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Danger of ice falling from glass buildings in NY

glass building with ice

The winter season is officially still a week away, but winter weather has already come to New York, including precipitation falling in below-freezing temperatures. You are probably all too familiar with the dangers of icy bridges, highways and city streets for their potential to cause crashes when drivers aren’t careful to adjust their driving for these less-than-ideal conditions. But icy conditions in New York City create another potential hazard you may or may not be aware of – ice falling from glass buildings in NYC. Learn more about this dangerous and deadly hazard below, and if you’ve been injured by the actions or failures of a negligent driver or property owner, contact an experienced New York personal injury lawyer for help getting justice, accountability, and compensation for the harm done to you.

Supertall, Energy-Efficient, Glass Buildings: the Perfect Storm for Injuries and Accidents

The hazard of being struck by ice falling from a tall building isn’t anything new, but changes to the way skyscrapers are being built today make this type of accident more likely to happen and with deadlier force. Not so long ago, stone and concrete were the building materials of choice. These materials absorb heat from sunlight, warming the building’s exterior so that any snow or ice that adheres to the building is more likely to melt away rather than accumulate until it becomes so heavy it breaks away and falls to the ground in chunks.

The same cannot be said for buildings – often skyscrapers and other tall buildings – where the primary building materials are steel and glass. These materials don’t absorb heat like older building materials such as stone and concrete. Instead, they allow ice to accumulate in thick sheets until the slabs get so heavy they break apart from the building and fall to the ground below. Chunks of ice falling from New York buildings have totaled cars and wounded, maimed and killed many people.

A New York Times article from 2019 highlighted the danger of ice falling from glass buildings in NYC. The Times notes that the problem has been described in the media as far back as 1939, but a surge of new angular soaring towers built of glass and steel with sloped surfaces and smooth exteriors promote the formation and collection of ice on the buildings like never before. In an ironic twist, newer energy-efficient buildings also do a better job of retaining their heat inside the building rather than radiating it outward, further creating conditions for ice to remain on the building and build up rather than melt away.

Over a dozen glass and steel energy-efficient supertalls have been constructed in NYC over the past decade, according to the Times story, with more in the works. But this problem isn’t isolated to supertall skyscrapers. Even ice falling from only 15 stories high will reach its terminal velocity (maximum speed) of 60 to 70 miles per hour according to the Times, creating devastating force according to the laws of physics, where force equals mass times acceleration.

Adding to the problem is that buildings are not designed with the danger of falling ice in mind. Many aesthetic features such as ledges, facades, nooks and crannies create danger zones where ice can accumulate before breaking apart and falling toward unsuspecting motorists and pedestrians below.

Building Owners Can Be Held Liable for Falling Ice Injuries

The NYC Department of Buildings warns property owners, builders and contractors about weather conditions that could lead to falling ice. Moreover, property owners are required by city law to clear snow and ice from roofs, overhangs, trees and gutters. Building owners are obliged to know how their buildings collect ice and where the danger areas are, and they are obligated to post warnings and secure hazardous areas as needed for safety. Specifically, the NYC Administrative Code section 28-301.1 dictates, “All buildings and all parts thereof and all other structures shall be maintained in a safe condition.”

Simply put, property owners are liable for injuries caused by ice falling from their buildings. This liability flows from the City Code as well as general premises liability principles in New York, which require property owners to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Property owners can be held liable for injuries caused by dangers they created or knew or should have known about but failed to warn of or fix.

Trusted Advice and Representation for Your New York Injury Claim

If you or a family member has been seriously injured by ice falling from glass buildings in New York City, or in a traffic accident, trip and fall, construction injury or other personal injury incident, call Leandros A. Vrionedes at 212-889-9362 for advice and representation from a dedicated and successful New York personal injury and wrongful death attorney.

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