There are thousands of parking garages in New York City. How safe they are — or aren’t — has come into focus after one collapsed in lower Manhattan earlier this year.
More recently, Amtrak service was disrupted because of an unstable Manhattan parking garage.
Here are some questions and answers about what’s happened this year and how the city is responding.
What are some of the recent high-profile episodes involving garages in New York City?
In April, one person was killed and five others were hurt after a parking garage in lower Manhattan collapsed just blocks from City Hall. At the time of the collapse, six workers were inside the structure, and four of them were brought to hospitals. The person killed was a worker in the garage.
The garage was later demolished in the aftermath by emergency order. Cars and other vehicles pancaked atop one another had to be removed as well.
Earlier this month, some Amtrak service was impacted because of an unstable parking garage in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood: a literal hole in the ground above train tracks. The city issued a vacate order due to the holes in the ramp. An inspection then uncovered even more dangerous structural problems — cracked and deteriorated steel girders.
What caused the parking garage in lower Manhattan to collapse?
Among the factors at play were the weight of vehicles parked on the roof deck as well as old concrete, officials said at the time. The owner of the building paid fines for code violations, but the building had several open violations.
How has the city used technology to sort through wreckage while protecting human life?
In the aftermath of the collapse, the city used a robotic dog to look through the wreckage of the Ann Street garage, search for potential survivors and perform other tasks that would have been necessary for a human to do.
What happened with the garage where the hole was spotted in the floor?
It was closed by city officials.
What should the public do if they suspect a potential safety issue with a garage?
Call 311, or 911 in an emergency.
What has the New York City government done to make sure that garages are safe in the aftermath?
Officials began scrutinizing the city’s parking garages, inspecting dozens, and ordering four of them to close due to structural defects. The city said those garages had “deteriorated to the point where they were now posing an immediate threat to public safety.” Two of the four were partial vacate orders — meaning only certain floors, not the entire structure, were ordered closed.
What is the latest on parking garage safety?
The city’s Department of Buildings has implemented a program called the Periodic Inspection for Parking Structures, in which all 4,410 parking structures in the city must undergo an inspection performed by a professional engineer. Inspections are due by the end of the year, the first deadline of the program. The program is described as being meant to “catch issues before disaster strikes.”
“We know garages face more wear and tear compared to other buildings, which is why this new inspection requirement is so important,” the department said in a statement.
Are there new rules that have gone into effect lately?
On Nov. 23, the city implemented new rules relating to parking garage safety and said that by next August garages must submit an initial safety assessment.
The city has divided the five boroughs into zones: Group 1 is in parts of Manhattan, and the second group consists of Brooklyn and the rest of Manhattan. The first deadline is at the end of the year. The last group, which includes the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, has reports due in 2027.
How is the city strengthening the laws governing parking garage safety?
Earlier this year, the New York City Council introduced a series of bills relating to garage safety. There are five bills that aim to set weight restrictions, mandate inspections more frequently, hike the fines for garage owners who breach regulations, require a study on parking structures’ load-bearing capacity and devise a checklist for safety for garages.
Those bills have not passed.