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Illegal construction leads to near-disaster in the Bronx

MOUNT HOPE, the Bronx — The children were scheduled to arrive in an hour for a birthday party in the backyard of an apartment building in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx.

Two weeks earlier, on May 31, a brick garage in the backyard of a nearby building had collapsed, bringing inspectors with the NYC Department of Buildings to the scene.

Those inspectors discovered there were “large cracks in the wall” of two other adjacent buildings on Meeks Avenue.

The owner, 1771 Meeks LLC, was ordered to “repair or replace” the garage.

Unfortunately, the owner, according to DOB inspectors, “hired contractors to unsafely begin demolishing the … rear garage … without a permit.”

The allegedly illegal work went on for two weeks.

On June 15, the birthday party was planned to take place at backyard picnic tables not far from the garage at 1771 Meeks. That’s when nearby residents heard what one man described as “sounding like a gunshot.”

The garage had collapsed and bricks came raining down on an area close to those picnic tables.

“It could have been fatal,” resident Marcel Sukhlall said, if the collapse had occurred just one hour later, when the party was scheduled to begin.

FDNY and DOB inspectors rushed to the scene. A stop-work order was issued for 1771 Meeks Ave. and vacate notices were put up on three surrounding buildings.

Two days later, PIX11 spoke briefly with the owner of 1771 Meeks Ave. and with others at the scene. Despite the stop-work order, we found workers in the back at the scene of the collapse.

We learned the DOB had issued an emergency permit allowing the owner to clean up the hazardous debris, to construct protective fences around the buildings, and finish demolishing what’s left of the garage, as long as a licensed architect was on the scene to supervise the work.

Ten violations have been issued to the owner of 1771 Meeks, whose name is listed as Lorenzo deVardo. He’s also the owner of Vardo Construction, the company employing the workers at the scene.

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