Newburgh’s City Hall building is in rough shape, city code enforcement officials say. The building has structural and electrical issues that require immediate attention. And, if lead or asbestos is found during the course of needed work, staff may have to vacate the building.
“Chief Horton has laid down, as a condition of our continued occupation of 83 Broadway… that we need to have certification done by a structural engineer that says we can continue to occupy this building,” said City Manager Michael Ciaravino at City Hall last week.
The building issues are serious, city Assistant Fire Chief and Interim Building Inspector Bill Horton said. They include electrical problems and structural issues that “cause the building to continually shift,” he said.
“Two years ago, they started noticing some settling on the southeast corner of the building,” Horton said Tuesday, and some cracked joists were found. “Fifteen to 18 years ago they did renovations at City Hall. There had been a second staircase in the back,” on the southeast side of the building, he explained. “When they removed that staircase, it turned out to be more of a support structure. So, the building started settling toward that void space.”
The city Department of Public Works built temporary shoring in the basement and on the first three floors of the four-floor building to address the problem, he said. “Recently, there seems to be additional settling going on,” Horton said, as well as rotting around windows facing Grand Street.
Old electrical wiring also needs immediate attention, he said. “There is a lot of older wiring that needs to be addressed,” said the building inspector, and electrical panels need be moved away from boilers and sump pumps, Horton said. “I’ve asked them to address it with an electrical survey of the building. Some of the electric is quite old.”
Built in 1882, the building was a former horse carriage factory that became “one of the leading manufacturers of carriages and sleighs in the country,” according to the City of Newburgh. The city purchased it in 1894 and, under the supervision of architect Frank Estabrook, converted it into City Hall.
Last month, the city was issued almost a dozen violations relating to the building’s various structural and electrical woes, among other issues. “They are substantial,” Horton said.
“A plan has to be put in place to repair the building,” said Horton, and getting rid of the temporary shoring in the building. “To understand what is going on with the building structure, you have to open up the walls and ceilings. The walls and ceiling have to tested for asbestos before they are opened up.”
“We need to evaluate whether it is safe for us to continue to occupy the building while we breathe in that air,” Ciaravino said. The city has contracted with Quality Environmental Solutions and Technologies (QUEST) to conduct testing for lead and asbestos, and McLaren Engineering Group for the structural and electrical work.
An electrical inspection has already been completed for the building, said city Engineer Jason Morris. “The inspector is currently writing his report,” said Morris. QUEST is expected to finish with the lead and asbestos testing sometime this month, he said.
“We have to figure out why the building is moving, make permanent repairs to the building and if not, then they have to vacate the building,” Horton said. “We’re holding the city to the same standard as a typical property owner.”
Ciaravino reiterated the point last Thursday. The city must “follow our own rules, as we are expecting of our residents and others in our community,” he said.
Other city-owned buildings that also have temporary shoring include the West End Firehouse and the Safety Building, housing both the city fire and police departments, the city manager said.
By SHANTAL RILEY