Emergency Demolition of Clark Street Building Upheld

Buildings directed wrecking company to partially demolish privately owned building. Buildings received a complaint on a Friday evening regarding a five-story building located at 100 Clark Street in Brooklyn. An emergency response team inspected the site the next day and determined the building was in imminent danger of collapse due to a bulging wall and an out-of-plumb fire escape. The response team recommended immediate demolition to a safe level, and the Brooklyn deputy borough commissioner agreed. The same day, Buildings issued a declaration of immediate emergency, and a wrecking company under Buildings’ direction began partial demolition.

The wrecking company demolished the top two floors the next day, while Buildings unsuccessfully attempted to contact the building owner. The owner learned of the partial demolition a day or so later, and its engineer toured the site with a Buildings engineer. Buildings allowed the owner to take over work at the site on the condition that the process of shoring and stabilization begin immediately.

The owner commenced an article 78 proceeding, challenging Building’s decision to declare an immediate emergency at the site. The owner argued that the decision was arbitrary and capricious because the City Charter did not allow Buildings to demolish buildings without giving notice to the owner. The owner further argued that Buildings had failed to give proper notice of its decision to move forward with demolition.

Justice Robert J. Miller ruled against the owner, finding that the Charter and the Administrative Code authorized Buildings to determine and declare a building to be in a state of immediate emergency. Justice Miller also found that Buildings had acted rationally in ordering the partial demolition of the building, as it was in immediate danger of collapse. Turning to the issue of notice, Justice Miller determined that the owner had not been deprived of due process. Even if no notice or hearing had been afforded to the owner before the demolition took place, the owner’s ability to challenge Buildings’ determination and seek money damages was sufficient to constitute meaningful process.

Idlewild 94-100 Clark v. City of New York, Index No. 12755/09 (Kings Cty. Sup.Ct. Apr. 1, 2010) (Miller, J.) (Attorneys: Allison M. Furman, for owner; Michael A. Cardozo, Michelle Goldberg- Cahn, for NYC).

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