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For Immediate Release   
April 8, 2008

BUILDINGS COMMISSIONER
PATRICIA LANCASTER LAUNCHES
ANNUAL RETAINING WALL INSPECTION PROGRAM

Program Advances Community Safety with
Temporary Penalty-Free Assessments

Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster, FAIA, announced the annual Private Retaining Wall Inspection Program, which enables private property owners in all five boroughs to request visual safety inspections of their retaining walls without the threat of receiving violations for the duration of the program. Property owners are legally obligated to address the safety and maintenance of retaining walls on their properties and are advised to take advantage of the Program while it is in effect for next 30 business days.

Retaining walls are permanent structures that hold back a vertical, or near vertical, area of soil that could cave, slump or slide. Some indications of possible wall damage are cracks in the mortar, missing stones, or newly-formed holes in the soil at the top or bottom of the wall. Periodic assessment of these structures is the best way to ensure their stability and the safety of the property. Under the Program, property owners may call 3-1-1 to request an inspection of their private retaining wall by the Buildings Department. During the inspection, Building inspectors will conduct visual examinations of retaining walls and record structural conditions such as bulging, displaced material, or leaning of the wall. If repair is needed or violating conditions that are not immediately unsafe are found on walls, the Buildings Department will defer issuing violations until May 17, 2008 to allow property owners time to take corrective action. If immediately-dangerous conditions are found upon inspection, the Buildings Department will take immediate action to force correction of the unsafe condition.

"As the seasons change and the rainfall increases, the structural integrity of retaining walls can become more vulnerable. This program is a proactive measure to put property owners on notice of their responsibility and to make it easier for them to know what they need to do to maintain their retaining walls," said Commissioner Lancaster. "A simple call to 3-1-1 can advise New Yorkers with retaining walls of what maintenance is needed to avoid property damage and thousands of dollars in repair costs."

The Private Retaining Wall Inspection Program was originally launched in May 2005 after a large retaining wall collapsed onto the Henry Hudson Parkway and Riverside Drive in Manhattan. During the 2007 Program, the Buildings Department inspected more than 230 retaining walls.

To arrange a retaining wall inspection, property owners may call 3-1-1. For more information about retaining walls, visit the Buildings Department website at www.nyc.gov/buildings.
 
New Yorkers are encouraged to call 3-1-1 to report non-compliant conditions or 9-1-1 to report emergencies at construction sites.

Contact:     Kate Lindquist/Carly Sullivan (212) 566-3473

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