's south end.

    Witnesses said the collapse came in two parts. First, they heard a loud noise as the first section of debris fell.

    "I was at the door talking to a tenant and we heard a giant boom," said Carlos Pellecier, a doorman at 1380 Riverside Drive.

    One of his first thoughts was that a truck had hit a pedestrian bridge.

    "We saw smoke, and I said, 'I don't think anyone should be under there,' " Pellecier said.

    A few minutes later, as firefighters arrived, "There was a giant collapse," Pellecier said.

    Elizabeth Umpierrewas with her cousin and a firefighter outside as the second collapse began. As rocks and debris began cascading down just 45 feet away, the fireman yelled to her, "Run! Run!"

    "I saw a car on the highway when the rocks collapsed on it," Umpierre recalled. "I was like, 'Oh, my God!' "

    The second collapse came as workers hurried to fence off a playground atop the bluff.

    "Thank God [it] was closed. If it wasn't, there would have been a lot of families out there," said tenant Mandy Ehrlich.

    Joan Donovan — who saw an engineer photographing the wall on Wednesday — watched as the landslide crushed her new Nissan Altima. Bonner pulled her away as she tried to run to save her car. "He was a hero," Donovan said.

    Her husband, a retired police officer, watched from his terrace at 1380 Riverside and decided losing the car was "small stuff."

    "I saw a tree on my car, and then more and more [debris] came," said Anthony Donovan. "It cascaded and became a lot. It just kept coming, more and more."

    Sarah Garland said she'd parked her Honda on Riverside Wednesday, and yesterday spotted its bumper poking out of the debris.

    "If the city gives me a new car, I'm not that upset," she said.

    The collapse debris was about 150 feet long and 100 feet deep, a fire official said.

    The only building evacuated was 1380 Riverside. Most residents were later allowed back into the building, but those living in its north side were not.

    Castle Village's managers issued a letter to residents stating that engineers didn't believe the collapse posed a threat to the apartments, which are set back from the bluff.

    "All of those buildings are built down to bedrock . . . They appear to be safe," Bloomberg said.

    The rest of the wall doesn't appear to be in danger of collapse, he added.

    A former chairman of the Castle Village co-op board said the wall had been checked repeatedly by engineers over the years.

    "All the engineers told us it would last another 100 years. They assured us I don't know how many times," said Burt Grayman, who has been off the board for three years. "Believe me, it was checked from here to Sunday," he added. "When you have this nice a property, you make sure you know everything that is going on about it."

    Additional reporting by Ed Robinson, Dan Mangan, Bill Hoffmann and Gersh Kuntzman


    Copyright 2005 NYP Holdings, Inc.

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    TRAFFIC IN A JAM FOR DAYS


    By ANGELINA CAPPIELO and ED ROBINSON

    May 13, 2005 -- The collapsed retaining wall that created rush-hour havoc on the Henry Hudson Parkway will still be causing headaches for commuters over the next few days, city officials admitted yesterday.

    The six-lane parkway was closed in both directions soon after the wall gave in at about 4 p.m., and traffic on the West Side Highway and Riverside Drive slowed to a standstill.

    Southbound lanes reopened a few hours later, and will remain open. But northbound traffic will be diverted onto local roads at 178th Street.

    Drivers hoping to continue northbound on the parkway are instructed to make a left on Broadway, another left on Riverside Drive and then follow the signs to the Henry Hudson.

    City officials said the lanes will be closed at least through the weekend.

    Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall urged drivers to switch to the Harlem River Drive or Major Deegan Expressway while crews remove the dirt.

    She admitted that tonight's rush-hour — when the bulk of the traffic is leaving Manhattan — "is going to be rough, no doubt about it."

    "That's why we're eager to see the [northbound] road reopened as soon as possible," she added.

    Two Bronx bus routes, the Bx10 and Bx20, were rerouted because of increased congestion north of the wall collapse, New York City Transit said.

    Subway service in upper Manhattan will not be affected by the collapse.


