A Bergen Beach teen was killed on Tuesday night when he fell from the roof of Roy H. Mann Junior High School.
Horrified witnesses said that Nicholas Gryak, 15, a resident of E. 72nd Street, and a handful of other teens climbed a construction scaffolding surrounding the E. 68th Street school near Veterans Avenue to the top of the five-story building at around 10:15 pm. When they tried to get down, Gryak tumbled into a chimney shaft that opened onto the roof.
“The cops and the FDNY were called because we saw the kids [on the roof],” said a neighbor, who wished not to give his name. “When they were told to get off the roof, it looked like the kid was trying to find a safe way to climb down and fell into the shaft. He must have broke his neck.”
Lauren Mishkin, who lives across the street from the school, said she saw the teens on the roof — but only for an instant.
“At first I didn’t know what I was seeing, since I’m not used to seeing neighborhood kids in trouble like this,” said Mishkin. “Then they disappeared. They must have gone down to the other end of the roof.”
Gryak fell five floors to the bottom of the shaft and died at the scene, police said.
It took firefighters several hours to pull Gryak out of the chimney. As rescuers figured out a way, more than 200 area residents raced to the school to console Gryak’s grief-stricken family.
“We had heard what had happened and ran over here,” said Justin Clibanoff, Gryak’s neighbor. “We we learned that he was dead we didn’t know what to do. He was like a brother to me and I can’t get over what happened.”
Friends said that Gryak graduated from Roy H. Mann and was attending James Madison High School. Gryak loved sports and was always seen playing baseball or doing tricks on his skateboard, friends said.
Clibanoff said that the Department of Education should remove all the scaffolding and netting around Roy H. Mann, which continues to hang over the school like a burial shroud.
“They should pull it down after what happened,” he said. “They should have also had some security.”
Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said that facade work on Roy H. Mann began in November, 2010, and is expected to continue until October. The scaffolding will be removed at that point, she said, adding that security guards continually monitor the school.
“Security is provided when the contractor leaves the premise for the day,” she said.
But many say the security is inadequate.
“I’ve only seen a security guard here twice during all this time,” said Mishkin.