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Officials Investigate Legality Of Billboard That Collapsed On BQE

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(credit: CBS 2)

(credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was re-opened Saturday, a day and a half after a billboard crashed down  on it, but crews were still working to remove a section of the massive steel structure leaning against the elevated stretch of highway and a building beneath it.

As inspectors and engineers try determine exactly what caused the collapse, the Department of Buildings is investigating if the billboard was up illegally.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports http://cbsnewyork.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/billboard-collapse-new-wrap-1-silverman.

The billboard advertising Mega Millions slammed into a concrete barrier of the BQE Friday afternoon. Pieces then broke off onto the service road below.

For more than 10 years, zoning rules banned such billboards within 200 feet of a highway, Alex Silverman reports. However, there are two more just like it within a block.

The buildings department is examining the billboard, looking at the bolts that held it in place.

“I’m sure the wind had something to do with it. The bolts to that tower were evidently ripped, loosened, ripped by the fall,” said Ronald Spadafoa, FDNY Asst. Chief.

The FDNY says that Friday’s strong winds, which at times reached up to 50 miles per hour, were a contributing factor in the collapse.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reports

In addition, inspectors are looking at three nearby buildings that sustained some damage when the billboard fell and Department of Transportation officials are examining the condition of the road.

Kevin Rozza lives just across from where the billboard collapsed, and he questions the structure of the ones left standing.

“I was surprised years ago when these things were erected. I thought they were better installed. Obviously they weren’t,” he told CBS 2’s Mark Morgan.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports

Ingrid Wheatley lives near the scene and has a good view of the damage from her window and her rooftop.

“What it made me think about it is it could have fallen on this side as well,” said Wheatley. “Like it could have fallen either way and that’s kind of scary.”

Workers in a nearby auto repair shop could hear the sign swaying in the wind all day, but then they heard the sound of metal bolts giving way.

By nightfall Friday, a heavy-duty crane was brought in to help separate the metal into smaller parts.

“We’ve got to get the wood and vinyl out of the way before we can start burning,” said Jim Ramsburgh with Empire Erectors. “Once we get the wood and vinyl out of the way, then we’ll cut it apart.”

While that was the worst of the damage, the winds caused plenty of damage across the region with gusts hitting 48 miles per hour at JFK and 52 miles per hour at Newark.

It’s part of the same weather pattern that dumped a blizzard on Buffalo and left much of the midwest blanketed in snow.

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