    Copyright 2005 NYP Holdings, Inc.

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    It makes you think about the similar walls all over the WSHwy and the FDR. I will drive in the furthest lane from now on.

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    It's incredible that no one was hurt at all. What a relief.

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    yikes, glad nobody was hurt. Makes you wonder about retaining walls everywhere. I hate driving along those things.

  9. #9

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    May 14, 2005
    Years Before Landslide, Residents Complained of Wall's Instability

    By JAMES BARRON


    As long ago as 1998 and 1999, people in Washington Heights had complained about the wall. It was more than a 75-foot-tall eyesore, they said: it was a hazard.

    Boulder-size chunks broke loose and crashed to the street, sometimes hitting parked cars. The co-op apartment complex that owned it was so worried that it put up scaffolding along the sidewalk to catch debris.

    Several members of the West 181st Street Beautification Project, a local civic group, complained in letters to several officials in the late 1990's and in 2000. The district manager of the local community board said at the time that she had forwarded their complaints to the co-op complex. She also said she had submitted citizen complaint forms to two city agencies, requesting inspections and repair of the problem areas.

    Thursday afternoon, the wall gave way in a rumbling shower of soil, trees and debris that covered both Riverside Drive and a heavily traveled stretch of the Henry Hudson Parkway just north of the George Washington Bridge. Although parked cars were buried, no one was injured.

    Yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the city was still looking into why the wall had buckled.

    "At this point in time, we have no further information, really, about what caused the collapse," the mayor said at a news conference on Riverside Drive.

    As he spoke, bulldozers scooped up dirt and filled one dump truck and then another. City officials said workers would spend day and night over the weekend cleaning up the mess in the hope of reopening the northbound lanes of the parkway in time for the Monday morning rush. The southbound lanes were reopened on Thursday night.

    The cleanup is a multilevel project, because the neighborhood is set on a steep hill that heads down to the Hudson River. The cascade of dirt and masonry landed first on Riverside Drive, just below the wall, and then spilled onto the level below, the Henry Hudson Parkway.

    On the highest level - what was originally the lawn behind the co-op, the Castle Village apartments - work crews are to trim the edge of what is now a bluff, the mayor said. The idea is to reduce the angle of the slope to prevent any more landslides. A few more unstable sections of the wall are to be demolished; more barriers will be installed in case any rocks do fall down; and plastic sheeting will cover the dirt to keep it from turning to mud if it rains.

    The mayor said the city would recoup the cost of the cleanup and repairs once it was determined exactly who was responsible, making it clear that the city did not intend to bear the ultimate cost.

    Calls to the superintendent of the co-op complex, Frank Nadal, were not returned yesterday, and one member of the co-op board declined to discuss the collapse or its aftermath, directing reporters to Mr. Nadal.

    The wall, a remnant of the days when a four-story castle dominated the hillside where the red-brick apartment complex now stands, underwent extensive repairs about 20 years ago, the mayor said yesterday. And the co-op board had hired an engineering firm, Langan Engineering, that has kept tabs on the wall for the last three years.

    In fact, the engineering firm had asked the city on Wednesday for a permit to close the roads to do some work at the site. But, he said, "They did not think it was an emergency."

    Some Castle Village residents said the co-op had had extensive work done on the wall in the last few months.

    "We dug up the whole back yard" behind the wall, said David Seroy, a resident, on Thursday. He said construction crews had "put in a new drainage system, and that supposedly was going to fix it. That was going on over the winter."

    In a memorandum to residents on April 28, the co-op board said that the engineering firm had detected only minor movement in the wall during the first two years it was monitoring it. But the wall had become a problem this spring, the memo said, as sections over the westernmost portion shifted and settled unevenly, and substantially. Particular notice was made of movement in the section of the wall that gave way on Thursday.

    But the letters written in the late 1990's and in 2000 suggest that people in the neighborhood had long had concerns about the wall.

    Audrey Allen, a resident of the neighborhood for 29 years and the treasurer of the West 181st Street Beautification Project, said that she and others had complained that boulders were falling from the wall and hitting cars parked on Riverside Drive.

