Time Running Out on this Years No-Penalty Retaining Wall Inspection Program

Homeowners have until June 1, 2009 to call 3-1-1 to request an inspection of their retaining walls by a Buildings Inspector without penalty of violation under the New York City Department of Buildings’ annual No-Penalty Retaining Wall Inspection Program. Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri launched this years program on March 25, 2009. During the inspection, a Buildings Inspector 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 June 1, 2009 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. Retaining walls are designed to hold back soil that would move to a more natural slope or incline if the wall was not in place. As temperatures rise and the seasons change, retaining walls can become particularly susceptible to deterioration which can put nearby buildings at risk.

To strengthen oversight of these walls and improve safety, Mayor Bloomberg signed legislation in August 2008 requiring property owners to perform periodic inspections of their retaining walls every five years and submit reports on the stability of the wall to the Department. Homeowners are required by law to maintain their walls in a safe condition. The inspection program was launched in 2005 to raise awareness about retaining wall maintenance following the collapse of a retaining wall above the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan. In 2008, the Department inspected more than 85 retaining walls across the five boroughs as part of this program.

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