Johns Hopkins student found dead outside of apartment accidentally fell from high-rise, police believe

A Maryland college student found dead outside her off-campus apartment most likely died from an accidental fall, Baltimore police believe. The body of 19-year-old Abigail Bastien, a rising sophomore and member of the track-and-field team at Johns Hopkins University, was found early Thursday outside her high-rise apartment building, located north of the school's Homewood campus. Officials said after a preliminary investigation that "nothing in this case points toward homicide." "Our early indications, based on all the evidence that we have, which includes video evidence and statements from people, is this is an accidental death where it appears that she fell off the building from quite a distance and died as a result of that," police spokesman TJ Smith said during a press conference Monday. Investigators do not know if Bastien fell from a balcony or another area in the building, but said it was from a "significant distance." Smith said police looked at the possibility that Bastien may have committed suicide, but evidence so far leads them to believe that it was an accidental fall. "We're still waiting on toxicology results from the medical examiner's office before we're able to determine exactly everything that was going on," he said. Johns Hopkins said in a statement last week that Bastien, from Sandusky, Ohio, stayed in Maryland for the summer to work in the Cell Biology Department at the School of Medicine. The school also noted that she was a member of the university's Alpha Phi sorority and was a sprinter for the women's track-and-field team, Fox 8 reports. "Her coaches say that Abby always had a smile on her face, loved being a student-athlete at Johns Hopkins, and deeply cared for the members of her team," school officials said. "On behalf of the entire Johns Hopkins community, we offer our deepest sympathies to Abby's family and friends." Continue Reading

Russian lawyer involved in corruption investigation ‘critically’ wounded after fall from apartment

The lawyer for the family of a Russian attorney, who died following a corruption investigation, has been hospitalized in "critical" condition after falling from the fifth floor of an apartment building in Moscow, associates said.  Nikolai Gorokhov fell from a window on Tuesday, a day before he was supposed to represent the mother of Sergei Magnitsky, whose death has been a focal point in souring U.S.-Russian relations. Magnitsky said he had uncovered a $230 million fraud scheme by Russian government officials, but was imprisoned and convicted posthumously after being accused of the same fraud. Gorokhov, 53, was set to appear in court on Wednesday in continued court proceedings into the matter, but was “thrown from the top floor of his apartment building” and suffered severe head injuries, according to a website connected to Magnitsky’s boss, financier Bill Browder. The website said Gorokhov was in "critical" condition at a central Moscow hospital as of early Wednesday. It was not immediately clear how Browder knew that the lawyer was “thrown.” A representative of Browder’s Hermitage Capital later told independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that Gorokhov and workers had been trying to raise a bathtub to the fifth floor when a winch broke. “We have a lot of questions relating to what happened that we cannot receive answers to,” the rep said, adding that the winch was strong enough for something heavier than a tub and none of the workers were injured. Beyond advocating for Magnitsky’s family, Gorokhov is also a key witness in U.S. prosecutors' case against Prevezon Holdings, according to Browder. Prevezon is a Cyprus-based company allegedly used to store money from the $230 million Russian fraud scheme in Manhattan real estate. That lawsuit, in Manhattan federal court, is set to go to trial in May. Magnitsky's name was also given to the 2012 Continue Reading

Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy killed by gunman fell victim to ‘a calculated execution’