    Ms. Allen, who lives down the block from the wall, said residents first complained about it in the spring of 1999. She said she and another woman met with an official of Castle Village, who told them that fixing the wall was very expensive. The apartment complex did post the scaffolding soon afterward as a stopgap measure until it could make extensive repairs.

    Ms. Allen provided copies of letters that the beautification group sent in 1999 and 2000 to the local community board; the office of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the mayor at the time; and Castle Village itself. The beautification project's coordinators complained about delays in repairs, saying that its instability had led huge boulders to fall in April 1999.

    And the group complained that the scaffolding that had been put up to catch debris was unsightly and invited litter and criminal activity. The group said the apartment complex had told them it did not have enough money to repair the wall.

    Typically, a scaffolding or sidewalk shed set up to catch the falling rocks would require a permit from either the Buildings or Transportation Department, according to Ilyse Fink, a spokeswoman for the Buildings Department. She said the agency had not been able to find a copy of an application for a permit for a sidewalk shed associated with the retaining wall.

    Ms. Allen said the co-op complex was responsive to complaints about litter and lighting under the scaffolding, but repairs to the wall itself were elusive.

    "As far as I was concerned this was always going to happen," she said. "I don't know how anyone thought that little bit of scaffolding was going to keep that wall from falling."

    Kevin Flynn and Anahad O'Connor contributed reporting for this article.


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    Librado Romero/The New York Times
    Several pieces of heavy earth-moving equipment were at work Friday at the site of the wall collapse.

    May 14, 2005
    Struggling to Keep an Eye on 2,000 Retaining Walls

    By MICHAEL LUO and SEWELL CHAN


    Drivers zip past them daily with scarcely a thought. Retaining walls like the one that collapsed on Thursday in Upper Manhattan are everywhere in the city, built from concrete, brick and stone to hold back the earth along busy streets and highways.

    A vast majority are public property and are maintained by public agencies. But a sizable number are owned by the apartment buildings or businesses that sit above them. These walls occupy a regulatory netherworld in which the burden rests on a private party to keep them safe. But if something goes wrong, as it did on Thursday over the Henry Hudson Parkway, the danger could become spectacularly public.

    According to an inventory of retaining walls compiled in 1998 by the New York City Department of Transportation, there are 2,070 retaining walls in the city. Of those, 1,178 are managed by the State Department of Transportation, 626 by the city's transportation department and 140 by other agencies. That means that 126 are presumed to be under private jurisdiction.

    The co-op board for Castle Village, the apartment complex that sits above the wall that gave way on Thursday, had hired an engineering firm to monitor its wall a few years before the collapse. But no rule requires that reports on such inspections be filed with the city, said Ilyse Fink, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Buildings. In contrast, there is a regulation requiring periodic inspections of building facades by owners and mandating that reports on them be sent to the city.

    At a news conference yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he doubted that it was practical to go back and reinspect every single retaining wall in the city at this time.

    "There are, you know, an enormous number of retaining walls in this city," the mayor said, adding that the city's Department of Buildings was going over a list "to see where they think there might be a danger."

    "And if anybody has any concerns, just call 311, and they'll get to it," he added.

    A realization that the city was vulnerable to something like the collapse that happened on Thursday prompted officials to order the survey of retaining walls back in 1998, said Kirti Gandhi, whose firm, Gandhi Engineering, completed the study.

    "This was the very concern the city had when the program was initiated, that one thing the city did not have was an inventory of the retaining walls it possessed that time," he said.

    Dr. Gandhi's company took more than 12,000 photographs of the retaining walls around the city and graded the walls owned by the city for their structural integrity.

    "This information was considered very important by the city D.O.T. at that time, and they deserve credit for being forward-thinking," he said.

    More than half of the walls in the city, including ones lining the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway and even the Henry Hudson Parkway, belong to the state Department of Transportation. According to Peter J. Graves, a department spokesman, contractors normally inspect these walls every four years.

