Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Business Slow? Check Out 125th Street's Development Boom

One street in Manhattan is about to gain 500,000 square feet of new development, and it is not where you may think.

125th Street, often considered Upper Manhattan’s Main Street of sorts, will grow yet again thanks to three construction initiatives, valued at more than $150 million by the New York City Department of City Planning and Economic Development Corporation.
The Bloomberg administration has selected developers to rehabilitate the former Taystee Bakery Complex and the Corn Exchange Building, both located along the 125th Street commercial corridor in Harlem. The two sites have each been vacant for several decades.

The building height gradient for the area has also been increased, allowing new developments to reach up to 290 feet - higher than anywhere else in Upper Manhattan.

NYC Economic Development Corporation selected Janus Partners LLC and Monadnock Construction, Inc. to redevelop the former Taystee Bakery complex into CREATE @ Harlem Green, providing an additional 395,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space. The city also selected 125th Street Equities, LLC to redevelop the Corn Exchange Building, rehabilitate its landmarked base and add six additional floors for office and retail use.

CREATE @ Harlem Green and the Corn Exchange Building restoration, will serve as anchors, to make the 125th Street corridor one of Manhattan’s most important. In doing so, it will serve as a hub for new residential and commercial development as well as a catalyst for the continued growth of Upper Manhattan.

These projects will result in more than 500,000 square feet of new commercial space and create more than 530 permanent jobs, and over 600 construction jobs.  The city expects the projects to generate hundreds of millions of dollars of new economic activity in Harlem.  
CREATE @ Harlem Green:

At Amsterdam Avenue, CREATE @ Harlem Green is a prime example of adaptive reuse, converting what used to be a factory into a mixed-use complex complete with a range of manufacturing, office, and commercial space, topped off with its signature element: a modern green space on its rooftop. As a result, CREATE @ Harlem Green will act as a hub for the western end of the corridor, aided by Columbia University’s burgeoning expansion nearby. 

Janus Partners LLC and Monadnock Construction, Inc. will redevelop the former Taystee Bakery Complex based on their response to a Request for Expressions of Interest NYCEDC released for the site in November 2010.

The $130 million development will include 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space, 130,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail space, and 15,000 square feet of community facility space and will create about 440 permanent jobs and 510 construction jobs.

Several locally based businesses will relocate or expand to CREATE @ Harlem Green. Harlem Brewing Company, which currently brews in Saratoga Springs, will be moving its production facility to CREATE @ Harlem Green and will also grow hops on an open roof, give tours and operate a brewing museum, a tap room and gift shop.

The Corn Exchange Building: 
On the other end of 125th Street, The Corn Exchange Building, located at Park Avenue - next to the 125th Street Metro North train station - will be redeveloped by 125th Street Equities LLC. 125th Street Equities LLC will rehabilitate the historic base of the building and reconstruct an additional six floors to restore the building in a manner that is consistent with its landmark status.

The $20 million development will create about 90 permanent jobs and 80 construction jobs.

Originally built in 1883, the Corn Exchange Building - designed by the firm of Lamb & Rich - received landmark status from the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1993. The building is presently vacant and has been in severe disrepair since the late 1970's. The Corn Exchange Building’s historic exterior will also attract visitors from outside of the neighborhood, bringing with them economic activity. Next to one of only two Metro-North stations in Manhattan, the Corn Exchange Building and its surroundings even have the potential to bring in commuters. 

By Peter Coyne /
August 30, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Big Bucks for Fast Amtrak Trains

The Federal Department of Transportation is putting $745 million toward rail projects that will allow Amtrak trains to avoid a congested rail junction in the Sunnyside Yards.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the funding late last week. About $450 million will be used to upgrade electrical systems and tracks between Trenton and New York so that Acela Express trains will be able to get up to 160 mph.

About $295 million will be used to construct a flyover and upgrade electrical systems at the Harold Interlocking rail junction at the Sunnyside Yards in Queens.

The Sunnyside Yard is owned by Amtrak, and is also used by New Jersey Transit as well as the Long Island Railroad. The shared tracks of the LIRR's Main Line and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor pass along the southern edge of the yard.

A balloon track northeast of the yard is used for "U-turning" Amtrak and NJ Transit trains which terminate at Penn Station. Near the south side of the yard, this track switches off and turns under LIRR and Amtrak tracks, before merging with Sunnyside yard track and turning the train west toward Penn Station.
The Harold Interlocking is the busiest rail junction in the United States. The new "flyover" will separate Amtrak from Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit trains, easing congestion.

August 28, 2011 

Two Injured in Electrical Fire at Brooklyn Building

Two electrical workers were injured last week, as they worked in a transformer vault below the Sovereign Bank building at 19 Montague Street, in Brooklyn Heights.

