Workers: Brooklyn Bridge façade collapse ‘could have been much worse’

Saved by a geyser of water

July 3, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Bridge facade repairs. Photo by Mary Frost
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Workers doing construction on the Brooklyn Bridge said that if the walkway’s façade hadn’t collapsed the way it did — and when it did — Wednesday night, the outcome could have been “much, much worse.”

As it was, the tumbling stone slabs injured five pedestrians walking on the sidewalk under the Brooklyn Bridge overpass at Prospect and Washington streets in DUMBO. The façade collapsed onto the sidewalk at roughly 7:40 p.m.

Because of the way a geyser of water shot out from the façade, workers told the Brooklyn Eagle, people started moving away from the wall seconds before it collapsed. That action may have saved their lives.

“The rain started gushing out from the wall,” one Skanska worker, who did not wish to be named, said. “Everybody started moving away from the wall. A woman with a baby stroller moved towards Washington Street. Then the whole thing came down.”

When the facade first collapsed it was unclear if any people were under the rubble, according to 9-1-1 calls. Numerous rescue units were called to the scene and Cadman Plaza West was blocked to traffic.

Luckily, all five pedestrians had escaped with minor injuries. They were transported to Bellevue Hospital Center, four miles away in Manhattan. One man twisted his ankle as he fled the crashing stones, a source said.

Workers labored around the clock Wednesday night to clear away debris and remove the remainder of the façade on the Prospect Street side.

The granite slabs are so heavy, one worker told the Eagle, that heavy equipment had to be brought in to pick them up and carry them to a parking lot across the street.

A construction worker showed this reporter empty, rust-stained holes where retaining spikes used to hold the façade in place. Those spikes had been in place for more than a hundred years, he said. “This is not the only wall like this. It’s happening on the other overpass walls, too. They’re all undermined. The problem is, if you pull out a section to take a look, you’re in for the whole job.”

A DOT spokesperson said on Thursday that DOT Bridge personnel inspected the bridge Wednesday night and found no signs of structural damage from the incident.” “DOT is conducting a full inspection of all the façade and we will continue to thoroughly inspect our entire bridge inventory,” the spokesperson said.

DOT placed concrete barriers at the site to help direct pedestrians to the Washington Street stairway to the bridge’s walkway, which was reopened at 6 a.m. Thursday morning.

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