McBain Hall, one of the most frequently-selected sophomore dorms, is in violation of the city’s building safety rules, according to a report by the New York City Department of Buildings. Following the report that said the building posed a danger to the public Columbia has erected sidewalk guards around McBain last month.
The department first outlined these violations in July 2017, citing damaged window keystones and cracks in the terra-cotta facade as proof that the ten-story building fails to “take and provide safety measures to protect [the] public from unsafe conditions.” A second violation was served the following month, after which Columbia paid the $3,400 fine mandated by the city but did not immediately take action to fix the problem.
The University is currently in the process of expediting design plans for the facade, which will be submitted to the city when it files the necessary permit for mandatory facade repair work, according to a spokesperson. The repairs will likely be completed by the end of the next summer, and until then, the scaffolding will remain up for sidewalk protection.
Nearly forty years ago, a 1-by-2 foot piece of concrete fell from one of Columbia’s buildings and killed Grace Gold, a Barnard first-year at the time, spurring the adoption of Local Law 10, which mandates the regular inspection of facades. Recently, the University has also faced criticism from its MFA Visual Arts students regarding Prentis Hall due to falling limestone ceilings and floods.
McBain Hall, which is home to over 300 students, last renovated its facade in 2014. When it was inspected again in 2017, Columbia hired a “highly regarded consulting engineer” who determined that there was no need for immediate repairs, according to a University spokesperson. However, the city disagreed and determined that repairs were necessary for public safety, the New York Times first reported, after which the University appealed the decision.
University officials told Spectator they were not notified about the result of the appeal until mid-May this year, and the city issued a fine during this process.
For each 5-year inspection cycle, the University works with a team of project managers, who collectively maintain a portfolio of over 250 buildings, to ensure that its 154 buildings are safe through inspections and repairs. City records claimed that Columbia knew about its violations in 2017, the Times reported, but the city verified McBain’s renovations in 2014 with a letter of completion, Spectator confirmed.
The University claims that it was not notified of outstanding violations until this May, after which the University erected sidewalk shields around the building. Columbia maintains that McBain currently poses no safety risk today, and the spokesperson pointed to the complex regulatory process as a reason for possible confusion between the University and the city.
A report compiled by the Department of Buildings shows that the city issued nearly 5,500 facade-related violations between 2010 and 2016.”
Vivienne Li, CC ’21 and McBain resident for the 2018-19 school year, expressed concerns regarding the building’s safety hazard.
“Just put in the money to repair the building. That’s the best solution-do it to a high enough standard so you don’t have to worry about the building falling on people or public safety.
Doing those repairs will just fix everything later down the line and then no one has to complain.”