The two victims were rushed to the New York Presbyterian - Weill Cornell Burn Center in Manhattan, after suffering burns to 40% of their arms and faces. The men, aged 64 and 40, are presently recovering from their near, life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said.

An FDNY spokesman reported than an electrical mishap sparked the flash fire inside the15-story office building on Montague Street, in downtown Brooklyn.

By Peter Coyne /
August 30, 2011

Big Bucks for Fast Amtrak Trains

The Federal Department of Transportation is putting $745 million toward rail projects that will allow Amtrak trains to avoid a congested rail junction in the Sunnyside Yards.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the funding late last week. About $450 million will be used to upgrade electrical systems and tracks between Trenton and New York so that Acela Express trains will be able to get up to 160 mph.

About $295 million will be used to construct a flyover and upgrade electrical systems at the Harold Interlocking rail junction at the Sunnyside Yards in Queens.

The Sunnyside Yard is owned by Amtrak, and is also used by New Jersey Transit as well as the Long Island Railroad. The shared tracks of the LIRR's Main Line and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor pass along the southern edge of the yard.

A balloon track northeast of the yard is used for "U-turning" Amtrak and NJ Transit trains which terminate at Penn Station. Near the south side of the yard, this track switches off and turns under LIRR and Amtrak tracks, before merging with Sunnyside yard track and turning the train west toward Penn Station.
The Harold Interlocking is the busiest rail junction in the United States. The new "flyover" will separate Amtrak from Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit trains, easing congestion.
August 28, 2011 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Construction Firms Get Back to Business

The storm brought interruptions and anxiety, but little or no damage across the city; like many other New Yorkers, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey reports a bit of water in the basement.

New York City's real estate industry sailed through Hurricane Irene with only very minor damage, and contractors were able to resume work bright and early Monday morning at construction sites around town, according to industry and city officials.

“We did very well,” said Lance Jay Brown, co-chairman of the New York chapter of American Institute of Architects. “Winds were not high enough to cause damage and the flooding was confined to a few areas.”

SL Green Realty, the city's largest landlord, reported only some minor problems with leaks at a few of its 36 buildings. “We had nothing that even rises to the level of an insurance claim.”

Elizabeth Majkowski, senior vice president of operations, said it helped that the company had a few days notice to make preparations, such as securing any equipment and removing any loose materials from spots where construction was going on. The company also had staff in the 31 buildings it manages in the portfolio all weekend to address the minor problems if and as they arose.

Meanwhile, there was minimal damage to the World Trade Center site and none of the 225 trees around the 9/11 Memorial were hurt, according to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The agency reported there was limited flooding in the basement of One World Trade Center and the water has since been pumped out. Work has resumed on the site.

Last week, New York City's Department of Buildings ordered that all construction work stop on Saturday afternoon by 2 p.m. because of the impending storm.

Crain's New York Business
August 29, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Must See TV: Steven Spielberg's "Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero"

In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of September 11, executive producer Steven Spielberg and the Discovery Channel will present a special television event."Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero" focuses on the effort to build the new, 104-story One World Trade Center.

According to a press release, the project "celebrates the grit, the drive and the audacious imagination of a wide array of builders, planners and dreamers bonded in grief but united in purpose."

“Discovery Channel is proud to be sharing this important story and transitional moment in the history of our country," said Debbie Myers, general manager of the Science Channel. "With incredible access and deft storytelling, 'Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero' captures a city and a country moving forward but never forgetting."

The Discovery Channel premiered the first 3 segments on August 25, and will conclude the special series on Thursday, September 1st, starting at 8 p.m.

An commercial free, encore presentation of all six episodes will be shown Sunday, September 11th, beginning at 5 p.m. on the Science Channel.

See preview of the special by clicking the image above

Thursday, August 25, 2011

NYCHA Plans Gut Renovation of 36 Harlem Buildings

Thirty-six tenement style buildings in Central Harlem will soon become a mix of public housing and privately owned apartments for low and moderate income families.

The New York City Housing Authority said they planned to gut renovate 295 apartments — buildings that make up the Randolph Houses — and 140 will remain public housing, the rest will be privately-owned affordable housing units.

The mix of apartments means a mix of funding streams which is good news for the cash strapped housing authority. Beyond NYCHA's federal funds, the project will tap financing made available through the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.

The Randolph Houses are not the typical public housing development made up of large towers. These five-story buildings were taken over by New York City Housing Authority in the 1970's and more than half of the dilapidated properties have been empty for years. Originally, the buildings were to be torn down and rebuilt, but that plan was halted after they were designated landmarks.

When the properties were slated for demolition in 2002, several residents were moved out and placed in other NYCHA developments. Chester said those former residents will be given first priority for the new apartments.

