The owner of a nursing home in the Upper West Side has been charged in connection with a façade collapse that caused the death of a two-year-old girl.
Esplanade Venture Partnership and its majority shareholder Alexander Scharf have been accused of endangering the public by failing to fix the deteriorating façade of 305 West End Avenue.
The company operates Esplanade Luxury Senior Residences, a luxury assisted living facility that rents out apartments to senior citizens.
According to officials, the company ignored a recommendation to immediately repair cracks on the building’s exterior walls, instead opting to make minor repairs and allowing the façade to deteriorate further.
“When you own a building, you have a responsibility to maintain it – you don’t just get to cash the rent checks and call it a day,” said Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler. “I hope these criminal charges will send a message that building owners can’t turn a blind eye to maintenance. They have a legal responsibility to their tenants, and to the public, to keep their properties safe.”
The incident, which happened in May of last year, caused the death of two-year-old Greta Greene. The toddler was sitting on a bench when a piece of a windowsill from the building’s eighth floor came loose. She died due to head injuries shortly after. Her grandmother, Susan Frierson, was also injured in the incident.
According to a press release from the city’s Department of Buildings, Esplanade and Scharf were charged for violating Local Law 11, which requires owners of buildings taller than six stories to hire a licensed professional to inspect facades and submit a report to the DOB.
Earlier, the Department of Investigations arrested engineer Maqsood Faruqi. Faruqi was accused of filing a false report. He was said to have certified the façade as safe in spite of not actually conducting an inspection.
He has since pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for filing a false instrument. He is currently serving a sentence of two years of probation.
The DOB said that the charges carry a fine of $25,000 and/or up to a year in prison.
John Patrick-Curran, a principal at law firm Sive Paget & Riesel who specializes in Local Law 11 compliance, said that violations rarely morph into criminal charges.
“Ordinarily, if you violate simply by failing to do your filings or complete your repairs, it’s simply a fine… Ordinarily, a violation of Local Law 11 doesn’t have criminal penalties,” he said.
“The takeaway here is not that every failure to follow administrative or building codes is going to result in criminal charges and jail time. Instead, the message should be that there are real consequences for landlords who know, or should know, about dangerous conditions and repeatedly refuse to take the necessary steps to repair them,” added William Aronin, a partner at law firm Perry & Aronin.
Greene’s case added to the city’s fatality count due to falling objects from buildings. According to Buildings Department, nine people were killed by falling objects across the city from 2009 to 2014.