A house at 69-11 58th Road in Maspeth was evacuated on October 24th due to a partial collapse of its foundation. Residents are questioning whether the presence of sinkholes in the street near the house could have led to the cave-in.

The Maher family, who owns the house, as well as their tenants, have been living at the Holiday Inn since the incident. State Farm has denied their claim and they are potentially looking at damages totaling $200,000. Meanwhile the city has denied any responsibility for the collapse and says there is no evidence of lack of sewer or pipe maintenance on their part.

A DOB inspector claimed in November that the semi-attached houses located at 69-05 through 69-15 58th Road, which were constructed in 1925, have cinderblock-walled cellars that are too deep and unable to stand the weight of the two-family homes above them. He stated that these houses would not comply with today’s building code if they were constructed today, and suggested that the homeowners hire engineers at their own expense to inspect the foundations. However, DOB records reveal that up until the recent incident, none of these houses have ever had any issues with maintenance.

Therefore, it seems strange that the DOB is suggesting that the houses were built poorly and that everyone on that side of the street could be in danger of having their foundations collapse. This issue was brought to the attention of a licensed architect, who explained that an “uneven settling” – such as that caused by a sinkhole – is what would cause the problem, not cinderblocked cellars that are too deep and weak to handle the weight of the houses that sit on them. Furthermore, if these houses are so dangerous and would not pass code today, why haven’t they been evacuated? Many of the homes in Maspeth and Middle Village have been built in a similar style and there has not been an epidemic of foundation collapses.

Truth be told, there has been a sinkhole in the street in front of the 2 attached houses since the 1990s, and all that happens when it is reported is that the DOT fills it with asphalt and the problem starts all over again. There is no question that there is a structural problem under the street which may have extended under these people’s houses but the city’s suggestion is for homeowners to hire an engineer at their own expense.

The way to definitively determine whether or not a leak or a sinkhole is present is to scan the area with ground penetrating radar which would reveal subsurface anomalies. One would think the city would do this to find out if its equipment requires repair since there is ample evidence that a problem has been present for decades, but instead it has chosen to pass the buck on to the homeowners of 58th Road.

On November 18th, multiple elected officials were contacted with regard to this problem. Only State Senator Tony Avella offered to help resolve this issue. We will update you on his progress in the next issue of the Juniper Berry.