But, some public housing advocates worry the affordable apartments won’t be cheap enough for a typical family in need of public housing.

NYCHA said about half the privately owned apartments will be affordable to families making 60% of the median income for the area, which is $49,000 for a family of four.

Construction is slated to early next year.


Bidding Opportunities: 
NYC Department of Correction
Electrical Construction Work (Rikers Island)
  Bid # 072201133CPD
  Bids Due 9-23-2011 at 11:00 AM
    Contact: Shaneza Shinath
    Phone: (718) 546-0684
    Fax: (718) 278-6218

NYC Department of Correction
Electrical Construction Work (Rikers Island)
  Bid # 072201145CPD
  Bids Due 9-23-2011 at 11:00 AM
    Contact: Shaneza Shinath
    Phone: (718) 546-0684
    Fax: (718) 278-6218

NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation
Modernization Of “T” Bldg. Elevators (Kings Co. Hospital)
  Bid # 29201102-A
  Electrical Work Contract #4 - $565K - $690K
  Bids Due 9-14-2011 at 1:30 PM
    Contact: Clifton Mc Laughlin
    Phone: (212) 442-3658
    Fax: (212) 442-3658

NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation
Queens Hospital Center Heal 11 - Icu Expansion
  Electrical Work  Bid # 34201101
  Bids Due 8-30-2011 at 10:00 AM
    Contact: Emmanuel Obadina
    Phone (212) 442-3680

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reflecting Absence: Time-Lapse Video of 9/11 Memorial Construction

Design for the memorial was selected from a global design competition that included more than 5,200 entries from 63 nations.

The National September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero will open this September 11th, the tenth anniversary of the attacks. The names of all those killed in Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and in the earlier World Trade Center attack on Feb. 26, 1993, are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the waterfalls.

According to the Memorial's website, "Twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in the North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood." The Memorial is surrounded by a tree-filled plaza.

Architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker's design for the memorial, "Reflecting Absence" was selected from a global design competition that included more than 5,200 entries from 63 nations.

Watch a time-lapse video below of ground zero's dramatic transformation into the 9/11 Memorial:

Courtesy of:
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
August 23, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

White Roof Project Begins Painting NYC Rooftops

Go Green! Lower East Side announced that 35,000 square feet of rooftop space will be painted with white paint. The paint, which reflects 90% of sunlight, is expected to reduce cooling costs and electricity bills.

If you've been outside recently, you probably realize that this summer is hot. With heat waves spreading across the country, it's worth pointing out that many Americans are unknowingly contributing to the soaring temperatures. How? Millions of rooftops in America are made of black tar - and they absorb and trap an enormous amount of heat during the summer months.

But there's an easy fix to the problem: paint the black roofs white.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer announced Monday that 35,000 square feet of rooftop space atop 20 buildings on one Lower East Side block, will be painted with white reflective paint, in what is deemed as a model program for energy conservation. The apartment buildings, which are managed by the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, are located between East Fourth and East Third streets, between Second Avenue and the Bowery.

Con Edison has begun installing white roofs as a way to save energy and protect the environment, and has recently installed a white roof on it's own headquarters building in Manhattan. In a press release, Mr. Stringer stated that: “White roof painting is a strategy that is environmental and economical. This is a model that can be replicated throughout New York City as a way to modernize and sustain our affordable housing stock.”

Painting black tar roofs with a white, solar-reflective coating is a low cost, quick and tangible way to save millions of dollars in energy costs. The statistics are as simple as they are staggering: A roof covered with solar-reflective white paint reflects up to 90% of sunlight as opposed to the 20% reflected by a traditional black roof. Studies show that on a 90° day, a black roof can reach temperatures of up to 180°, and raising the interior building temperature to between 115 - 125°. Under the same conditions, a white roof stays a relatively cool 100°, keeping the inside of the building cooler than the air outdoors - thus reducing cooling costs.

Recently, former President Bill Clinton wrote in Newsweek, "Every black roof in New York should be white; every roof in Chicago should be white; every roof in Little Rock should be white. Every flat tar-surface roof anywhere! In most of these places you could recover the cost of the paint and the labor in a week." The former president regularly touts white roofs as one of those win-win scenarios, that would also help create jobs and stimulate the economy.

By Peter Coyne /
August 22, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spotlight: Lighting Science Group

As a world leader in the research, design and development of LED lighting, Lighting Science is behind some of the most iconic lighting projects, including 7 World Trade Center, the International Space Station and the new Times Square ball. Lighting Science is also the top lighting technology provider to Starbucks as well as for Home Depot’s EcoSmart brand.

