Widower files suit for architect fatally struck by falling building facade

The husband of the architect who was killed by a falling piece of building facade has filed a wrongful death suit against the city and the building owners.

Architect Erica Tishman, 60, was fatally struck by a chunk of debris that fell 17 stories from a midtown tower on Dec. 17.

The owners of the 729 7th Avenue building and the city had been on notice about the dangerous conditions eight months prior to the tragic incident but did nothing to fix it, husband Steven Tishman alleges in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from Monday.

Erica and Steven Tishman
Erica and Steven TishmanOwen Hoffmann/ PMC

As a result of the negligence by the owners and the city, “the defendants robbed Erica Tishman of her life, they robbed Steven Tishman of his wife, they robbed three children of their mother and a grandchild of his grandmother,” the court papers allege.

In fact, the city had issued a violation on April 29, 2019 to the building owners which said there was “damaged terra cotta at areas above 15th floor in several locations which poses falling hazard for pedestrians,” the court papers say.

At a hearing Sept. 12, the city fined the owners $1,250, but they didn’t repair the facade of the 1915 building, the court papers allege.

And the city didn’t “further inspect or take measures to ensure that the building made repairs to the dangerous and hazardous building façade at any time from July 24, 2019, when the reinspection occurred, until the time of the accident,” the suit charges.

It was only after the incident that a sidewalk shed was erected to protect pedestrians and that the city “doubled its count of facade inspectors to 22 and completed a sweep of 1,300 buildings within days after the incident, issuing violations at 222 of them,” the court papers claim.

As recently as this past June “the exterior walls were still deemed unsafe by the DOB” and the building owners were fined $13,000, the court documents say.

Tishman’s lawyer Benedict Morelli said, “There is a disturbing trend in our City where building owners are not held accountable for safety violations.

“Owners receive minuscule fines that they are able to pay off as a way to avoid making actual repairs. This practice is an open secret in the New York real estate community. We need a better system that puts safety first.”

“The building owners have done everything possible to avoid taking responsibility. I promise you, I’m going to make them pay. They can’t hide from this,” Morelli said.

A spokesman for the owners — Himmel + Meringoff Properties, LLC, 729 Acquisition, LLC and Meringoff Properties, Inc — said they weren’t shocked they were being sued.

FDNY responding to the scene of the fallen debris.
FDNY responding to the scene of the fallen debris.Matthew McDermott

“Today’s lawsuit is not unexpected. The loss of Erica Tishman is a profound tragedy,” the spokesman said. “We have been working diligently with the New York City Department of Buildings since the incident to obtain the necessary plans and approvals required to perform the facade repairs.”

The owners are about to begin work to remove the decorative terra cotta — a plan which has been approved by the city, the rep said.

The spokesman also said that at the September 2019 hearing with the city, the judge in that case decided that the building facade didn’t require immediate repairs and downgraded the violation. And the owners had been in protracted negotiations with a neighboring building, which they needed access to, to begin the work leading up to the accident, the rep claimed.

The city Law Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

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