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Empty 5-story NYC building’s interior falls ‘like a pancake’

December 21, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — Half of the roof of a vacant five-story building in lower Manhattan caved in Friday, causing the floors beneath it to collapse and sending debris tumbling, officials said. No one was injured.

The collapse, which happened amid heavy rain around 3:30 a.m., spurred street closures, the evacuation of a neighboring apartment building, and plans for immediate demolition of the structure about a block from City Hall.

The cause of the collapse has not been determined. Fire Department Deputy Chief Frank Leeb told reporters that rain and wind may have been factors.

Although little damage was apparent from the outside, Leeb said the interior fell in “from the roof all the way to the first floor, in a pancake.”

Parts of the facade of the building at 21 Park Place tumbled onto scaffolding outside it, the city Buildings Department said.

Department records show a permit for interior work was issued in September.

Tom Grainger, who is an owner of the building, said that the work was minor, entailing the removal of moveable retail display racks and debris. While the owners have been planning a more extensive renovation, he said, their “whole focus right now is safety.”

“The building will be dealt with accordingly, so that there is no risk of anything falling,” he said by phone.

The Buildings Department said demolition would start as soon as Friday afternoon, with workers using hand tools as a precaution.

A five-story apartment building next door was evacuated while inspectors ensured its stability, and people were ordered to stay out of a neighboring, newly built and vacant high-rise, the agency said.

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