August 2011
The only thing hotter than this summer's temperatures, are the advertising opportunities available at Here is one advertiser who has decided to turn up the heat on their online marketing by taking advantage of the great quality traffic from


Lighting Science Group

Lighting Science is the world’s leading maker of advanced lighting products. By applying the science of light, the LSG team outperforms the competition and delivers on the promise of LED technology for indoor and outdoor lighting projects. From outer space to major cities and now your home, Lighting Science products and solutions are environmentally friendly, save money and increase energy independence.
LED lighting is the next generation of lighting technology.  For years, LED lighting products have been just out of reach, but Lighting Science has pushed the limits of research and development to produce sustainable industry-leading lighting innovations for retail, infrastructure, commercial and custom design lighting systems.

Based in Satellite Beach, Florida, the company is staffed by thought-leaders in design, engineering and manufacturing who, by taking a holistic approach to R&D, turn ideas into intelligent LED lighting solutions; faster, better and more successfully than the competition -and that success shows, with consumers, cities, federal agencies, national retailers and global brands all choosing reliable Lighting Science products. 

Lighting Science product lines include lamps, retail and commercial lighting products, products for public and private infrastructure and custom solutions for special artistic projects. In addition to the Satellite Beach, Florida Innovation Center and manufacturing facility, Lighting Science’s European operation is based in Middelburg, The Netherlands, and has a sales office in Castle Hill, Australia.

Lighting Science is changing the way the world experiences light.  Explore the future of lighting, today.

Rebate Program: 
Rebates and incentive programs can make the transitioning from traditional lighting incumbent sources such as Halogen, and Fluorescent, to LEDs much more cost-efficient up front. Paybacks for using LEDs will start immediately. Lighting Science Group can help lower up-front costs by capturing utility rebates in the area for the more efficient LED lamps that will dramatically reduce maintenance costs. In addition, for credit-worthy customers, LSG offers a Cash Flow Positive (CFP) financing program to eliminate cash outlay for the conversion process and stay positive from day one. LSG is able to provide direct contacts for rebate follow up with a rebate team onsite to assist in making sure you get the most out of your rebate / incentive dollars. 
Rebates are currently available from:  

  •  ConEd 
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Visit the Lighting Science Group website at:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Builders Will Risk Two Strikes To Cut Union Wages

Developers who claim they are losing market share to nonunion competitors are backing up industry association. A strike by more than 25,000 carpenters and 2,700 concrete workers could begin on Wednesday.

Some of the city's leading developers met last week and decided to bear the short-term pain of another concrete workers strike—which might begin as early as Wednesday—in order to win concessions that could help them regain market share from nonunion developers of hotels and residential buildings.

The proliferation of nonunion residential and hotel projects in recent years is the driving force behind the holdup at the bargaining table. In Manhattan alone, residential projects built recently or under construction by nonunion labor include a 43-story Holiday Inn on Washington Street; 16-story and 13-story residential buildings on West 23rd Street; a 12-story mixed-use building on Avenue D; and a 14-story residential building on Columbus Avenue.

Sources said developers met last Tuesday with representatives of the Cement League, the industry association handling contract negotiations, and vowed to support the Cement League's demand for a 20% wage reduction on residential and hotel projects. “The bottom line is building owners are prepared to take a strike,” said one participant in the meeting. “The market is sliding away.”

The contract covering 2,700 concrete workers expired June 30, but talks have been extended several times as the industry group and the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council have tried to hammer out an agreement.

The League's continued insistence on the 20% cut led to a three-day strike earlier this month at sites across the city, including 1 World Trade Center and the nearby transit hub. Arbitrators ordered striking workers back to several sites that are covered by no-strike project labor agreements, including the second World Trade Center tower, Madison Square Garden, a luxury residential development on West 57th Street and a new Weill Cornell Medical College research center.

The strike ended at the non-project-labor-agreement sites when the two sides agreed to extend talks through Aug. 16. But they've yet to come to an agreement on the residential and hotel pay cut, and developers are preparing for additional work stoppages.

A source close to the building trades said the two sides remain “far apart,” though negotiations are continuing. “The divide doesn't appear to be closing at all,” the source added.

Concrete workers are again expected walk out at sites covered by no-strike agreements. But even if they don't, they could strike at 1 World Trade Center and the transit hub, as well as other sites not covered by project labor agreements.ment.

The deadline to reach new contracts for some 25,000 carpenters is also near. Those deals, which expired June 30, have been extended until Friday as the carpenters continue talks with a half dozen industry associations.

Rank-and-file carpenters are planning to rally Friday afternoon outside their union headquarters on Hudson Street to protest rumored givebacks. It was reported last week that a tentative five-year deal had been reached that cuts pay 5% in the first year. Members of the District Council, which is operating under a federally-appointed review officer, do not get to vote to ratify their contracts. The carpenters union has publicly stated that their members will strike on Friday if the new contract calls for any cut in pay.

