Roof of Spring Garden Ave. house collapses on worker during demo


Above: Spring Garden Avenue was closed Monday afternoon after a house collapsed, leaving one worker injured. Below: Work crews finished the demolition work before more of the unstable building could collapse. (Photos/Kelly Thomas)

The roof of 839 Spring Garden Ave. collapsed around noon Monday while two men worked on demolishing it.

One worker was injured and taken to Allegheny General Hospital, but was awake and not in serious condition, according to witnesses. The other worker was uninjured.

Bill Scanlon, who lives at 843 Spring Garden Ave., next to the condemned duplex, said he was on his porch when the building caved in. 841 Spring Garden appears to have been unaffected.

“It sounded like dynamite,” he said. “[The workers] were inside, they heard a squeaking noise … next thing you know, kaboom!”

Scanlon said the uninjured worker tried to help his coworker after the collapse, but was unable to.

“It was a mess around here,” Scanlon said. “It shook our house.”

Today, work crews finished the demolition job with heavy machinery. Although Spring Garden Avenue remained closed on Monday, it has since reopened to traffic.

Christ Spinnenweber, who is vice president of the Northside Public Safety Council and a Spring Garden Avenue resident, said he heard the collapse from the nearby Bierhouse.

“This could have been avoided,” Spinnenweber said. He said he believed the building has been condemned for at least seven years. “We’ve been fighting with the city to get it torn down.”

Spinnenweber didn’t blame the city, though, citing limited demolition funding under Act 47. “They should stay on top of it, but they’ve got a lot to worry about,” he said. “Their hands are tied.”

Since last summer, the city has demolished at least half a dozen houses in the East Deutschtown area between East Ohio Street and Spring Garden Avenue, and Madison Avenue and Chestnut Street.

City officials did not return requests for comment.

Ruth Ann Dailey, the president of the Community Alliance of Spring Garden/East Deutschtown, said that CASGED has tried to work with the city’s Bureau of Building Inspection to prioritize buildings that need to come down, but she was not sure how long 839 Spring Garden Ave. was on the demolition list.

One problem is a lack of a communication between BBI and the community, Dailey said. The Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group is looking to close that communication gap by serving as an intermediary between community groups and BBI, she added.

The purpose of the reinvestment group’s intervention in the issue is to give community groups a chance to comment on the list of condemned buildings in their communities, prioritize which ones need to go first and select other buildings that they would like to save.

This article was updated on 10/12/10, at 12:35 p.m.

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