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April 25, 2019

Motorcyclist narrowly escapes death as Harlem church collapses around him

November 29, 2018
A church partially collapsed on West 135th street on Thursday, injuring one person. The wreckage blocked the way to an underground parking lot in the adjacent building. (Nina Cochran for New York Daily News)

A motorcyclist narrowly escaped death Thursday when a vacant Harlem church collapsed as he exited an underground garage — sending debris raining down around him, officials said.

The man was briefly trapped under the debris following the 11:50 a.m. collapse on W. 135th St. near Frederick Douglass Blvd., but was able to pull himself out.

He was taken to an area hospital with a bruises and cuts to his shoulder.

“Had he been there another half second, he would have been crushed under the weight of the bricks,” FDNY Assistant Chief Joseph Woznica said.

The former Mount Ararat Church was in the process of being demolished by the city’s Housing Preservation and Development when the rear of the building suffered a partial collapse, with debris spilling onto the driveway leading to the underground garage.

Residents recalled hearing an explosion before everything fell apart.

“(It was) like a little explosion. Sounded like thunder,” said Carlos Dejesus, 60, who was walking by when the partial collapse happened.

Children were playing basketball across the street when the collapse happened.

“There was smoke coming out everywhere,” said one 11-year-old child, who would only identify himself as Kevin. “Everybody was saying that someone was in there.”

Since July, neighbors have been complaining to the Department of Buildings that the storefront church looked “unstable and leaning.” Others complained of cracks and bricks falling from the facade.

The DOB has dispatched inspectors to find out just how the collapse took place, officials said.

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