Construction company, owner indicted for manslaughter after five-year-old dies following wall collapse

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1915
444 Harmon St Brooklyn
444 Harmon Street, where the fatal incident occurred (Google Street View)

A Nassau County construction company and its owner have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges after a wall the contractor built collapsed on a child, killing her.

The Brooklyn District Attorney identified the defendant as Nadeem Anwar, 46, of Valley Stream and his company, City Wide Construction and Renovations, Inc., also of Valley Stream.

They were arraigned on March 22 before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which they are charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, and second-degree falsifying business records.

Anwar was released without bail and ordered to return to court on May 11.

“The wall that this defendant allegedly built was a disaster waiting to happen,” Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.

“He allegedly failed to obtain the proper permits and failed to reinforce and secure the structure as required by law. As a direct consequence of his alleged recklessness, the wall collapsed and caused the senseless death of a precious 5-year-old child. My heart is with the victim’s family, and we will now seek to hold this defendant accountable.”

Jocelyn E. Strauber, NYC’s Department of Investigation Commissioner said: “The New York City Building Code exists to ensure the safety of construction in the city. Mr. Anwar and his company allegedly violated numerous Code requirements when they built a stone wall without proper anchors or permits.

“Their obviously dangerous conduct had tragic consequences; as charged, the wall collapsed, causing the death of a 5-year-old girl. We thank the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the city’s Department of Buildings for their partnership in this important investigation and we will continue to work with them to hold accountable those who flout their responsibilities with respect to construction safety.”

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on Aug. 29, 2019, at approximately 8:23 p.m., Alysson Pinto-Chaumana, 5, was with her mother and several friends while they were visiting a friend at 444 Harman Street, a three-story building in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

The group was outside waiting near the front door on an enclosed patio next to a 68” tall wall that fenced in the patio and had a base of heavy stone pillars topped with stone horizontal plates. Suddenly, the pillars and a horizontal plate fell inward onto Alysson, crushing her skull and causing her death.

An investigation into the collapse determined that the defendant, a licensed contractor, who was hired to renovate the façade of the property and build the wall in September 2018 allegedly committed numerous violations of the New York City Building Code. Although he was licensed as a contractor in Nassau County, he was not authorized to file for work permits with the NYC Department of Buildings and had another contractor file the application for the work on the façade, but not for building the wall.

The defendant allegedly did not acquire a DOB permit to build a stone wall at 444 Harman Street, which was required, nor did he have a licensed engineer or architect conduct a post-construction analysis of the wall’s stability as required. A row of stone pillars must have at least one pillar every 48 inches with a steel reinforcing bar anchoring that pillar to the base. All of the pillars must also be secured to the base with an engineer-grade adhesive. The horizontal plates must be secured to the pillars with engineer-grade adhesive.

A DOB engineer who responded to the collapse allegedly observed there were no steel reinforcing bars in any of the pillars. Furthermore, he determined that there was no engineer-grade adhesive securing any of the wall’s component parts. Therefore, he determined, the wall was highly unstable and held together mostly by its own weight and gravity, an egregious violation of multiple provisions of the Building Code. The engineer described the conditions as “imminently perilous to life.”

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