Officials Investigate Legality Of Billboard That Collapsed On BQE

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

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.

Please share your thoughts below…

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    I bet some lawyer loosened the bolts so it would hit someone and they could have a case.

  • Mayor Koch's denture bridge

    illegal construction in this city ,i am so shocked!
    Inspector paid under the table to look the wrong way,Shocked ,just shocked.

  • lee

    The FBI and DEA fabricate evidence, steal from suspects and use murder to close their bad cases.

  • joel

    it’s amazing that this did not come down during last year’s hurricane or 2010’s tornado.

    • Ann Mason

      I guess we just have to count our blessings when accidents aren’t as disastrous as badly as they could be. It’s unfortunate that these mishaps ever happen, though, since many of them are preventable.

      • Ann Mason

        Oops. I’m a perfectionnist, but the above comment isn’t too well written. Sorry ’bout that. We should try to write well when posting on news sites, but if we don’t act quickly the sites filter out our comments because they’re flagged as “suspicious”. If the CBS NY site installs a registration system for comments, that problem might be curbed.

  • CT

    My return trip is slower & longer (no) thanked to the fallen board.

  • Bob

    One news report called it “an illegal billboard” Could we have some followup, please. If so – how could that be and in addition be leased by the state?

  • Linda Quick

    Bet it’ll cost mega millions to repair; and it is good no one was hurt.

  • Lisa

    You are an idiot

blog comments powered by Disqus
Giving Tuesday
Charles Osgood Event

Listen Live