Monday, July 02, 2012

Brownstone At 241 Carroll Street Collapses

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At around 1:30 AM, the side wall of Number 241 Carroll Street, between Court Street and Smith Street collapsed and fell into the driveway of Public School 58 right next door.   According to first reports,  the 4-family,  25 foot- wide building,  will have to be completely demolished.
Thankfully, everyone got out of the building alive. The homeowners and residents of neighboring houses have been evacuated.
Service to the F and the G was temporarily halted until the NYC Buildings Department could assess the situation, but the trains are now back in service.
Brownstoner featured the building as a House Of The Day back in 2008.  It is a real beauty.

The building belongs to friends of mine, and I can't possibly imagine what they must be feeling right now.

Here are some more photos pre-demo, including a photo from the late 1920's, showing the block pre-PS 58.
Click on the link below.

Pardon Me For Asking: Update: After Wall Collapse,Beautiful Old Carroll Gardens Brownstone At 241 Carroll Street Waiting For Demo


Anonymous said...

Please keep us updated on the cause of the collapse. How horrible!

Margaret said...

Makes me wonder if the construction of the school - the vibrations - may have weakened this building. I always wonder how NYC can take all the building and rebuilding without affecting the existing buildings. Very sad story. I hope they can fix it rather than tear it all down.

C.B Family since before St. Agnes said...

I don't remember any renovations on the Public School that would have caused such an event.

Thank God no one was hurt!!

I wonder if there was enough under-pinning when they renovated the building itself, a few years back. If not, it was just a matter of time...

People/Contractors forget that these buildings are all over 100 years old and you can't just take out walls to make rooms bigger - and they also need to remember that the ground shifts and there's ALWAYS a need for more Basement Level (and lower) support beams to be added...
They MUST be added during renovation (not removed) and wooden supports really should be 'backed-up' by steel supports & cross beams once they hit the 100 year mark.

Makes you think about all the extra renovation being done all around the area.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am worried about the safety of the school. With the subway and all of the new construction, are our children at risk?

C.G. since before St. Agnes said...

Good Point about the School itself - What's going on there?

Was this an actual building issue OR an Under-ground Issue for the entire block?

Anonymous said...

A construction company was pounding Smith street for 4 months prior to the collapse. To see what it was like, look here:

They seriously damaged my building nearby, which for the grace of God, could have ended up like this.

Anonymous said...

Problem # 1: Exposed Brick wall
It was an exposed brick wall, meaning there was not a building on the other side of the wall. Being exposed would mean that the wall was subjected to weather for many years. Older bricks were not waterproof. While water does not generally go in one side of these bricks and out the other, the bricks do absorb water very well. Bricks with a high-water content that are then exposed to freezing temperatures will result in weakened bonds between the brick and the mortar that is between the bricks. Even if there is no excessive water content, the temperature extremes of summer and winter will over time weaken the bond between the mortar and the bricks. I have seen mortar that looks like talcum powder.

Problem #2: Lateral load
Brick walls can handle tremendous vertical loads, as long as the wall remains straight and the load is applied to the wall in a directly downward direction. Brick walls especially ones that have weakened mortar cannot handle lateral (side to side) loads of any considerable amount. This is the reason that brick walls are usually the first to fail in an earthquake. Not having another building on the other side of that wall means that there is not another set of beams (from that other potential house) helping to keep the wall from buckling outward. The problem is that most building do exert some small lateral loads on the side walls, this is usually not a big problem because of the overwhelming weight of the brick walls which allows the walls to resist these small lateral loads. Father time however allows those small lateral loads to take a toll on the side walls, and ever so slowly to push the wall outward. Not having another house on the other side of the wall to resist this, the movement goes unchecked.


Anonymous said...


Problem # 3: Stucco
Prior to the building of the school next door, there was probably townhouses next to the collapsed building, when those townhouses were demolished, the wall (that collapsed) was probably stuccoed to waterproof it. If done properly stucco can be very effective at waterproofing a structure. The problem that it presents is that it masks problems with the underlying brick, even more so if several layers of stucco are applied over several decades. Cracks, bulges and out of plumb conditions are hidden, and when new problems develop the solution that is offered by masonry companies is often more stucco. Once you stucco, you are usually married to stucco. If you look at the remaining portion of the wall that did not collapse you can see that the walls was stuccoed or "brownstoned" as some people say.

So you have a wall made of non waterproofed bricks that is exposed to temperature extremes and possibly exposed to water penetration from the roof, capstones, or deteriorated stucco. With weakened mortar and no building next to it the wall could not resist lateral loads as effectively. Then any problems that developed in the wall over the years were hidden by potentially more than one layer of stucco. You throw in a little vibration from neighboring construction over the years, and owners that never even considered that the failure of the wall was a possibility, hence no inspections and not enough maintenance and you get a COLLAPSE.

If you are living in a brick/brownstone building odds are the building is getting very old. You probably have some amount of the above mentioned factors effecting your walls (including the front and back walls). How these problems were dealt with over the life of your building will dictate how well the structure fares.

If I can offer any advice it would be to realize that a collapse is possible and therefore pay attention to the signs that a building is giving you that there might be a problem. Is the building making a new noise, are there cracks appearing on interior walls, are bulges appearing on you brick walls, is the mortar between the bricks starting to disintegrate and fall to the sidewalk, are there obvious places where there is no mortar between the bricks, is water from the roof running down the wall instead of going into a roof gutter, do window and door openings no longer look square, is there any place where the bricks are sagging, and MOST IMPORTANTLY IS THERE ANY WALL THAT NO LONGER LOOKS STRAIGHT (PLUMB).

And remember once you stucco, you are married to stucco, and it gets hard to see underlying problems when every 20 years a nice smooth coat of stucco is applied. If possible cutting (minimum 1" depth) and pointing (repacking) the mortar lines and then applying clear waterproofing (more than 1 coat) is USUALLY preferable. Subsequent coatings of clear waterproofing can be applied through the years. Also make sure that water is not entering the brick wall through window sill stones.

I obviously haven't seen this particular building, so there is possibly other reasons for the collapse, but the above mentioned conditions are effecting many buildings in the city. I have seen it all too often

Did you get all that.