'Are we next?' Worried high-rise dwellers take photos, seek answers after Surfside

Miami Beach resident Dan Ribeiro started feverishly taking photos of the conditions inside his garage after the Champlain Towers South Condo fell a few miles from his home. It was taller than the condo that had partially fallen in Surfside.He is so concerned about cracked concrete, rusted metal, and water leaking into the Maison Grande Condominium's garage, that he keeps a bag by his front door with all essential documents, clothes for himself and his wife, and gift cards to hotels.Ribeiro, 39 said it was just frightening.South Floridians are grieving for the families of those who lost their homes in the Surfside collapse. However, some residents in older condo towers on the waterfront feel a sense of unease. They are now raising alarm about possible dangers in their buildings.Residents in North Miami Beach condos were forced to leave on Friday after an inspection found the building's 10-story height was unsafe.Officials from the city of North Miami Beach announced that Crestview Towers Condominium was to be evacuated immediately and closed down Friday evening. The condominium had been subject to a building inspection, which found it in unsafe structural and electrical conditions.South Florida condo owners who are unsure of their safety have reached out to their local building associations and municipalities for updates about planned renovations or assurances that their high rise homes are safe. Other people shared photos and videos of garages that were deteriorating and rusty on social media, drawing comparisons to the widely shared photos from the Champlain Towers South before it collapsed, killing at most 24 and leaving many others missing.I'm getting hundreds of them, said Allyn Kilsheimer (structural engineer), who reviewed photographs of the Maison Grande Condo garage at request from the Miami Herald. Kilsheimer's firm KCE has provided consulting services on other disasters such as the 9/11 attack on Pentagon and the FIU bridge collapsing. The town of Surfside hired him last week to examine the Champlain Towers South fall. Residents and condo boards have contacted Kilsheimer to get advice on the condition of their buildings.Continue the storyKilsheimer stated that he could see cracks and rusted bars in concrete at Maison Grande, but it was impossible for him to assess a building's integrity solely from photos or videos. To locate a crack or piece exposed rebar in relation to columns or other architectural elements, an inspector must first have building plans. How much can the rust be removed from exposed steel?Kilsheimer states that sometimes, underneath the rust, engineers will find very good steel.Reinforcing steel or reinforcement rusts and expands. It looks terrible, but if you remove the surface rust, it may reveal great, bright metal beneath. You can, on the other hand go to the wirebrush and wire brush the entire bar.Condo residents who are concerned about their buildings should consult his advice: Get a structural engineer to inspect them.He said that he was trying to get them less panicked.Concerned condo owners point to photos of the Champlain Towers South that showed cracks in concrete, corroded bar and standing water just two days before the building's collapse on June 24, 2016. Residents have noted that their building looks exactly like the Champlain, with a pool deck over a garage, and that they too have seen cracks, corrosion, and water penetration.Concrete damage and rusty rebar are visible in photos taken by a resident at Maison Grande Condominium's parking garage.Ribeiro said that the pictures they showed were much better than mine building. He lives on the eighth floor of Maison Grande, facing the pool deck.Condo president: Residents are panickingPresident of the Maison Grande board Lilly Allen Sanchez said that residents don't have anything to worry about. Sanchez was elected in February. She stated that although the condo has been under contract to start concrete restoration work in the garage, the city of Miami Beach has not yet approved its permit.Sanchez hosted a town hall meeting on Thursday where she accused residents of inciting panic and spreading incorrect information after the Surfside collapse. She stated that residents should have been able to come to the building with their concerns, rather than sharing photos on social media and speaking with reporters.It is shameful that people use a horrible incident such as the one in Surfside to alarm and sensationalize a community. She said that they are not the kind of people we would want in our building. A recording was made by the Miami Herald.Sanchez explained to the Herald that flattering images of the building's 50-year-old age don't necessarily indicate its vulnerability to failure. She gave the example of a hard-boiled eggs: While the shell may crack, the yolk is still firm. She also stated that South Florida buildings are statistically safe.She said that there are no buildings around us.Residents of Maison Grande can't ignore the problems with the building. The front door is marked with a red flag from the city advising residents of unsafe structures violations. A spokeswoman for the