Crain's New York Business
August 16, 2011 4:45 PM

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lower Manhattan Back On Top: Report

The ruins of Ground Zero have given way to a remarkable rebirth of an entire neighborhood that was impossible to imagine a decade ago.

The square mile south of Chambers Street now has more than twice as many residents, three times as many hotels and 130 more companies, according to the Downtown Alliance’s new “State of Lower Manhattan 2011” report.

While many shops and restaurants were forced to close after the terrorist attacks, the dozens of newcomers have included popular chains and luxury retailers, from Whole Foods to Tiffany & Co.“Today, the proof of success is as clear as the rising steel of 1 World Trade Center and 4 World Trade Center, which have already changed the Manhattan skyline,” the report said.

The Downtown Alliance manages the area’s business improvement district, stretching roughly from City Hall to Battery Park and from the East River to West Street.

The report paints a picture of growth, with the area’s 56,000 residents more likely to live with a spouse or a child than a roommate and planning to stay in the community for at least the next three years.

While the commercial sector has about 4 percent fewer workers than 10 years ago, that will change as more companies arrive, the report said. Conde Nast plans to move 3,000 workers into 1 World Trade Center when completed.

Click here to view a copy of the "State of Lower Manhattan 2011” report.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Officials Work to Complete Proposal for New UN tower

As city and state officials work to complete a proposal that would pave the way for a new tower for the United Nations ahead of an October deadline, developer Sheldon Solow has offered alternative development options, including building the spire on his nine-acre site, just south of the United Nations. The prognosis is not good..

Last week, he met with elected officials to propose that either he could erect the new United Nations building on a site he owns just south of the United Nations, or he could do it on the Robert Moses Playground, just across East 42nd Street from the United Nations along First Avenue. In that case, Mr. Solo is proposing that he would relocate the playground to his site..

Mr. Solow had proposed constructing a building for the Untied Nations a few years ago, but is raising it again presumably because current plans being advanced do not involve the nine acres he owns along First Avenue, just below the international body. His plan to construct seven towers on his property appears to have stalled..

Mr. Solow is one of the city's oldest and most successful developers, whose holdings include the renowned 9 West 57th Street, an address favored by many hedge funds and investment firms..

It's unlikely Mr. Solow's ideas will get much traction with local officials because he has failed to provide them with any specifics. Also, under their plan the United Nations would buy the Robert Moses Playground and the proceeds would then be used to help finance construction of a waterfront promenade that would fill in a 21-block-long gap in the current East River walkway. The proposal also includes selling two city-owned buildings to raise money to construct the promenade. If Mr. Solow prevails, there would be no money for the promenade..

If the city and state officials finish the memorandum, it would be delivered to the United Nations for consideration. The organization would have to vote on any proposal, but it is unclear when that would happen. .

The United Nations is slated to discuss its real estate needs this fall, and supports the idea of a new building. But a spokesman for the Secretary General of the United Nations, said this fall will be an exceptionally busy time - with a debate and expected vote on whether Palestine should be recognized as a sovereign state - so it is unlikely there would be a vote on a proposal, but didn't rule it out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Federal Judge Upholds Project Labor Agreements

A federal judge found nothing illegal about special deals made to reduce the cost of public projects. Ruling is a win for electrical unions, union contractors and the city.

The decision handed down by Judge Robert Patterson Jr. came in response to a lawsuit filed by the United Electrical Contractors Association and Building Industry Electrical Contractors Association, alleging that project labor agreements (PLAs) violate the National Labor Relations Act. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the project labor agreements “constitute an impermissible attempt to regulate labor relations in the construction industry” and also violate New York State competitive bidding statutes.

The ruling sanctified agreements between the city and building trade unions, designed to save $300 million on public construction projects over four years. Attorneys for the plaintiffs were disappointed at the decision and intended to appeal.

The 2009 project labor agreements covered more than $6 billion in infrastructure projects through 2014, including the construction of a new police academy and an expanded 911 call-center - and roughly 32,000 construction jobs. Significant cost savings through more efficient work rules, standardized holidays and no-strike pledges were expected. The agreements—comprehensive pre-hire collective bargaining agreements laying out the basic employment conditions for everyone involved in a project—were expected to create 1,800 additional construction jobs.

The United Electrical Contractors Association argued that the PLAs would reduce competition and increase construction costs. They alleged the city was acting as a regulator and not a market participant, and that the agreements made it impossible for unions who were not signatories to the agreements to compete for work.

But Judge Patterson decided otherwise, ruling the city's conduct in agreeing to the agreements was akin to what private entities are permitted to do, and therefore was not unlawful regulation. Mr. Patterson relied in part on the U.S. Supreme Court's 1993 decision regarding the cleanup of Boston Harbor, which found that project labor agreements designed to speed up the project were lawful. He also dismissed the state competitive bidding claims, citing jurisdictional constraints. Courts in New York have consistently upheld the use of the agreements.

