Architect Killed by Crumbling Debris From Manhattan Façade

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February 1, 2020

Erica Tishman, 60, AIA, a celebrated architect and VP of project management at Zubatkin, was killed December 17 when struck while walking near her office by a chunk of façade which fell from a Midtown Manhattan building.

Himmel + Meringoff Properties, owners of the 17-story office building at 729 Seventh Avenue (built in 1915), had been fined on April 29 for “damaged terra cotta at areas above 15th floor in several locations which poses [sic] a falling hazard for pedestrians.” The company had paid a $1,250 fine. City law requires repair action within 90 days, but despite being issued a second violation notice, it wasn’t until November that the city approved plans for façade work which had still not been undertaken at the time of the tragedy.

“No pedestrian should be at risk from dangerous façade conditions,” said Department of Buildings spokeswoman Abigail Kunitz. The department has since ordered the property owner to build a sidewalk shed to protect passersby.

Almost 380,000 pedestrians walk the streets in this area of Manhattan every day, according to the Times Square Alliance. A 2015 analysis by the Wall Street Journal showed that, on average, one passerby a month is injured by debris falling from New York City construction sites.

Immediately after the tragedy, the Department of Buildings examined approximately 1,300 buildings it said needed immediate façade work.

Tishman also chaired the board of directors for the Educational Alliance, was on the board of trustees at the Riverdale Country School and the Central Synagogue in Manhattan, and was chair for the Alumni Schools Committee of Princeton University. She had a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is survived by her husband and three children.