Crumbling New York Loses Another Piece

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When a large Brooklyn building collapsed on Tuesday, trapping five people in the rubble, it became the second New York City building in less than two weeks to fall in on itself.

Dozens of firefighters sifted through the remnants of the five-story apartment building, which was under construction in Brighton Beach, The New York Times reported, "digging frantically at the rubble" and eventually removing five people alive. One was listed in critical condition and two in serious condition. The Tuesday-afternoon collapse follows a similar incident in the Bronx on Oct. 29 that killed one construction worker. A partial building collapse in Harlem in September pushed down a scaffolding and partially covered a city bus with debris, minorly injuring more than a dozen people.

After two deadly crane collapses in 2008, New York City introduced a spate of new construction safety requirements in 2009, but building collapses remain relatively common. Inspectors search diligently for cracks that indicate a collapse is imminent, but they can be hard to predict, especially in a city as old as New York.

The buildings were private structures, but they remind us of the ongoing disintegration of infrastructure both in New York and elsewhere in the United States, as public budgets strain to cover the simple costs of staying in business. Reports have come out of Albany throughout the fall pointing to crumbling bridges and deteriorating sewers, many in New York City. Last week, the U.S. Senate blocked two infrastructure-funding bills, even as this year's massive flooding showed the need for nationwide upgrades.

In September, proponents of infrastructure spending seized on a report that put the United States' infrastructure at 23rd worldwide, behind Malaysia and Barbados. Perhaps they should have just made the comparison to the five boroughs.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.