The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, an umbrella group that represents 100,000 unionized construction workers in the city, contended that the PLAs were both legal and very effective in lowering taxpayer costs, as well as improving efficiency on construction projects. Neither the Building Industry Electrical Contractors Association nor the United Electrical Contractors Association is a member of the Building Trades Employers' Association, a group of 28 union contractor associations.

The lawsuit is one of a growing number of challenges around the country aimed at project labor agreements. PLAs, which have been in use on federal works projects since the 1930s, typically include no-strike, no-lockout clauses and force contractors to make exact bids, without stipulations for overruns. While both union and nonunion contractors can compete for jobs under a project labor agreement, generally most workers have to be hired through a union hiring hall.

By Peter Coyne /
August 9, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

1 WTC Reclaims Title as Lower Manhattan's Tallest Skyscraper

At 78 floors, and rising 961 feet above the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, One World Trade Center has officially surpassed 40 Wall Street as the tallest building in lower Manhattan.

New York’s skyline is being dramatically reborn, as the steel of number one World Trade Center now pokes above it's neighbors is clearly visible from around New York and northern New Jersey.  With glass curtain walls installed above the 50th floor, the tower will easily exceed 85 floors by next month's 10th anniversary.

You're invited to view the amazing progress at Ground Zero - from the beginning of construction at the Freedom Tower - up to the present day - in an incredible time-lapse video.

By Peter Coyne /
August 9, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ban on 100W Bulbs Upheld Despite Dangers of CFL Lamps

The House of Representatives failed to pass the “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act,” aimed at repealing legislation mandating energy efficient replacements - such as LED-based lamps - for 100W incandescent lamps beginning January 1st, 2012.

The Republican sponsored bill - which ran contrary to the escalating green movement - failed to achieve the two thirds vote required to repeal the 2007 legislation. Despite the fact that energy efficient lighting will help to significantly energy use, party members believe the government has no place legislating what type of light bulbs citizens buy.

As the January 1st deadline looms, Americans are starting to stockpile incandescent light bulbs in preparation of the government ban, according to a recent article in USA Today.

The law does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent or LED lamps. It simply requires that companies make their incandescent bulbs work better. In reality, only technologies such as LED and CFL will meet the new government requirements.

Lighting is responsible for nearly 20% of the world's energy consumption, and is one of the easiest places to save energy. But the savings will come with higher upfront costs, which will be recovered over the long lifetime of the lamps.

Failure of the bill is good news for proponents of LED-based solid-state lighting.

Recent studies have linked CFL lamps to a number of health problems including fatigue, eye strain and migraine headaches, and if broken, compact fluorescent are hazardous to your health. Some manufacturers have started to label their boxes with warnings on how to deal with a broken bulb. In fact, some states will now require that you recycle these bulbs at special facilities because of the large amount of mercury contained in each bulb.


In 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), requiring more-efficient light bulbs. The legislation - which takes effect on January 1st - specifically requires that light bulb manufacturers improve the efficiency of 100 watt incandescent lamps (lamps with a light output of 1700 lumens), by 25 percent.

The legislation will apply to 75W, 60W, and 40W lamps in successive years between 2012 and 2014., followed more stringent efficiency requirements beginning 2016.

By Peter Coyne /
August 8, 2011


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Good News for Wire Prices: Copper Falls on Better Outlook for Supply

Copper futures fell 11% last week, as commodity traders cashed in gains. The markets were influenced by concerns about the US debt limit agreement, lower demand from manufacturers and increased copper production from Chile.

First, the debt-lifting and deficit-cutting agreement passed by the House of Representatives last week threatens to weaken the global consumption levels. The agreement increased the US maximum debt limit by $2.1 trillion.

Second, decreasing manufacturing in the United States is lowering demand for raw materials. A government report on manufacturing - the Purchasing Managers Index - decreased by 4.4 percent, signaling a declining demand for industrial metals, including copper.

And third, a strike at one of Chile's largest copper mines, accounting for 3 percent of global production, ended in a labor agreement last week. A strike still continues at Chile’s Escondida mine - the world's largest - which produces about 10 percent of the global supply.

Comex copper futures which began the week at $4.52/lb, closed at $4.12/lb on Friday. Prices continued to fall on global exchanges over the weekend, dropping as low as $4.02/lb on Sunday.

By Peter Coyne /
August 7, 2011


Friday, August 5, 2011

Bow of Historic Ship Unearthed at World Trade Center Site

Archaeologists helping to excavate the World Trade Center site have uncovered a second piece of the more than 200-year-old ship which was discovered there last summer.

The find came as workers began digging up the east side of the construction area, which once housed the World Trade Center complex.

