Brooklyn, NY New American Theatre Collapse, Nov 1921


Prosecutor Asks if Crowding of Seats Did Not Cause Fatal Collapse/


Son of Building Superintendent Got $500 for Steel Plans Out of Architect’s $1,500

Charles A. Sandbloom, an architect, who designed the American Theatre at Bedford and Park Avenues, Brooklyn, which collapsed, was the principal witness yesterday in the John Doe hearing conducted by District Attorney John E. Ruston of Kings County before Chief Magistrate William McAdoo. The hearing is to fix responsibility for the collapse which cost the lives of seven men engaged in the construction of the building.
Sandbloom testified that he received $1,500 from Rosenthal & Moskowitz, the builders. Of this sum he paid $500 to Edward Kleinert, to whom he sublet the work of drawing the plans for the steel construction. Sandbloom said that Kleinert was the son of Albert Kleinert, Superintendent of Buildings, but later testified that his plans were not used, as others by Joseph Gaydica were substitutes.

Sandbloom was hazy as to who brought the name of Kleinert to his attention, but believed that it was Rosenthal of Moskowitz, and said that he engaged Kelinert to do the work without ever having previously met him.

“You were told that if you employed Kleinert to draw your steel plans you would get prompt action at the Building Department on your work. That is the reson you got hinm, is it not?” asked Mr. Ruston.

“Well,” answered Sandbloom, “that is one of the reasons.”

“You never had any delays at the Building Department on the plans for the American Theatre, did you?” asked Mr. Ruston.

“No.” answered Sandbloom.

Sandbloom testified that his plans were submitted to the Building Department on Aug. 2 and approved the same day. Kleinert’s steel plans were submitted to the department on Sept. 13 and also approved the same day.

Mr. Ruston asked the witness if he did not consider $500 a large amount to pay Kleinert, when he received but $1,500.

“No, not from Mr. Kleinert’s viewpoint,” replied Sandbloom. The witness then explained that others to whom he spoke about steel plans wanted the same amount for the work, and that it was no concern of Kleinert’s that he received only $1,500. “I made a poor bargain and lost money on the American Theatre deal.” said Sandbloom. He could give no reason for the collapse of the building, as he did not supervise the construction and was not admitted to the building after the collapse. He did not know why the Gaydica steel plans were substituted for the Kleinert plans.

The District Attorney asked the witness if he did not believe that the centre of collapse was a longitudinal column upon which a number of steel trusses supporting the roof had rested. This column spanned a break in the north wall, which formed a sort of alcove where seats were to be placed. The column was a feature of both the Kleinert and Gaydica plans. The break in the wall caused steel trusses to rest on this column instead of on the solid brick wall, as in other parts of the structure.

“Well, as a matter of fact, if they had not made the alcove so that they could get seventy more seats in the place, the theatre would not have collapsed, would it?” asked Mr. Ruston.

“I do not know,” answered Sandbloom.

The hearing will be continued at 2:30 P. M. on Tuesday.

The New York Times, New York, NY 21 Jan 1922