Image: Firefighters in front of collapsed building
Edouard H.r. Gluck  /  AP
Firefighters gather in front of a building that collapsed in New York City on Thursday. Officials say it appears no one was inside.
updated 4/30/2009 12:13:20 PM ET 2009-04-30T16:13:20

Part of a vacant five-story building that had recently been cited for loose bricks and cracks collapsed in lower Manhattan on Thursday morning, leaving mounds of rubble but apparently causing no injuries.

Emergency crews with a dog were searching the site and a neighboring building as a precaution. Gas was shut off in the area.

Lewis Largent, who lives directly across the street, was looking out the window at 6:15 a.m. when “the bricks started trickling off the top corner. I was thinking was it raining or something. Then within 10 seconds it just all came down like a wave or an avalanche.”

Inspectors with the Buildings Department were at the scene, about seven blocks north of the World Trade Center site. The cause was not immediately determined.

It appeared the front half of the building at 71 Reade St. was sheared off in the collapse, and interior floors were visible from the street. Mounds of bricks were on the ground, and pieces of wood were hanging from what remained of the structure. A car on the street was covered in rubble.

Some work was being done to shore up the building, which is next door to a construction site, according to Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. Inspectors had been there this week.

Violations issued
On Wednesday, violations were issued for loose bricks and cracks throughout its north and west side, according to city records. On Tuesday, the city cited it for being vacant, open and unguarded after a caller complained the building was abandoned. On April 10, the city cited the property for having unrepaired cracks on its parapet and window sills.

Video: 5-story building collapses in N.Y. The collapse occurred before the normally busy flow of pedestrians and traffic.

The neighborhood is part of an officially designated historic district in the Tribeca section of Manhattan, but the building was constructed in the late 1980s.

A neighborhood businessman said he was worried about a homeless man who often slept outside the building.

Kody Tokar, who owns an elevator company across the street, arrived about 45 minutes after the collapse.

He said the homeless man was “always sleeping there,” under scaffolding in front of the building.

Tokar said he saw bricks dropping off the building on Wednesday, and also noticed some cracks.

He and others who work in the neighborhood had joked in the past that they didn’t want to park there.

“The building looked like it was going to fall for a while,” Tokar said.

He said the building had been empty for several years. He said something was being built next door, and there was excavation in that lot.

But Lisa Schiller, a 20-year resident of the neighborhood, said she was surprised that the collapse occurred there.

“We’re a little freaked out about it,” Schiller said when she came out for her morning walk and saw the commotion.

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