Archaeologists first noticed remnants of the ship —  curved pieces of wood buried 25 feet below street level — last July and spent two weeks excavating the artifact, which turned out to be a 32-foot-long section of the boat's hull.

The piece that was found last Friday belongs to the very front of the ship, providing crucial clues as to its size, shape and use. Specialists working at the site estimate the ship was 50 feet long at its base, and 60 feet long on the deck.

Scientists spent two days removing the 6 feet long by 5 feet wide piece, which is being stored at a facility in New York, before being reunited with the rest of the ship's remains.The artifacts will be saved at Texas A&M's Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation until the Port Authority decides what to do with them. The authority may decide to undergo the lengthy process of preserving all of the remains —  to be reconstructed later - or  just preserve some of the artifacts.

Experts speculate the remains are from a merchant ship used to transport commodities such as sugar, salt, molasses and rum, up and down the Atlantic coast in the late 1700's.

By Peter Coyne /
August 5, 2011


Thursday, August 4, 2011

While One Labor Dispute Cools, Another Heats Up

Just as the walkout by concrete workers at construction sites around the city ends, members of the carpenters union vote unanimously to strike if an agreement on a new contract isn't reached by August 15th.

Concrete workers, who walked off their jobs at the World Trade Center and other sites Monday, agreed to return to work Thursday and extended their deadline for a new deal to August 16, labor and industry sources said. If no deal is reached by then, the workers could strike again.

Meanwhile, delegates of the second largest construction union in the city, the 25,000-member District Council of Carpenters, voted unanimously Wednesday night to authorize their union to strike if agreement on a new contract isn't reached by the deadline. The carpenters' deal expired June 30th.

Negotiations for the carpenters are being led by Frank Spencer, who was appointed in 2009 by the general president of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America to oversee the local union after several of its officials were indicted for bribery. He's negotiating new deals with a half dozen contractor associations, including the Cement League and the General Contractors Association of New York. Current rules forbid the 25,000 members of the carpenters union from ratifying their own deals.

Rank-and-file members of the union said the main sticking point in negotiations has been contractors' attempt to abolish the union's hiring hall system. Currently, half of the carpenters hired for a job have to come from the union's out-of-work list. Contractors want to do away with the system so that they can hire any union member they want, union members said.

Workers say getting rid of the union list would lead to contractors making under-the-table deals with carpenters to skirt union salary and benefit requirements.

Industry officials had not expected talks with the carpenters to be controversial. Then again, they hadn't expected trouble from the concrete workers either. In the run-up to the June 30 expiration of about two dozen construction contracts, the primary concern had been the operating engineers, who control the cranes that are a vital for building. But more than a month after the deadline, the operating engineers have a new deal while concrete workers have staged a three-day strike and the carpenters are now preparing for a walkout of their own.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Workers to Return to Work at WTC, Atlantic Yards After 3-Day Walk-Off

All cement and concrete workers at the World Trade Center site are expected to be back on the job Thursday, following three days off the job on what many called a "silent strike."

Concrete workers have been working without a contract since July 1, and while no deal has been reached between the unions and the contractors, the secretary treasurer of Local 18A Kieran O’Sullivan said all workers will be back on the job Thursday. "Negotiations have gone well," O’Sullivan said, but there is no agreement. O’Sullivan said contractors were looking for a 20 percent reduction in pay, and he expected there would be an agreement in the next two weeks.

Many carpenters, whose contracts are set to expire on Friday, joined the concrete workers in walk-offs. A Port Authority spokesman said the work stoppage hasn't effected work at the 9/11 Memorial, the Transit Hub or 1 World Trade Center.

An Iron Worker working on the transit hub project , said he's hardly seen any slowdown since Monday.

"You can't really tell how many guys are on a site from day to day, there's a lot of guys here, 3,500, so if you're missing 200-300, you don't really notice the difference," he said.

But like many workers, he said work on the site can only continue for a short time without the pouring of fresh concrete.

By Peter Coyne /
August 3, 2011


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Workers Strike at WTC and Atlantic Yards Site Over Pay Cuts

Cement and concrete workers picket in front of high profile construction sites as part of a citywide strike. For the second time in less than a week, construction workers rally outside the Barclays Center construction site.

Union concrete workers from the Atlantic Yards site picketed at the site entrance at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street, joining a citywide strike that members of the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council have threatened since the contract covering the workers expired on July 1st.

Since then, cement workers have continued work at both the World Trade Center and Atlantic Yards projects without a contract, pouring concrete floors.

“We’re going to stand out here as long as it takes,” said one union member, who declined to give his name due to fears of retaliation. “They don’t want to let us work for a decent wage.”