city said that the citation was issued for unpermitted work in November last year.Melissa Berthier, spokeswoman, said that a red placard is used to indicate that a building violation has been posted. This indicates that the County Code defines an unsafe structure. This does not necessarily indicate that the building is in danger or unsafe.She said that the building was built in 1971 and applied for a recertification permit. The city has 90 days to submit an inspector report. Sanchez claimed that possible delays in obtaining permits were holding back her project. The city didn't respond to a request for comment.Concrete damage and rusty rebar are visible in photos taken by a resident at Maison Grande Condominium's parking garage.WPLG Local 10 News first reported that the building had commissioned an engineering report in 2019. It found that the pool deck and parking garage have reached their end of useful life and need to be replaced or repaired.Sanchez stated that everyone must understand that just simply because something doesn't look right doesn't mean it isn't a problem with your interior integrity.After complaints about the maintenance of their buildings, The Maison Grande is not the only condo association fighting negative press. After a popular Instagram account posted a video of a long crevice in its garage ceiling, The Towers of Key Biscayne demanded that it be retracted Wednesday. It was referred to as a "RED FLAG" in the post which attracted more than 24,000 views.Jeffrey Zephir (architect) said that it is not. He visited the garage on Wednesday at the request the condo association. He explained that the mark along the ceiling's ceiling is not a crack but an expansion joint. This component is designed to absorb thermal expansion in buildings. Zephirs memo and a statement from Towers of Key Biscayne were later posted to the Instagram account.The statement stated that we are disappointed that an anonymous poster posted a video suggesting a structural problem at Towers of Key Biscayne, without asking the buildings management. The video shows an image of an expansion joint. This joint is not a crack in concrete and allows the building to expand or contract.Steve Williamson, Key Biscayne Village Manager, met with the property manger after the video went viral. He said that the village created a task force Monday to receive similar reports and work closely with building managers to make sure everything is in order.Williamson stated that the person who filmed it was very close to it, so it wasn't clear what the context is. It was not structural, but a poor cement job.Some local governments in Miami and Broward have requested a thorough review of older buildings since the Surfside collapse. The municipalities have sent inspectors out to inspect buildings and sent notices asking property owners for inspection reports.On Friday, the city of North Miami Beach ordered that Crestview Towers Condominium be closed immediately. This will result in the displacement of many residents. According to city officials, a January inspection found that the building was unsafe for occupancy because of structural and electrical problems.Willis Howard, chief staff to Arthur Duke Sorey, stated that the 1972 building seemed to have missed or skipped its 40 year recertification. This would have been due in 2012. The January inspections that resulted in the January report were initiated last August.A county rule requiring building owners to submit reports from licensed architects or engineers certifying buildings safety after 40 years is called the 40-year recertification. After that, recertification is required every ten years.He said that the case had been in the limbo for many years and that the association was penalized for each year it didn't file the report.They were trying to see how far they could push the can down.Miami-Dades homeless agency stated it would shelter dozens of residents in a temporary shelter built in a pavilion owned by the county on the grounds at the Youth Fair complex, which is located off the Florida Turnpike/Coral Way.Residents want government oversight from Miami to BrowardSherman Rattner is the president of the tenants association at the Stanley Axelrod Towers, Miami. He believes that government action must be taken quickly.The Axelrod towers are a 270-unit senior housing project at 1809 Brickell Ave. It was due for its 40 year recertification in 2016, but it has not been completed. Rattner and others are now questioning the safety of their building.In the last few years, the city issued three separate citations to the building. It was originally constructed in 1967.Rattner stated that we keep reminding the building owners and the city about the dangers of these conditions. This is supported by documents. After the Surfside collapse, I cannot help but think that this could have easily been us.Residents near the Isola Condominium, Brickell Key, have reported flooding in their basements. There are cracks and metal supports that now support the ceiling.Jose Guerrero, a resident of the bayfront condo, said that the conditions in the building reminded him of the Champlain Towers South.He said that instead of looking at the problem urgently, the condo was