NEW YORK — A parking garage collapsed Tuesday in Lower Manhattan’s financial district, killing one worker, injuring five and crushing cars as the concrete floors fell on top of each other like a stack of pancakes, officials said.
The vehicles tumbled into what looked like a frozen stream of sedans and SUVs. People nearby described a terrifying rumble followed by screams.
Ahmed Scott arrived to pick up his car after work to find disaster brewing.
In a video he shot from across the street, someone off-camera yells, “Guard! About 45 seconds later, two women run out, saying the building fell while they were inside. A man stands on a fire escape as bystanders try to figure out how to help him down. He eventually did, Scott said.
“I hope there’s no one else there,” Scott recalled, worrying about the garage workers he’d come to know.
For Jades Speller, a student at nearby Pace University, the collapse “felt like an earthquake — like the ground opened up from the inside, like it was so violent.” Other students described seeing cars fall into the building.
A vehicle landed on its ends in the garage entrance, a photo released by Mayor Eric Adams’ office showed.
Authorities believed they had found everyone in the building, but searches continued Tuesday night to make sure no one was inside any of the crushed cars, Fire Chief of Operations John Esposito said. One garage employee was rescued through an adjacent roof after being trapped upstairs, he said.
“He was conscious and alert and moving around calling to us. It just couldn’t come down,” Esposito said. Four of the injured were hospitalized and in stable condition, and the fifth refused medical attention, he said.
The garage collapsed around 4 p.m., a few blocks from City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge, and about half a mile (0.8 km) from the New York Stock Exchange. Pace evacuated an adjacent dormitory and classroom and canceled all evening classes as it assessed the safety of the buildings. School officials sent the displaced students to a student center while they work on other accommodations.
Don Mulligan was on the 17th floor of a nearby hotel when he heard the roar of a jet plane overhead and felt the skyscraper sway.
“You knew something was going on,” said Mulligan, of Cincinnati. The hotel was evacuated, he said.
It is unclear what caused the collapse. City Buildings Department records show the three-story building has been a garage since at least the 1920s and has no recent building permits.
Messages were left with a parking company that lists the garage as one of its properties.
The collapse left the building “completely unstable,” Adams said at a news conference. Esposito said firefighters had to pull out because of the danger, instead conducting searches with a drone and a robotic dog.
The building was “all the way down to the basement floor,” Acting Buildings Commissioner Kazimir Wilenczyk said.
William Flashnick, 19, was in Pace’s classroom when he and his friends thought they heard an explosion and ran to the window to look. When they opened the window, a thick plume of dust rose into the air.
When it cleared, they peered down into the parking structure, where cars had been thrown to pieces and the upper deck had opened.
Flashnik initially worried about his whole life. One of his first thoughts was of the World Trade Center towering over the neighborhood.
“We were scared. Given the history of this place, it’s a bit scary,” he said.