Snow contributes to partial Jay Street building collapse

By LINDA KELLETT/For the Recorder

A heavy snow load contributed to the partial collapse of a vacant building here on Jay Street Saturday night.

That’s according to Amsterdam Police Sgt. Owen Fuhs, who said police and Amsterdam fire officials responding to the boarded-up residence at 22 Jay St. shortly after 5:30 p.m. Saturday believed that a weak structure and heavy snow caused the roof to fall in.

Its buckled facade angled obliquely toward the street, and an exterior side wall leaned accordion-like against the adjacent building.

Fuhs said the next-door structure sustained minor damage as a result of the cave-in. That building was occupied, but no was injured.

“A person whose truck was there moved it just in time,” said Fuhs.

Hector Rivera, the owner of Hector’s Small Engine Repair and Resale at 24 Jay St., said he was working on a snowblower in his shop when he heard a “big noise, like when someone plows the street; and I looked and saw the building collapsing on top of my truck.”

Scared, Rivera said he dashed to his sport truck and “got it out of there” before the wall fell in further.

Bathed in the glow of emergency lights, the rescued Ford 4x4 was coated with an uneven covering of snow and flecked with splinters of building debris. In spots, scratches and dents marred the vehicle’s shiny red finish.

Rivera said the collapsed building had been empty for a long time. “During summertime, you could see the sky through the ceiling,” he said.

Immediately after arriving at the scene, emergency personnel checked the fallen structure for potential victims.

Amsterdam Police Officer Ariel Santiago said there was initial concern that kids or squatters may have been in the collapsed building.

Fuhs said, “The neighbors say no one’s been in there.”

That was confirmed by one Jay Street resident, and Rivera added, “Someone covered all the windows so no one can go inside. If I see someone there, I tell them to get out of there.”

Fuhs said the leaning, second-story facade is potentially in danger of taking down wires. “If it falls toward the street, it can take wires and cause a chain reaction,” he said. “The good things are, there’s no electricity, no gas, no water. It’s abandoned.”

Until the building can be secured, however, the area around the house has to be barricaded off and the street blocked, he said.

Calls were placed to the Public Works foreman and city engineer. Because of the poor weather conditions, it was noted it would not be possible to address the matter Saturday night.

A fire crew was assigned to stay with and monitor the structure overnight and into Sunday.

Brian Frugis, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Albany, said the city received about 12.5 inches of snow during the first significant snowfall of the season last Thursday. By around 11 p.m. Saturday, the city had accumulated an additional 6.8 inches.