Collapse of tiles closes coffee shop

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“I thought it...

By Tien-Shun Lee

The decorative, orange terra-cotta tiling on the roof above a Briarwood coffee shop cracked and tumbled to the ground at around 12:30 p.m. July 2, causing an awning to break and an air conditioner to be pushed out of a second-floor window.

“I thought it was an earthquake,” said Luis Martinez, an employee at New Avenita Coffee Shop at 83-30 Parsons Blvd., who was waiting a table at the time of the incident. “I heard crack, crack, crack.”

Martinez, four co-workers and some seven customers stayed inside the restaurant for about 20 minutes while they waited for firefighters to arrive on the scene after someone called 911. They then went outside, joining neighbors from the block who were all evacuated onto the street following the collapse.

No one was hurt in the incident, said a Fire Department source at the scene of the incident.

The roofing was directly located above the coffee shop, Albert’s Barber shop at 83-32 Parsons Blvd., and several second-floor apartments.    

“We couldn’t tell you precisely why the tiles fell,” said Ilyse Fink, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Buildings. “It was not a new building. The tiles had probably been up there for a number of years. Given the state of the debris when we reached the scene, we could not determine what caused the fall.”

The FDNY source said the collapse might have occurred because the wood that the tiles were attached to was rotted, and the tiles are very heavy.

The collapse did not affect the interior of any buildings, said the FDNY source.

The New Avenita Coffee Shop and Albert’s Barber Shop were open for business as usual last Thursday after debris in front of the shops was cleared.

Firefighters took down the green awning of the New Avenita Coffee Shop completely after the disintegration of the roofing left it dangling.

Two other similar pieces of decorative roofing down the street and around the corner from the New Avenita Coffee Shop were inspected after the incident to make sure they were not in danger of falling apart as well. One did not appear to be in good shape, said Fink.

“I think it (the tiled roofing) was put up there in the ‘30s,” said Orlando D’Aniello, the owner of John’s Pizzeria and Restaurant at 83-38 Parsons Blvd., as he waited for his building inspector to check out the shingled roofing above his restaurant.

Fink said Department of Buildings officials had considered writing a violation to document the incident, but no penalty would be attached to the violation.

It is the responsibility of the owner to look after his or her property, including the tiled roofing, to make sure it is in good condition, said Fink.

Roofing repairs will be paid for by an insurance company, said an employee of the coffee shop.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:17 pm, October 10, 2011
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