The Los Angeles sheriff's sergeant who was fatally shot over the weekend was the victim of "a calculated execution" carried out by a parolee who pumped several bullets into his body as he lay bleeding on the ground, authorities said. Sgt. Steven Owen, 53, was responding to a burglary in progress at an apartment building in Lancaster on Sunday around 12:30 p.m. Upon arriving, Owen circled around the building where he was ambushed by 27-year-old Trenton Lovell, who shot him in the face, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said at a Thursday news conference. After firing a single shot, Lovell walked up to the sergeant, stood over his body and fired four more times. It was not immediately clear if Trenton knew Owen or what his motive might have been, a sheriff's department spokesman told the Daily News. "There was only the two of them there initially, so I don't know that we'll ever be able to answer what happened in that split-second," McDonnell said. "This was a calculated execution," he added. After shooting him, Lovell lifted Owen's service weapon from his dead body and pointed it at a responding deputy, who shot him in the shoulder. A wounded Lovell then stole Owens' patrol car and rammed it into another patrol car before bolting into a nearby apartment. He surrendered after a SWAT team descended on the scene. Lovell was treated for his injury and is being held without bail. It was not immediately clear if he has an attorney. McDonnell refuted earlier suggestions Lovell, who is black, might have opened fire in self-defense — a question triggered by recent shooting deaths of young black men at the hands of police officers in North Carolina and Oklahoma. "This is an individual that was certainly the aggressor, somebody who is truly a predator, and not somebody who was defending himself in any manner," McDonnell said. Lovell, who has been arrested a dozen times, had been staying with his sister Continue Reading

Tenants of burned Passaic building get look at damage

PASSAIC — The smell of burned wood still hung in the air as the residents of a five-story Gregory Avenue apartment building waited to collect clothes, valuables, important papers and remembrances of their lives in the wake of a brutal six-alarm fire that ripped through the building Saturday afternoon.The fire displaced about 200 residents, and Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said it was still under investigation. The fire did not appear to be suspicious, officials said.Firefighters from 19 Passaic and Bergen county fire companies responded to the blaze, which began about 1 p.m Saturday, and continued to battle the fire in the 40-unit brick building through the late afternoon. Saturday's blaze was the second fire to occur on Gregory Avenue this year — the first, in early March, displaced dozens of residents.Firefighters checked IDs and escorted residents in and out of the building to collect items, using large black garbage bags and personal totes to pack what they could salvage from their apartments. Lora moved among the residents, speaking with them in both Spanish and English.The mayor informed the gathered crowd that firefighters had assessed the structural integrity of the building and that only people who lived on the first and second floors would be allowed in, and only for five minutes, disappointing those who lived on the upper floors.It will be at least a week before upper-floor residents will be allowed to collect their belongings, Lora said, expressing concern that the water might have made it unsafe to walk on those floors. The mayor added that he was trying to balance the needs of the residents and safety."It's horrible," said Richard Salwinski, who lived in a fourth-floor apartment with his fiancée, Dana Rizzi. "I'm trying to get some closure and get items that are near and dear. I understand that it's probably not safe, but it's not fair."Rizzi said the loss of everything Continue Reading

South Korean stock broker jumps to death off building after heavy financial losses, police say

A South Korean stock broker jumped to his death from an apartment building after suffering massive losses in the global financial panic, police said. South Korean investigators said Wednesday that the 48-year-old man, identified only by his last name, Seo, sent his coworkers remorseful text messages just moments before the high-rise death dive. Chief investigator Lee Kang-ho said the texts also included an apology to his clients. No suicide note was found. The fatal leap took place in the southeastern city of Daegu. South Korean stocks have plummeted sharply amid the global economic pandemic set off by the S&P's first-ever downgrade of U.S. credit on Monday. U.S. stocks declined sharply again on Wednesday, one day after a frenzied bout of trading pushed the Dow to close up 430 points. After the opening bell on Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average was down about 400 points, nearly 4%. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and the Nasdaq Composite both fell more than 3%.Tuesday's wild roller-coaster ride came after the Federal Reserve offered a gloomy picture of the economy and announced that it would leave interest rates near zero. With New Wire Services Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Is now the time to buy? Manhattan apartment sales jump 45% over last quarter as prices fall

