NEW YORK (AP) – More than a dozen privately owned retaining walls across the five boroughs are crumbling and show signs of decay, according to an investigation by the New York Times.

After examining 126 privately owned retaining walls in the city – all similar to the wall that collapsed onto a highway earlier this month – the Times found more than a dozen that were deteriorating. The attention to the walls was sparked by the May 12 collapse of a 75-foot-high wall onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, injuring no one but snarling traffic for days. That wall is owned by a co-op association that had heard complaints about its stability for years and had hired several engineers to examine it.

The wall that appeared the most unstable was on West 110th Street and is owned by the Cathedral Church of the St. John the Divine, which set up a fence on the sidewalk in 2000 after realizing the wall was unsafe.

A 15-foot-long section of that wall fell onto the sidewalk on March 21, 2003, the Times said.

Other dangerous situations included a wall on 153rd Street with trees growing from wide gaps in it and a dilapidated wall near Crotona Park in the Bronx.

A team of inspectors from the city’s Buildings Department has been visiting all the privately owned walls in New York, a process expected to end this week.

The city has urged owners of retaining walls to call for a free inspection and is offering temporary amnesty from fines for violations.

The Times visited retaining walls listed as privately owned in a database compiled by the Manhattan engineering firm Gandhi Engineering. The inventory detailed 2,070 walls in New York, most of which were owned by the city or the state and inspected every four or five years.

Many property owners said they did not know the walls on their property were their responsibility.

“I assume it’s a city responsibility, but you know where assumptions get you,” said Veronica Nalbone, 69, whose Staten Island property has a concrete wall.

AP-ES-05-22-05 0533EDT

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