NYC Suspends Engineer Who ‘Misdiagnosed’ Bronx Building Months Before Collapse

Buildings officials say the engineer mistook a load-bearing column as merely decorative

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New York City’s Buildings Department has suspended engineer Richard Koenigsberg’s authority to inspect building façades after he “misdiagnosed” a Bronx building months before it partially collapsed on Monday, Buildings Commissioner James Oddo announced Friday.

Buildings officials will also seek to permanently strip Koenigsberg of that authority through the city’s administrative courts after they said he categorized a load-bearing column at 1915 Billingsley Terrace as simply “decorative,” according to the city.

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“The engineer failed to recognize a clearly structural column as such, and he can no longer be out there making assessments of the structural integrity of exterior walls of New York’s buildings,” Oddo said in a statement. “We got lucky that no one was killed in this collapse; we will not take that risk again.”

Koenigsberg told Commercial Observer he rushed to the scene of the collapse as soon as he heard the news Monday afternoon, and again met with Buildings Department officials Tuesday morning, but hasn’t heard from then since.

“I had the interviews Tuesday morning and they haven’t called me since,” Koenigsberg said early Friday evening.

The department is calling all of Koenigsberg’s façade inspections into question, and will audit 368 of his façade safety filings to ensure their accuracy, according to the city. 

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s office is also investigating the partial collapse alongside the New York City Department of Investigation.

The seven-story building in the Morris Heights neighborhood partially collapsed with no injuries. Residents in the 46 apartments were evacuated.

The building’s owner, David Kleiner, contracted Koenigsberg’s firm, Koenigsberg Engineering, in 2020, and the firm flagged its façade as unsafe that year, and again in 2022, but did not rule it as an immediate threat, according to city records. Koenigsberg drew up plans to replace damaged sections of the façade, but previously told CO his crews never noticed any structural damage to the property.

The city entrusts licensed professionals like Koenigsberg with the authority to sign off on the safety of the façades of over one million buildings that are required to carry out regular inspections according to Local Law 11.

In an interview the night of the collapse, Koenigsberg said he doubted the façade issues had anything to do with the wreck.

“The building obviously wasn’t in great condition,” Koenigsberg previously said. “Connecting the dots from a façade being unsafe to a structural problem, it’s not a direct connection, other than there’s a chance that there’s problems elsewhere. It’s possible in hindsight that we’ll find something different, but this was not something that was on our radar that we were concerned about.”

Abigail Nehring can be reached at anehring@commercialobserver.com.