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Building Collapse In East Harlem Causes Subway Delays

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A building collapse in East Harlem Tuesday afternoon sent one worker to the hospital and caused delays up and down the Lexington Avenue subway line.

Part of a building under construction collapsed at Lexington Avenue and 116th Street before noon.

Fire officials say five of the six floors in the vacant building collapsed, but all 12 of the construction workers at the site escaped without serious harm. One worker was taken to Harlem Hospital with a minor arm injury.

The accident created disruptions all afternoon, as the DOB asked the Transit Authority to suspend subway service in the area, fearing vibrations would cause further damage to the structure.

Bronx-bound 4 and 5 trains are running local from the Bowling Green Station to the 86th Street Station, and Bronx-bound 6 trains are suspended from the 86th Street Station to the 125th Street Station.

Also, Manhattan-bound 6 trains are bypassing the 116th Street Station.

In addition, selected Bronx-bound 5 trains are running on the 2 line, from the Nevins Street Station to the 149th Street-Grand Concourse Station.

The MTA says to expect extensive delays and crowding on the 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 trains at this time.

MetroNorth is slowing down its trains in the area, but there are no diversions.

The Department of Buildings says there were permits for the construction company, Focus and Strugga Building Development, to be on-site doing interior renovations.

While the exact cause of the collapse is under investigation, preliminary reports suggest some of that renovation work may have compromised the structural integrity of the building.

"The facade of the building may have been compromised by the work that was going on, thereby forcing the wood joints that are in seats in the brick to lose their seating and fall in," said DOB Commissioner Patricia Lancaster.

Witnesses say the floors collapsed in a short amount of time, causing complications to the surrounding area.

"The noise came from the roof first, from the parapet, and then the roof because we saw the dust coming from the roof first, so immediately like knew the roof collapsed and that was the first part to collapse and then you know people were coming out and then one floor after another they kept collapsing you know like pancakes and they all came crumbling down." Said witness Mohamad Awada.

"We have all train traffic on Lexington Avenue stopped to prevent any vibrations or further collapse of the building,” said FDNY Assistant Chief Michael Weinstein. “The train traffic on MetroNorth one block west of here has also been slowed down and we are in the process of evaluating when we can get that train traffic back operating."

Fire officials say several buildings in the area have been evacuated, also as a precaution.

The deplaced residents turned to the Red Cross for help.

"If they are able to find accommodations tonight of course they will do so," said Michael Virgintino of the Red Cross. "If they require accommodation we'll find them a hotel room at least for tonight and we'll check going forward on a day to day basis."

The building's owner has been ordered to hire a demolition team to destroy the rest of the structure as soon as possible.
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