In the collapsed building twin, most residents stay put

SURFSIDE, Florida – About a block from the collapsed Miami-area oceanfront condominium tower is its sister building, erected a year later by the same company, using the same materials and design similar. He faced the

SURFSIDE, Florida – About a block from the collapsed Miami-area oceanfront condominium tower is its sister building, erected a year later by the same company, using the same materials and design similar. He faced the same tides and salty air.

This worried some residents of Champlain Towers North enough to leave, although most stayed, saying they were convinced their 12-story building, almost 40 years old, is better maintained. They say their building doesn’t have the same cracking issues in the support beams and in the pool area that engineering reports from 2018 show the south tower had.

The collapse of Champlain Towers South in the town of Surfside on Thursday drew attention to older high-rise buildings across South Florida and prompted Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to order a 30-day audit to determine if these buildings under its jurisdiction are compliant. with a required recertification of structural integrity at 40 years. She said she wanted any issues raised by the inspections to be resolved immediately. She also urged county municipalities to follow suit. Miami, for example, has launched a 45-day audit of buildings six stories and over that are 40 years or older.

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Inspectors carried out a quick examination of the north building and Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said nothing was found indicating the tower was in danger of collapsing.

This did not reassure everyone.

“I’m petrified to come back,” said Rebecca Weinstock, a snowbird who bought a condo on the sixth floor of the North Building four years ago with her husband. She is in New York City, where she was when the South Tower collapsed Thursday morning, leaving at least 11 dead and 150 missing.

Although she admits that the north building is well maintained, she said that was not enough to convince her that he was completely safe. It was completed in 1982, a year after the South Tower, and built by the same developer, Nathan Reiber, through his firm Nattel Construction. The possibility that the collapse was caused by a design or construction defect means it won’t be coming back anytime soon.

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“I’m out of my investment, I’m out of my apartment, I’m out of my future, but we’re talking about lives here,” she said. The only way for her to come back, she said, is if two independent engineers – not from South Florida – okay, that’s for sure.

Residents of the North Tower who wish to temporarily relocate are offered federal assistance, as are the survivors of the South Tower.

But most of the residents interviewed on Monday take over from Philip and Nora Zyne, who are staying in their fifth-floor condo. The Zynes bought their condo 12 years ago and have lived there full time for six years. They have several friends and acquaintances who lived in the South Tower and are still missing.

“I never saw any major structural problems” in the north building, said Philip Zyne, a lawyer. “I’m not at all worried right now. I want to do a full structural and forensic engineering exam.”

Zyne said he has seen many inspectors in his building since the collapse, and only a small number of people have packed their bags to leave.

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“This is by no means a mass exodus. I would say maybe a quarter of the building remains, “he said.

Salomon Gold, who spent 10 years as chairman of the North Tower condominium association and 20 years on the board, is confident the building is safe, saying he and the other board members do have never skimped on maintenance. He compared the building’s collapse to that of planes: Just because one crashes doesn’t mean others of the same make and model will.

“We’re in good shape,” said Gold, 89. The current chairman of the condominium association, Naum Lusky, declined to comment on Monday.

Surfside Mayor Burkett said a deep inspection of the north tower would be conducted on Tuesday by an engineering company hired by residents. The city will soon be inspecting other older buildings. Based on the results of the preliminary examination of the north tower, he said he saw no reason to order an evacuation. Still, he said, he’s not sure he would stay there.

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“If you asked me if I wanted to spend the night in this building, I would kinda… I wouldn’t be ready to do it until we walked through it,” he said.

Esther Drachman and her husband are taking no chances. Drachman’s 91-year-old mother-in-law lives in the North Tower.

“My mother-in-law is bedridden, so we took her out and brought her to our house,” Drachman said. “We just felt like we couldn’t get her out in five minutes” if a quick evacuation became necessary.

Drachman said his mother-in-law was not worried or very aware of the details of the disaster. She said she and her husband were waiting to see if a thorough inspection revealed any problems.

“We’ll see if this building is okay,” Drachman said. “And if it does, we’ll put it back.”

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Associated Press reporter Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami contributed to this report.

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