The Cement League, a contract association that represents contractors like Commodore Construction, which handles the Atlantic Yards site, has asked union concrete workers for a 25-cents-an-hour decrease over a three-year contract. The Cement League, Commodore and the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council have all declined to speak with the press or issue comments about the strike.

Picketers at both construction sites were demanding a wage increase of $1.50 an hour, on top of the approximately $35 an hour they made under the previous contract. Negotiations are ongoing, but the picketing workers say they plan to continuing striking until a deal is reached.

By Peter Coyne /
August 2nd, 2011


Hundreds of Concrete Workers Walk Out at World Trade Center Site

Unionized concrete workers operating without a new contract since July 1st, walked off the job at the World Trade Center on Monday, preparing for a possible strike in the coming days.

Officials with the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council representing the concrete workers whose contract expired on July 1st, declined to comment. Officials with the Cement League, a contractors’ association that represents management, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. However, a source familiar with the matter said the two parties are currently negotiating [see the ElectricWeb | Blogger archive: July 9th, July 1st, June 30thJune 28th and June 24, 2011].

Construction of the World Trade Center’s transit hub cannot continue without the concrete workers,  according to a person familiar with the matter. A prolonged work stoppage could soon affect the other 
construction trades still working at the site on Monday, if their work requires concrete to proceed.

Concrete workers also stopped working at Tower 1, but other construction there will be able to continue for about a week or so, according to another person familiar with the matter.

According to a spokesman with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Monday’s work stoppage by the concrete workers union will have "no impact on construction of the 9/11 Memorial, which remains on track to open on the tenth anniversary of the attacks."

By Peter Coyne /
August 1st, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Towering Comeback: Man Who Engineered Twin Towers Helps Rebuild WTC

His towers may be gone, but not his faith. Ten years on, the man who engineered the World Trade Center looks ahead.

For one New Yorker, the Twin Towers were more than just icons of the skyline and symbols of American capitalism. They stood as New York City's tallest buildings because of him.

Leslie Robertson was the engineering whiz kid whose innovations helped erect the 110-story towers. And when his buildings were savagely attacked and collapsed, taking close to 3,000 lives, he felt a shock and horror that is a structural engineer’s worst nightmare.

Having poured more than 40 years of his life into the construction and maintenance of the original World Trade Center, Robertson — among the last surviving creators of the iconic complex — has spent the past 10 years trying to accept the 9/11 terrorist attacks as part of “the risk that we all take” just being alive.

And while the darkest day in New York history brought down his towers, one of the successor buildings will give him perhaps some measure of symbolic redemption on those sacred 16 acres. His firm, Leslie E. Robertson Associates, is the structural engineer for Four World Trade Center, the 72-story tower rising next to where the Twin Towers stood. Though Robertson himself is not working on the project (he retired in 1996), he offers guidance to his team.

The Horror of 9/11

Four World Trade Center was a project Robertson could never have imagined in the days after 9/11, when he feared the collapse of the towers all but assured the end of his career and of his namesake firm.

Instead, his firm flourished, even as Robertson endured withering scrutiny about the robustness of his design, among whose features was a load-bearing facade, allowing for sweeping, column-free office spaces.

Robertson faced questions from those who lost loved ones on 9/11. Some wondered why the buildings caved to the fires, and others attributed blame to details, such as faulty bolts. Years of investigations, speculation and recriminations followed.

Ultimately, the towers were not designed for that kind of trauma. Robertson said he engineered the buildings to withstand the impact of a low, slow-flying 707 jet, not the fully fueled 767s that hit them. Yet, his towers withstood both crashes, and remained upright long enough to allow thousands of office workers to escape, and collapsed straight down, not toppling into the neighborhood. A 2005 federal study found that the vast fires were the ultimate culprit, not the jet impacts. Robertson has moved past criticisms — of which those that he’s leveled against himself aren’t the least — that the towers should have been built sturdier.

Recently, Robertson was at Ground Zero, where he visits from time to time. He surveyed his firm’s new building, and gazed up at the soaring One World Trade Center, the structure that has inherited the name of his lost North Tower, the first to be struck by a jet on 9/11.

Twin towers like his will never grace the downtown skyline again, something Robertson is at peace with. “They were symbolic, and remain so… but you have to look to the future.”

Leslie Robertson Projects

Shanghai World Financial Center - 1,614 feet tall. Third-tallest skyscraper in the world. Completed in 2008, it contains the world’s second-highest hotel (Park Hyatt) and world's highest observation deck.

Bank of China Tower - Hong Kong  - 1,007 feet tall. First building outside the U.S. to break the 1,000-foot-tall mark. Completed in 1990; Tallest building in Asia until 1992.

Izod Center/ Meadowlands Arena. Opened in 1981 in East Rutherford, N.J. Former home of the NY Nets, now used primarily for sporting events and concerts.