A fall of more than 10 percent in the average apartment price in Manhattan in the third quarter from a year earlier attracted buyers who pushed up the number of sales by over 45 percent in just one quarter, industry reports showed Friday. Still, experts said it was too early to say the market had bottomed out. Since peaking in the first half of 2008, Manhattan apartment prices have fallen an average of 25 percent to 30 percent. The Manhattan residential real estate market had been largely unscathed during 2008 as other U.S. housing markets were floundering, but it hit a wall in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial sector fell to its knees. About 20 percentage points of the 25-to-30 percent drop can be sourced to the months after September, said Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive of Miller Samuel appraisers and the author of the Prudential Douglas Elliman Manhattan Market Overview quarterly report. Other once-hot U.S. housing markets have seen prices fall by more than 50 percent. "We're not done yet," Miller said. New York City is still wrestling with a Wall Street that is trying to reinvent itself, a disproportionate number of layoffs of high-wage earners and new condominium construction. "There's a lot of unwinding to go," Miller said. "We're moving toward stabilization but we have a ways to go." The average sales price of a Manhattan apartment fell 10.6 percent to $1,323,462 in the third quarter from a year earlier, the Prudential Douglas Elliman Manhattan Market Overview showed. But it rose 0.8 percent from the prior quarter's $1,312,920. Prices per square foot fell 16.5 percent to $996 year over a year earlier and were off 5.7 percent from the second quarter, the report said. The third-quarter median sales price -- in which half the prices were higher and half were lower - dropped 8.4 percent to $850,000, but rose 1.7 percent from $835,700 in the second quarter, the Prudential report said. While the Continue Reading

15 Union Square West: A historic building gets reborn, and then some

Even if you didn't know its history or architecture, 15 Union Square West blows you away the second you walk into its model apartment. A giant 31-by-21-foot room with 16-foot ceilings and 17-foot low-iron impeccably clear windows overlooking Union Square would normally be enough to overwhelm your real estate senses. But then you'd see the 15-foot cast-iron stanchions. Left over from the building's first life as the 1897 Tiffany & Co. headquarters, they curve toward the high ceilings like your own personal Roman aqueduct. Don't worry if you don't know what a stanchion is; I didn't either. Like the iron poles that hold together velvet ropes at a nightclub, a stanchion is an upright bar, post or frame forming a support or barrier. Eran Chen, the architect, and Brack Capital Real Estate, the developer, decided to highlight the stanchions, making them the focal point of the apartments on the building's first five floors. Chen, then with Perkins Eastman and now running his own firm, ODA, enveloped the stanchions in a glass structure, constructing a building within a building fronted by low-iron Austrian glass. (I didn't know this either, but low-iron glass means it's   clearer, completely see-through at night, and reflective during the day. A luxury building down the street has windows that appear warped in the sun. These do not.) As if that's not enough, Chen created a series of sky villas on top of the original building. Almost all of them have huge terraces with park views. With interiors by New York's Vicente Wolf, one of the world's top designers, the homes have exquisite details like 2-inch-tall horizontal air slits, uniform shades that come down from the top and up from the bottom, claw-foot bathtubs, limestone and oak foyers, and shagreen finishes - made of shark skin - under the master bathroom sinks. (Shagreen perfectly absorbs bathroom moisture and is easy to clean, something else I didn't know. Perfected by the master leather worker Continue Reading

More than a dozen injured in explosion at Queens apartment building

A horrific explosion ripped through a Queens apartment building Friday just minutes after gas service was restored, blowing out walls and windows and injuring 17 people, residents and officials said. Edgar Zaldumbide, whose apartment blew up, lost 75% of his skin and was in a medically induced coma at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Friday night. His 2-year-old daughter, Melissa, whose clothes were burned off her tiny body, was also in critical but stable condition at the hospital. The other victims, including six firefighters, suffered less serious injuries. Sources said Zaldumbide may have accidentally caused the explosion when he used a candle to light his stove because the pilot light was not working. "I heard an explosion, and then the ceiling collapsed on me," said injured tenant Daniel Carcamo, 18, who lives in the apartment directly below the blast site. "I fell on the floor, and the whole second-floor kitchen was on the floor around me." Emergency Medical Service Chief Robert Browne said the explosion "blew apart the floor." "We had fire involving five apartments on the second floor and two on the third," he said. Yet tenants of the Flushing building said they were not surprised when the 4:30 p.m. explosion sent air conditioners tumbling into the courtyard below and shattered windows four stories above. "I smelled gas just two days ago," said Belanira Sanchez, 49, who organized a rent strike because the building had not had natural gas service since a small kitchen fire knocked it out last month. Contractors completed repairs this week and turned on one gas line Wednesday, a Con Ed spokesman said. They turned on six additional lines Friday. Con Ed employees spent most of the afternoon inspecting and testing the lines. All passed inspection, and the utility workers left the building about 15 minutes before the blast. "It sounded like a bomb," said Frankie Guida, 13, the building Continue Reading

