NY1 has learned that for more than a year, more than 800 students went to school in a city building with so many structural problems that part of it might be near collapse. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
It was the first emergency extended shutdown of a city school building since Sept. 11. Students were forced to leave the East 12th Street building shared by Girls Prep Charter and East Side Community School because one of the walls was in danger of collapse.
A janitor doing routine roof work happened to notice the wall had separated 17 inches from the building.
"Just fortunately, we found it and called the buildings department," said Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm.
But public records show officials have known for at least a year and a half that the building had multiple, serious signs of decay.
In March 2011, a report by the Department of Education's own inspectors included warning after warning that "failure is likely to occur soon." It found open stone joints and damaged caulking, bad joints between the brick, deteriorated window sills, cracks through brick and major rusting of the steel holding the building together.
A year later, a separate inspection by the city Buildings Department found nothing had changed. Among the multiple open violations included "failure to maintain exterior facade, mortar washing out throughout, bulkheads have large step cracks and coping stones have shifted."
With publicly-owned buildings, there's less pressure to act, since normal deadlines and fines are waived.
"A lot of times, these violations fall between the cracks, bureaucracies that we are dealing with," said Richard Lambeck, the chair of the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate.
The Buildings Department did not respond to our questions about whether it follows-up on public building violations. The DOE said it can only deal with emergency violations immediately.
"There are other violations that are not life-threatening and, you know, they get on the list because, of course, we have over 1,200 buildings," Grimm said.
There is no word on when students at the two schools will be allowed to return. For now, they're squeezed into other schools far from their homes and teachers have done without basic supplies. The principal of East Side said his teachers, students and parents have been
superheroes but he said even superheroes get tired.