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Wall Collapse Forces Mass Evacuation In Washington Heights

Retaining Wall, Patio Came Down Onto Neighboring Building

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A wall of a building came crashing down in Washington Heights early Saturday, forcing dozens of people from their homes.

As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, after a night of heavy rain, residents in the building at 75 Pinehurst Ave. woke up to the sound of screeching metal and their building shaking.

The collapse happened around 4 a.m. Saturday. The retaining wall from the Pinehurst Avenue building came down onto a six-story building behind it on Cabrini Boulevard.

“I thought it was a plane,” said John Sowder, who lives in the Cabrini Boulevard building. “I’m in New York. It scared the crap out of us.”

“We were sleeping when we heard a big crash, and it looked like a wall had collapse in the back,” a woman in the building added.

The Pinehurst Avenue building has a retaining wall to keep it level because of the hills, Sowder told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria. A patio is built onto the retaining wall, and about half of the patio collapsed along with it.

The collapse sent showering debris onto apartments as people slept.

“When I woke up, I realized my window was broken,” a man said. “There was glass and debris all over my bed and the floor.”

“When I looked outside the window, there was a big hole where the patio used to be,” added Sowder. “Lots of dirt.”

Officials from the city Buildings Department were on the scene later Saturday morning. They said the damage was contained to the lower portion of the building.

Meanwhile, neighbors remained waiting to find out if and when they would be able to get back in.

“Now we’re without a home,” a woman said. “We lost the apartment.”

A total of 35 apartments – about 100 people – had to be evacuated. But no one was hurt, D’Auria reported.

Many residents had been let back in by 9 a.m., but many were not permitted to return. The American Red Cross has set up a staging area for those affected, Burrell reported.

The soaking rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea were believed to be a contributing factor in the collapse.

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