Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Rick Chandler announced today that the owner of an Upper West Side building where a child was struck and killed by falling debris was charged with violating the city’s administrative code.
Esplanade Venture Partnership and Alexander Scharf, the managing agent and principal majority shareholder of 305 West End Avenue, were charged with violations of the Administrative Code in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday in relation to a May 2015 incident in which a child was killed by a falling piece of the building’s facade.
Scharf and his partnership were charged with violating articles of the code that require “all parts of a building, including the exterior walls and appurtenances, to be maintained in a safe condition,” a DOB press release explained.
The defendant was notified of deficits in the facade that threatened the public’s safety yet failed to make needed repairs. Scharf allegedly made minimal repairs to the building’s facade but allowed gross deterioration to continue unabated. For his deliberate abdication of appropriate facade maintenance, Scharf faces up to a year in jail and/or a maximum penalty of $25,000.
“When you own a building, you have a responsibility to maintain it—you don’t just get to cash the rent checks and call it a day,” said Chandler in a statement. “I hope these criminal charges will send a message that building owners can’t turn a blind eye to maintenance. They have a legal responsibility to their tenants, and to the public, to keep their properties safe.”
This particular facade debacle prompted the department, in collaboration with Department of Investigation (DOI), to boost facade rules compliance. The DOB now tracks all Local Law 11 inspection reports, imposes a new timeline on owners who fail to comply, and implements new inspection requirements if owners fail to maintain and inspect their facades appropriately.