making improvements to the carpets and repainting.Ydais Laya (the president of Isola Condominium Board) wrote an email to The Herald stating that extensive construction and remediation have been ongoing since November 2020.Paulo Tavares de Melo the developer of Stanley Axelrod Towers has not responded to a request for comment.Haber Law's construction law attorney David Haber said that he has seen condo association political infighting often lead to construction delays and worsening disrepair conditions.He stated that elected board members should not have sole control over the completion of life-safety repairs on time or at all. He suggested that more accountability and legal safeguards be put in place following the collapse of Champlain Towers.Haber stated that boards are elected by the owners group. He also said that politics can get in the way of getting things done. This is especially true when repairs are expensive and not popular among condo owners. You can be a great board member, say "We need to assess everything," and then you'll be gone in three minutes.North of Surfside in Hollywood, complaints about the Sea Air Towers at 3725 S. Ocean Dr. are coming from both condo owners and board members.Two members of the five person board sent a note to the owners days after the collapse of the condo on June 27, showing photos of cracked columns, rusty beams, and water in the garage due to a leaky pool deck. Condo was built in 1971. It will soon be due to its 50-year recertification.They stated that they would ask Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy for intervention if the building doesn't hire a structural engineer who will determine if it is safe to live in.Judy Wilkerson, a former president and board member of the condo association, stated to the Herald that she wanted to know if it is safe to live there as a condo owner.Like Miami-Dade County, Broward County has a program to recertify buildings older than 40 years. Levy sent a message Saturday to Hollywood residents that it would seek additional fines up to $5,000 for buildings who repeatedly violate the recertification rules. In Hollywood, a new Recertification Taskforce is being formed to ensure compliance for all buildings, particularly those that are on the water. Broward County will also be provided with a list listing all compliant properties by the city.As you might expect, the Surfside building collapse has prompted local governments to review their building recertification programmes... he wrote. To address safety issues in life, the city is striving to be more proactive.According to the Sea Air Towers memo, Epic Forensics' September 2020 report listed several life-safety fixes that the building required, including repairs to the garage and waterproofing. Also, the expansion joint replacement at the pool deck was recommended. Roof work and concrete restoration were also suggested.According to the memo, the board was ready to start work when an election occurred. The current majority of the board fired Epic Forensics, and hired a new company to concentrate on the garage. According to the memo, beautification has been prioritized over necessary work in the building.We both appreciate the beautification efforts, but we are deeply concerned about the fact that repairs considered critical to life safety were not made, according to the memo. We believe safety should be the priority over beauty.Anna Reed, the Board President, stated that Saturday's meeting would be called by the Herald to choose a contractor for the work to be done in the garage. She also said that the building is preparing for its 50-year certification.She said that the association was aware of the problems with the garage and had received six bids from contractors for the work. All riser pipes were replaced, and all common area doors were replaced with impact glass. However, the garage repair is still the most important priority for the board. Since late 2019, the garage has had shoring. Arba, the building engineer, has closely been monitoring this issue.Engineering. To ensure residents' safety, the shoring is regularly adjusted. The association currently has sufficient funds to complete all repairs and has a line credit.Juan Pla, a unit owner, said that his mother lives in the building as well. He also stated that the Herald is very nervous about the building's conditions and that it is frustrating that construction decisions will be made based on the will of elected unit homeowners.He said that a new board will be elected once there is some consensus or money. They each have their own agenda. This stuff is not subject to government oversight.Pla, who is a New Jersey resident and sublets his unit to others, stated that he would love to see legislation to strengthen condo owner protections. Pla is concerned that if reform doesn't take place soon, it could be triggered by another collapse.He said that two, three years from now, nothing is going to change, and that people will forget what happened in Surfside.This story has been updated with comments from the president at Isola Condominiums. It also includes a reference to the board being unavailable for comment. The Herald sent inquiries to the wrong email address.