Buildings rise and honest men fall

They were hardworking fathers who got up each morning, put on a hardhat and shaped the skyline. Aaron Stephens, a resident of Briggs Ave., was one of the five construction workers killed in the crane disaster in Midtown. Another of the dead was Wayne Bleidner, who grew up on City Island and followed his dad's footsteps as a crane operator. It's an increasingly dangerous profession. More hardhats than firefighters die on the job each year in the city. Twenty-nine laborers died in work-related accidents from Sept. 2006 to Sept. 2007. Authorities point to the city's unprecedented building boom as a reason for the rise in construction deaths; about 78,000 permits are issued per year. There's a great rush to throw up buildings, to appease developers who don't want to wait or be obstructed with rules and codes. It's become a city that worships real-estate developers. Mayor Bloomberg will leave a legacy of high-rise hotels, malls and mammoth parking garages and sports arenas that steamrolled the real neighborhoods in each borough. Scaffolding wraps thousands of buildings. Towering apartment buildings and high-rise condos are rising everywhere. About 250 cranes operate in the city on any given day. The model that collapsed on March 16, known as a tower crane, had a 200-foot mast, composed of 13 sections that each weighed 11,000 pounds. The cab and deck at the top of the mast weighed about 50,000 pounds; the boom weighed about 20,000 pounds; and the counterweights added up to about 80,000 pounds, city officials said. Neighbors had complained to the Buildings Department that the crane looked wobbly. The site had racked up a dozen violations. But the building went on. After the crane accident, Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster said the city "will rely upon the findings of our forensic investigation to explore ways in which tragedies like this can be prevented." Prevention is something that only seems to be addressed after a tragedy, and until just before the next Continue Reading

Sales of new U.S. homes fell 3.4% in August

WASHINGTON — Sales of new U.S. homes slumped 3.4% in August, the second straight monthly decline.The Commerce Department said Tuesday that sales dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000. This followed a 5.5% decline in July. Still, sales gains earlier this year mean that sales are running 7.5% higher year-to-date than in 2016.Sales could worsen in coming months as parts of Texas and Florida — both hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — find that new construction gets delayed as the focus turns to rebuilding properties that were flooded or damaged by the fierce winds and rainstorms.But August's drop in new home sales also points to the limits of the rebound from the Great Recession and the housing bust that triggered the downturn a decade ago. Home values have climbed at a much faster pace than incomes, meaning that many buyers had to strain their budgets to purchase a house. Low mortgage rates reduced the financial crunch somewhat, but then sales listings began to dwindle and many would-be buyers have found themselves outbid on existing homes and priced out of new housing developments. More: Real estate: High home prices may be hitting their limit More: U.S. home prices jumped in July even as sales level off More: Small businesses expand, invest despite gridlock in Washington A shortage of homes for sale coupled with rising prices has turned affordability into a challenge for many would-be buyers. Fewer new homes priced below $200,000 are coming onto the market. New homes at these relatively affordable prices were 14% of sales in August, down from 17% in 2016 and 19% in 2015.The median sales price increased 3.7% in the past 12 months to $368,100The sales decline over the past two months was so significant that the months' supply of new houses on the market ballooned to 6.1 months. That figure had been hovering around 5.3 months in June — raising a question of whether builders will wait to sell off Continue Reading