New York is known for its high-rise apartment buildings. Whether the building has apartments or condominiums, tenants expect plumping, heating, cooling, and other parts of the building to be kept in good repair. One part of an apartment that dwellers expect to be solid is their balcony. On Thursday August 1, 2013, a woman fell to her death from her 17th-floor balcony. The railing surrounding her balcony gave way and she lost her life.
Balcony railing gives way
The woman was on a date and went onto her balcony to smoke a cigarette. She perched on the wide metal railing along the edge of her balcony. The metal railing the woman sat on gave way. Then “she fell 140 feet to the construction scaffolding a the base of the building, at 400 East 57th Street, and died from the impact.” “A photo of the corner balcony of the apartment where [the woman] lived shows the top who metal railings bent down in a V-shape.”
The police department investigated, but determined that the railing failed while the woman was sitting on it and that caused her to fall to her death.
“The Department of Buildings immediately issued an order barring all other residents of the building from going onto their balconies, which it characterized as ‘imminently perilous to life.'” The department took samples of the balcony railing for testing to determine how the railing could have given way. The department is also going to inspect all other balconies in the building for structural soundness. The building in question was building the 1930’s, prior to World War II.
The New York Times noted that the building owner had recently purchased this building and “is doing extensive renovations, primarily on the inside of the building.” The Department of Buildings records showed that the building owner had filed a balcony inspection report in February 2013, several months late.
The Department of Buildings ran “an extensive round of safety reviews [in 2010] and found that hundreds of building owners had failed to file required inspection reports on their balconies.” Whether this incident will incite another round of inspections is not yet known.
How to protect oneself and one’s family
While a balcony railing collapse is rare, it makes one stop to wonder, how do I protect myself and my family?
Check with the Department of Buildings to see if the building owner has filed the required balcony inspection report. If your apartment has a balcony, give the railing a shake, without leaning on it, to see if it is loose in any place. Get on hands and knees to closely check the concrete joint to the building to see if the concrete is cracked or crumbling in any way. If you see or suspect any problems, contact your building supervisor to request a formal inspection.
If you are not satisfied with the inspection, contact our experienced attorneys to help protect your rights and your safety.
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