    The ones owned by the state along the Henry Hudson Parkway, for example, were last inspected in 2002, Mr. Graves said, and all of them were deemed safe.

    The city's Parks and Recreation Department owns and maintains just a tiny fraction of the walls surveyed by the city. The major ones are visually inspected several times a year, said Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the department.

    In 1994, the department spent $2.5 million to repair a large retaining wall on Riverside Drive, near 115th Street, bordering Riverside Park. More recently, in 2001, the department spent $1.2 million to stabilize the rock wall along the Henry Hudson Parkway from 155th street to 178th street.

    Yesterday, reporters visited a handful of walls across the city that are privately owned. Among them was a concrete, two-story-high wall located just off the service road to the Grand Central Parkway, between Aberdeen Road and Tudor Road, in Jamaica Estates, Queens. The yards of three single-family homes abut the wall. Built into its base is an iron entrance gate, which opens to a set of steps leading to the front path of one of the homes, which sits on a hill above the wall. No one answered the door there.

    But Waner Labbe, 60, whose backyard borders part of the wall and who has lived there for 15 years, said he did not think that maintaining the wall was his responsibility or any other homeowner's. Then again, he said, he has never seen any city or state employees inspect the wall, or do any work on it. Still, he said, he thinks the wall is safe.

    "The other one was made out of stone," he said, referring to the wall that collapsed. "This one is made out of concrete. It's younger than the other wall, and it's probably stronger."

    At least one of the retaining walls that was visited did not appear to be on the list at all. Located in an upscale subdivision in the Emerson Hill section of Staten Island, the wall - 15 feet high and made of concrete - lines Dianas Trail, which is cut through hilly terrain.

    But a woman whose backyard sits above the wall and who declined to give her name said she had no idea who was supposed to maintain it or inspect it.

    "I don't know who's responsible for that," she said.

    Corey Kilgannon and Ann Farmer contributed reporting for this article.


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    May 15, 2005
    Officials Hope to Reopen 2 Traffic Lanes at Collapse Site

    By SEWELL CHAN and CAMPBELL ROBERTSON


    As workers continued yesterday to painstakingly remove 20,000 cubic yards of dirt and debris from a retaining wall that collapsed on Thursday, city officials said they hoped to reopen two of the three northbound lanes on the Henry Hudson Parkway by 5 a.m. tomorrow.

    An apartment tower that was partly closed when the wall gave way was finally cleared for full re-entry yesterday afternoon, bringing relief to 32 residents who had been barred from their homes in a northern wing of the tower, at 1380 Riverside Drive in Upper Manhattan, for nearly two days.

    New information has emerged about longstanding concerns over the 75-foot-tall retaining wall, near 183rd Street in Washington Heights. The wall, built in 1908, is owned by Castle Village, a complex of five apartment towers overlooking the Hudson River.

    Concerns about the structural integrity of the wall were raised internally as early as 1986, the year the complex converted from rental apartments to a co-op. Since then, the board has hired at least three engineering or architectural firms to study the wall, according to interviews with residents and former board members, as well as meeting minutes and newsletters.

    "It was a constant topic of concern and debate, even prior to the conversion," said Don Vanderhoef, a former board member who has owned a two-bedroom unit since the conversion. "We knew that it needed remediation of some sort, but no one at the time ever dreamed that it would collapse."

    Deborah R. Frost, who was president of the board in 2000, said the board entrusted the inspections to the firms hired by the management company.

    "Whenever these things were brought up, we would be assured that an engineering firm was monitoring this closely," she said.

    The current president, Donna J. Rounds, referred questions to Frank H. Nadal, who works for the managing agent hired by the board. Mr. Nadal has not responded to several requests for comment.

    Stanley E. Michels, who has lived at Castle Village since 1950, said that although the condition of the wall had been sporadically discussed for years, the seriousness of the situation became apparent only recently.

