Killer couches, kamikaze ceiling fans and 3 other freaky accidents involving NYC apartments

By Julie Inzanti  | March 12, 2013 - 1:35PM

In a city of over 8 million people living on top of each other, the potential for disaster is skyscraping. We’ve fished around for a few of the more insane freak accidents apartment-dwellers in New York have experienced.....

1. Crushed by a Murphy bed. Yes, this really happened folks.

You've probably looked around your tiny apartment and considered the Murphy bed solution at one point or another.

After this you might reconsider. Or at least you will understand the value of licensed professionals and work permits.

Annie Grossman lives in a railroad style apartment near Union Square. She is a dog trainer who does most of her work at her apartment and occasionally fosters dogs. Her space constraints made it difficult to work with the dogs so she figured a foldaway (or up) bed would be the perfect solution.

Annie discovered an assortment of Murphy bed kits available, but they required a lot of time and effort. She found a queen-size bed for sale on Craigslist already assembled. Score!

Annie got the bed safely to her apartment and paid the guys at the local hardware store to affix the nearly 1,000-pound Murphy bed to her wall, her artist father even painted a mural on the bottom side so that when the bed was upright it was a work of art.

She noticed late on a Friday evening that the screws holding the massive structure to the wall "looked a little sketchy,” but it didn’t seem like an urgent matter. She started to pull it down from the front (at the foot of the bed) and it got stuck. So she circled around to the side of the bed to give it a good shove to the ground when the entire frame of the bed snapped off the wall, knocked her to the ground and sandwiched her arm between the mattress and the frame.

Annie was lucky to be on the side of the bed when this happened. Had she been in the front the force of the fall could have killed her. But being trapped in the urban version of “127 Hours” seemed life threatening.

She tried yelling and shouting to cause enough of a commotion as to rouse her neighbors. No luck. She had visions of spending the weekend trapped in the bedroom trying to signal S.O.S. with the bedside lamp.

After what seemed like hours but in reality was more like ten minutes, Annie was able to wrestle herself free. She slapped some frozen mangoes on her injured head and frantically made her way to the nearest hospital. She was in a state of shock but other than a huge knot on her forehead from the fall and a severely bruised arm, she was physically intact.

The only tangible loss was the $1,000 she spent on the bed and delivery, a $50 co-pay for the hospital visit and the $60 or so she gave the handymen for installing the bed. She didn’t think of taking action against the bed manufacturers or claiming a loss on renters insurance because the crash seemed like her own fault.

(FYI, renters insurance typically does not cover damage/repairs to your property because of faulty workmanship, so replacing the bed and/or damage the falling bed may do to you or your property is not covered. However, says Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage, "if another person or another apartment suffers damage as a result, and you are sued for your alleged negligence, you would be covered.”)

The bed sat in Annie's room “like a beached whale” for a while until the guys from the local hardware store helped dismantle it. They saved the mural Annie’s father painted on the bottom and it now hangs in the spot where the Murphy bed was…

Annie now has a safer and easier to maneuver, pullout sleeper-sofa.

2. Home gardening business floods building

As a NYC apartment insurance broker, Jeff Schneider has heard his share of freak accidents…like the case when a metal ceiling blade repaired with super glue torpedoed off and destroyed the contents of an apartment.

But flooding is probably the most common apartment accident, Schneider says. The oddest involved a set of clients who "decided to become florists and work from home…and a hose burst.” 

Massive flooding from an improvised hosing mechanism for their secret home-gardening business. The renters' decision to ignore building code and probably the parameters of their lease to launch a full-scale floristry without installing proper irrigation caused over $50,000 in damage.  Luckily, most of it was covered by their insurance.

3. A pull-out couch claims a pet's life

A Brooklyn resident named Kristen told us a story about friends (who shall remain nameless) who lost their pet rabbit to a sleeper sofa.

The couple in question here were part of an artsy bohemian set who often housed their traveling friends and fellow artists. 

They were hosting out of town guests in their one-bedroom apartment on their pullout. Of course imbibing ensued…not to say that they were negligent, just not paying attention. (It certainly wasn’t a Sopranos situation where Christopher passed out on his girlfriend’s Maltese and killed it.)

In the case of our Brooklyn friends, the cuddly rabbit must have secretly crawled up into the gutter space the mattress folds back into. When their guests departed they stripped the mattress and hastily folded the bed in, never thinking their little rabbit would be playing hide and seek in their sofa.

When Fluffy failed to appear around dinner time the next night and several nights, they grew concerned. Had Fluffy escaped? Was Fluffy roaming the streets getting bullied by rats? When the pullout sofa finally occurred to them, they discovered their pet rabbit pancaked in the folds. 

4. A facade falls off

Superstorm Sandy caused plenty of freak accidents and construction defects…and one of the early architectural victims of the storm was a solid brick building in Storm Zone C (a non-evacuation zone) at 92 Eighth Avenue. The façade of the upper floors was ripped off during the early evening high winds and rain on Oct 29—even before Sandy approached landfall in New York City.

All of the apartments of this 92 Eighth Avenue building were rented at the time of the incident. They all featured three bedrooms and two bathrooms and the average rental price in the building was $4,400.

Luckily, no one was hurt in this freak accident. The building was left looking more like an art installation with perfectly organized contents on display like a dollhouse. 

5. Faulty window becomes makeshift guillotine

Back in the early 90s, Steven Sladkus, now a co-op/condo lawyer and partner at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman and Herz, was subletting a 2-bedroom co-op in Brooklyn Heights with a fellow Brooklyn Law School student.

He came home one evening after class to find blood spatter all over his apartment.

"There was blood in the living room...everywhere," recalls Sladkus, who followed the trail of blood down the hallway to his roommate's bedroom.

As anyone who has lived in a shared space knows, this scenario is something that has probably played out in your worst nightmares...a bloody trail leading to the hacked-up remains of your roommate.  Or worse, in Sladkus's situation, was that his roommate was nowhere to be found. 

Fortunately, this story doesn’t include a fatality.

Sladkus’s roommate eventually materialized and explained the grizzly scene he left behind. It was as simple as opening a window…

The co-op apartment Sladkus and his roommate shared had an interesting window feature. The windows essentially had “ridges at the bottom so when you closed the window it would seal shut to prevent a draft.” The ridges were essentially sharp little teeth that locked in together…or in this case, took a bite.

His roommate had tried to open the window and pulled up incorrectly, got his fingers stuck…and then the window broke and came crashing down on his fingers—shopping the tips of four fingers clean off.

After screaming his head off, probably, he had the presence of mind to grab his fingertips and rush to the hospital. Hence the dramatic state of the apartment upon Sladkus’s arrival.

At the hospital a neurosurgeon was able ot re-attach the fingertips, although, says Sladkus, “for a long time he has pins sticking out of his fingertips with little balls on the end to keep the tips in place.”

Eventually the fingertips healed and most of the feeling returned to them.

Related posts:

Only in New York: Living above a drug-addled squatter with my imaginary husband

10 things you didn't know were covered by renter's insurance (sponsored)

 Inside Stories: Real New Yorkers spill their real estate stories






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