Vacant building in Massachusetts collapses during demolition

Vacant building in Massachusetts collapses during demolition

Debris fell onto the sidewalk and street, burying a car.

August 22, 2017
CDR Staff
A vacant building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, collapsed onto the sidewalk and street, burying a parked car, during an Aug. 11 demolition, a report by Cambridge Day says. A neighborhood group say the incident occurred, in part, because a lack of attention from city officials.

The North Cambridge Stabilization Committee sent an email to Ranjit Singanayaham and David Byrne, the commissioner of the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) and the inspector who looked at the property, asking them to monitor dust control, coverage of stored debris, proper site fencing and keeping debris off sidewalks and streets. Michael Brandon, clerk for the committee, says the organization did not receive a response.

Singanayaham and Byrne say the inspection went as normal and all the required procedures were followed.

The home was purchased by Michael Pinksen in 1999. In that time, electric and gas utilities sued him for unpaid bills, and the city and state placed liens on his property for unpaid taxes, the report says. The bank, which held a $150,000 mortgage on the home, began foreclosure proceedings. Pinksen paid off the debts, but the home went into a state of disrepair in the meantime.

According to the report, Pinksen refused to allow inspectors inside the property and the city sued him in 2015, forcing him to make repairs. An inspection by the fire chief, city engineer and a private engineer found mold, rotting wood, buckled floors, crumbled plaster and a portion of collapsed foundation. The city condemned the building.

In 2016, a Middlesex Superior Court judge appointed a receiver to have the building repaired, but the received said they were beyond repair and began seeking a buyer. Developer Brian Lavelle purchased the property with plans to tear it down and building two townhouses on the site.

According to the report, department files have indicated asbestos was found in the flooring of the first-floor kitchen but there was no indication that it has been removed. Byrne says a licensed contractor removed the flooring and hauled it to an appropriate disposal facility but the disposal wasn’t reported because the removal was done under the supervision on the state Department of Environmental Protection. Records also say that ISD officials did not require Lavelle or Elton Allen, the Dorchester-based demolition contractor working on the project, to obtain a permit to block parking and the sidewalk.

Brandon, who went to the site after the building collapsed, says he saw dust clouds rising from the debris but there were no efforts to mitigate them and that a separate inspector from ISD old a crew member to hose down the pile only after Brandon asked him to. Byrne and Singanayaham say that the building was at least 17 feet away from the sidewalk and neither of them expected the collapse, the report says.

ISD ordered demolition work to be halted until Allen covered the debris with a tarp and installed six-foot chainlink fence along the sidewalk, the report says. Work resumed before a higher fence was in place, but crew members filled the gap with orange plastic construction fencing.

The department says they are not sure who in city government is investigating the incident.