    "There may have been concerns raised about it once in a while, but nobody was really concentrating on it," said Mr. Michels, who was a city councilman from 1978 to 2001. "Only in the last four or five years have people really been concerned about it."

    Yesterday, workers on continuous 12-hour shifts completed the demolition of an unstable 60-foot-long section of the wall immediately to the north of the 150-foot-long section that collapsed.

    Using backhoes and front loaders, more than 30 workers continued to chip away at a small mountain of soil, rocks and trees.

    Most of the debris was trucked to a pier near West 59th Street and hauled away on barges by the Sanitation Department, which temporarily reopened the closed Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island to accommodate some of the refuse. The Department of Parks and Recreation removed about 40 boulders for reuse, while the rest were trucked to a site in Flushing, Queens.

    "On Monday morning, if all goes well, we will declare the site safe, the wall stable and traffic flowing, and we will be out of here," said David J. Burney, commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction. "That will be the conclusion of our control of the operation."

    A part of Riverside Drive that serves as an entrance ramp to the parkway remained buried yesterday, and Mr. Burney said the easternmost lane on the parkway would probably be needed as a staging area while the wall is rebuilt.

    "We're going to have two lanes of northbound traffic for the foreseeable future," he said. Because the northbound side of the parkway has only two lanes not far south of the collapse, the closing of the third lane should not have a major effect on traffic, he said.

    Around 12:30 p.m. yesterday, officials reopened the closed wing at 1380 Riverside Drive. "I'm speechless, I'm so happy," said Susan Wuskle, who slept in the lobby and in a neighbor's apartment on Thursday and Friday nights.

    The building's superintendent, Qazim Hasani, who lives on the 14th floor, watched his children - aged 7, 10 and 12 - dash to their rooms after being allowed back home. "We had left everything inside," he said. "We had just taken a few clothes for the kids."

    The wall was built in 1908 by a developer, Charles V. Paterno, to create seven acres of level ground above the river for a four-story castle. Castle Village, a 585-unit complex on Cabrini Boulevard, was built on the site in 1939.

    When the apartments joined a wave of co-op conversions in the 1980's, the transition was anything but smooth. Residents sued the owner of the complex, William L. Sonn, accusing him of reneging on his promises to upgrade the apartments and make other improvements. Mr. Sonn had an apartment in the complex until he died in a plane crash in 2002.

    It was during the conversion that the new co-op shareholders first raised concerns about the wall they were inheriting, residents said. An engineering firm, Mueser Rutledge Consulting, made repairs, pinning the wall back to prevent it from shifting.

    Over the last decade, as minor repairs were performed to keep the wall's rocky surface from crumbling off, concerns were repeatedly raised.

    On July 13, 1998, Mr. Nadal, who works for the managing agent hired by the board, told the board that a structural engineer had "determined that the wall is stable," according to minutes. "The board approved a proposal to remove the vines and other foliage that may be causing damage to the wall and that inhibits a thorough inspection of the structure," according to the minutes.

    Soon after, an architectural firm concluded that the wall was "in good condition" but noted that "some repair work is needed on parts of the wall and drainage system," according to minutes dated Oct. 22, 1998.

    Douglas Cutsogeorge, an officer at the firm, Cutsogeorge, Tooman & Allen Architects, declined to comment yesterday.

    Worries about the wall persisted. In April 1999, members of a local civic group, the West 181st Street Beautification Project, complained that large chunks of stone had struck parked cars. The co-op set up a scaffolding to protect pedestrians from falling debris.

    A co-op newsletter dated July 28, 2000, noted the board's intention "to do some work" on the wall. "Sounding tests will be performed to determine weak spots, and loose mortar will be removed and replaced with new," it stated.

    About two years later, a third firm, specializing in geotechnical engineering, won a contract to monitor the wall. Last year, the firm, Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, installed a new drainage system behind the wall.

    Last month, the firm issued a dire warning. On April 28, residents received a letter detailing breaches in the wall, large sinkholes formed by water leaks and "substantial movement" in the section that ultimately collapsed.

