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Inspections Reveal Violations in 1 out of 5 Parking Garages

Upper West Side, Manhattan

Local Law 126, parking garage inspections, unsafe conditions, co-op and condo boards.

Unsafe conditions led to the shutdown of the parking garage at 214. W. 80th St. in Manhattan.

Jan. 22, 2024

One in five parking garages inspected for far under Local Law 126 had unsafe conditions, including cracked, corroded and delaminated concrete. One was so badly compromised, Gothamist reports, that it was ordered shut down.

Some 110 parking structures out of 550 categorized so far have unsafe conditions, according to data published on the city’s website. Roughly 1,000 garages were given a Dec. 31, 2023 deadline to file inspection reports under the first cycle of Local Law 126, but only 62% of garages have complied. There are fines for noncompliance.

The law was passed in 2021 and went into effect in 2022 — before the collapse of a parking garage in Lower Manhattan last April that killed one person and injured five. (The garage that collapsed was due for an inspection by the end of 2023 but had not undergone an inspection.) After the deadly collapse, the Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a revised rule that requires all building owners in the second and third cycles of the law, which run from 2024 through 2027, to get a Qualified Parking Structure Inspector (QPSI) to perform a preliminary visual inspection of their garages and file a report by Aug. 1, 2024. Detailed inspections will still be required at later dates.

Exempt from the visual-inspection rule were buildings in the first cycle, which ran from Jan. 1, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2023 and covered all garages on the Upper West Side and below Central Park in Manhattan. Affected by the new visual-inspection rule are buildings in the rest of Manhattan and Brooklyn, which must undergo detailed inspection by the end of 2025, and buildings in Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx, which must be thoroughly inspected by the end of 2027.

The garage that was ordered shut down is located at 214 W. 80th St. in Manhattan, where the city-sanctioned inspector, Eric Cowley, principal of Cowley Engineering, found significant damage to the concrete. How significant? "Enough for injury to people and damage to cars, and a real question about the structural capacity of the floor slabs,” Cowley says, adding that buildinga with unsafe conditions are not necessarily in danger of collapse, though most require repairs. “I don't think I've walked into a garage yet — and I've done probably 20 of them — where I haven't found something," he says.

Jason Damiano, a senior structural engineer at Rand Engineering & Architecture and one of some 80 city-sanctioned garage inspectors, adds: “The absolute worst garages, the fear is that they're not even aware of this inspection requirement or they don't have the money to comply with it. You get people who work there for 10, 20 years, they don't think much of it. And then you get an engineer coming in there one day for a snapshot and saying, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, this is pretty serious.'”

The DOB issued fines to some 400 parking garages for missing the first Dec. 31, 2023 inspection deadline. Which should serve as a wake-up call for co-op and condo boards and other garage owners in Upper Manhattan and Brooklyn, who have until Dec. 31, 2025 to complete inspections.

“Most of these property owners are complying with the law, and many are taking steps to repair their buildings,” says DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. “For those who have not lived up to this legal responsibility, get those late reports in as soon as possible because monthly penalties have already started, and will continue to rack up until we get compliance.”

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