Leaning home in West End comes down

City officials push builders to remove unstable structure


An unstable home under construction on West Park Avenue that began leaning toward a neighbor’s home last week is being dismantled after city officials called on the project’s architect to tear it down.

The city’s Building Department pushed for the three-story structure, at 815 W. Park Ave., to be removed down to its foundation on Wednesday after officials inspected the home and met with the engineer.

“At the direction of the City Council, the Building Department aggressively advocated that the architect remove the structure down to its foundation,” the city said in a statement on Thursday. “As of this evening, the entire roof structure, and a majority of the third floor, have been removed by hand at the city's urging. The house was also disconnected from the neighboring house, and the remainder of the house is expected to be taken down on Friday.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, neighbor Marie Febrizio, 88, and her relatives told council members that they feared the structurally compromised house may come crashing down on her home of 60 years, and called on the city to tear down the structure.

Long Beach firefighters and police rushed to the West End on March 2 when the new home, being built between New York Avenue and California Street, appeared at risk of collapsing and leaned dangerously close to Febrizio’s house, which was partly supporting the structure after emergency crews braced it with wooden beams to prevent it from falling. Support beams were attached to Febrizio’s roof and additional framing was assembled at the rear of the home.

Febrizio’s son, Nick Febrizio, said that his mother, who returned home a few days after the incident, was relieved and lauded firefighters and emergency workers for their quick response.

“We’re very happy with the way the City Council responded to our concerns, along with how happy we are that the Building Department sought to it that the deconstruction moved quickly,” he said. “We’re very happy that [the house] is being taken down.”

Fire Chief RJ Tuccillo told reporters at the scene that numerous passersby reported that the house was leaning, and Richard Shue, a city building inspector, was among those who first noticed the house tilting.

“The city's building inspector recognized an unstable structure on West Park Avenue,” the city said. “The Long Beach Fire Department acted quickly, along with mutual aid, to temporarily secure the home to avoid damaging the neighboring house.”

Firefighters were able to secure the home with wooden support beams, but they evacuated neighbors as a precaution. Tuccillo and Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins said earlier this week that the home was no longer in danger of falling, and the owner was issued several violations.

“On the day of the incident, we were given a task of what we could do — we could either let it collapse, and probably cause more damage, or secure the house,” Kemins told the council on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the only way to secure the house was to Mrs. Febrizio’s house.”

As a result, Kemins said that by law, the owner had 10 days to address the issue, at which point the city could take legal action and order the “immediate removal” of the home. Officials had said they were expected to meet with the project’s engineer on Wednesday. Kemins was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

“We’ve been in contact with the engineer on the project,” Kemins, who is also the city’s building commissioner, told council members. “Unfortunately, the engineer and contractor are blaming each other for the failure. At the end of the day, I believe the house is going to come back down to the foundation. I want the house down more than anybody else; I’m just as frustrated. We’re hoping by the end of the week that the house will be down or we’ll have an answer.”

The property was previously home to a bungalow that was damaged in Hurricane Sandy. It was later acquired by New York Rising and sold at auction. The Zoning Board of Appeals granted the new property owner, Yoindra Ramnarayan, of Queens, a variance to build the new structure last year. The home, about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long, conforms to new Federal Emergency Management Agency height requirements, though a number of neighbors questioned why the zoning board would approve a variance for a large dwelling on a relatively narrow lot. Ramnarayan did not return a call for comment.

“I think the next phase now is that we don’t want any construction to proceed there — there are many unknowns that need to be sorted out,” Nick Febrizio said. “We won’t be happy until that foundation is taken down as well. I’m not a contractor, I’m not engineer, but it’s pretty apparent that this was poor construction and it’s so close to both neighboring homes.”