    The firm approached the city on Wednesday about closing part of Riverside Drive to repair the wall, and scheduled a meeting at the site for Friday. The firm's president, David T. Gockel, did not respond to calls last week.

    Matthew Sweeney contributed reporting for this article.



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    Excavation of Buried Cars Brings Drivers Closure
    (but Nothing to Drive)


    Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
    Cars buried by the collapse of a retaining wall in 2005 near Castle Village apartments
    in Upper Manhattan, now unrecognizable, are being dug up.

    NY TIMES
    By THOMAS J. LUECK
    September 1, 2006

    It was with no small sense of wonder that Frank Nadal returned to the scene of the disaster, a huge mound of dirt and debris where a 75-foot retaining wall gave way on May 12, 2005, burying part of Riverside Drive and several parked cars. By yesterday, the cars were unearthed.

    “I looked, and they said, ‘It’s right in front of you,’ ” said Mr. Nadal, the superintendent of the Castle Village apartments near 183rd Street in Manhattan, where the wall collapsed.

    “I said, ‘Where is the car?’ ” Mr. Nadal said. “You couldn’t recognize the thing. It was flat as a pancake.”

    For anyone expecting better, it was surely a letdown. After nearly 16 months of waiting, what emerged yesterday was a sorry heap of scrap metal that bore a greater resemblance to abstract art than to automotive technology.

    “You can barely tell it was a car,” said John Everett, owner of Cybert Tire and Car Care at 11th Avenue and 51st Street in Manhattan, who was shown a photograph of the wreckage.

    For the owners — who had the bad luck to find parking spaces that were legal but in the wrong place at the wrong time — the sight yesterday behind the barricades of a closed northbound entrance to Riverside Drive just north of the George Washington Bridge may have added insult to injury.

    For most of the time since the avalanche, the owners had been left in the dark about their responsibility and the extent of their loss. Since auto insurance normally does not cover landslides, several of the car owners filed claims with the Greater New York Mutual Insurance Company, which insures Castle Village.

    Greater New York Mutual said it would honor the claims, but it also told the owners that once their cars were dug up, they should be ready to pay towing costs, even if there was little to salvage.

    The issue became nettlesome for everyone. The insurance company said the cars had to be dug out and towed so the owners could prove their vehicles were the ones that had been buried, but the owners were aghast at the prospect of even greater costs.

    Yesterday, Greater New York Mutual said it would pay the towing costs. Thomas D. Hughes, senior vice president and general counsel for the company, said it was not about to split hairs with the car owners over what was salvageable.

    “If the car is destroyed, they will get a value commensurate with what the car would be worth,” he said.
    Mr. Hughes added, “We would look at the Blue Book. and come up with a fair and reasonable settlement.”

    Mr. Nadal said hauling off the automotive wreckage was one of the last steps before work begins this month on building a new wall. The wall will not be completed until May, he said.

    One owner whose car was crushed, Denise Jack, has been able to follow the progress of work crews and a huge backhoe that has been removing dirt, debris, trees and twisted metal. Her view is from a 15th-floor balcony in an adjoining apartment building, where she works as a nursing assistant.

    She said she had hoped to see something that resembled her blue 1993 Nissan Pathfinder.

    “I was really surprised that nothing was left of it,” she said yesterday.

    “But they said they are going to walk me through it,” she said of the insurance company. “I guess things will work out.”

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  13. #13

    Default photo update

    KEEPING AN EYE ON 2000 RETAINING WALLS

    "According to an inventory of retaining walls compiled in 1998 by the New York City Department of Transportation, there are 2,070 retaining walls in the city."


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The reconstruction of this retaining wall will begin soon: I will take photos of the current conditions and post here asap.

    cheers

  14. #14

    Default

    In addition to the photos of the construction site; I have included a few pictures that were taken in the same vicinity. There are many fine works of architecture in this neighborhood and the views of the Hudson River are spectacular.







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  15. #15

    Arrow Precast Concrete Panels

    The new retaining wall is now being installed: they are using precast concrete panels.

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