Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another Huge Apartment Tower Breaks Ground on Far West Side

Following the land rush for new developments around the burgeoning Hudson Yards mega-project, we direct your attention to the southwest corner of West 30th Street and Tenth Avenue, where the Related Companies is breaking ground for a new 33-story residential tower.

Related is developing the property adjacent to the High Line at 500 West 30th Street, with partner Abington Properties and is being financed by a $200 million construction loan. When completed, the 389 unit residential tower will be a neighbor to another new West Chelsea tower set to rise one block south.

The project designer, architect Ismael Leyva, is best known for his sharp, dark glass and futuristic creations in Midtown and downtown Manhattan. Zoning documents filed with the Department of Buildings show a 317,000 square foot, L-shaped tower facing onto the expanse of curved benches at the northern end of the High Line.

The building will include a basketball court in the basement, a pet room, and a parking garage for 80 vehicles on the second floor. Up above, 23 residential units will fill each floor on levels 3 through 5. The tower steps back and narrows as it rises, with just six units each on floors 29 to 33.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Contractors Near Pay Deal At 9/11 Memorial

It is likely that subcontractors working at the 9/11 Memorial will soon get $50 million in back pay owed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as result of its dispute over costs with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Work on the memorial has been at a near standstill for months.

Subcontractors are close to reaching an agreement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over the approximately $50 million that they say they are owed for construction work performed on the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

The subcontractors haven't been paid in about six months because they have been caught in the middle of a dispute between the Port Authority, which owns the World Trade Center site, and the Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum. The two sides have been arguing over which is responsible for $150 million in costs on the project. The subcontractors are negotiating with the Port Authority, because it signed their contracts.

A representative from the Subcontractors Trade Association did not speak of the companies' financial plight as had been planned at today's Port Authority board meeting because of the promising negotiations.

However, even if the Port Authority does agree to pay the subcontractors, there is still the larger issue of who is responsible for the $150 million. It is likely that negotiations between the Port Authority and Memorial staff must be progressing well, if the Port Authority is close to agreeing to pay contractors, as it signals that the Port Authority wants the subcontractors to quickly get back to work once, the dispute is resolved.

Construction on the museum has been at a virtual standstill for about six months because of the feud. As a result, it will miss its planned opening on the 11th anniversary of the attacks.

It has been reported that the dispute has cost 12 contractors affiliated with the Subcontractors Trade Association a total of $38 million, while one contractor who is not part of the organization is out $12 million.

Monday, March 26, 2012

In 2008 Crane Collapse, Scrutiny on Supplier of Part

Crane operator tells court that he lacked the math skills needed to measure the damaged crane part, while prosecutors claim the contractor decided to put money ahead of safety, an accusation his lawyers deny.

The worker began scouring the Internet, following his boss’s orders to find someone who could build a turntable for a crane, and finish it faster and for less money than the estimates given by two American companies. Prosecutors claim the contractor decided to put money ahead of safety, an accusation his lawyers deny.

He found what he was looking for in China: RTR Bearing Company Limited, whose Web site suggested, in broken English, a 10-year track record of making parts for major manufacturers around the world. “We have two factories, one independent QC center and one Export trading Company with totally 109 employees,” the site says. “We’ve built up good relationship with our customers all over the world.”

During the month long manslaughter trial in New York of James F. Lomma, whose company owned the crane, which collapsed and killed two workers on the Upper East Side four years ago, there has been ample testimony about the failed weld on the turntable that led to the collapse, and how the Chinese company was unable to satisfactorily perform a vital weld on the turntable.

But little has been said about another aspect of the company: its description of itself was largely inflated or simply not true. The company, RTR Bearing Company Limited, was only six months old when it was contacted by the worker, Tibor Varganyi, to make a new turntable assembly, according to an affidavit by RTR’s owner, Joyce Wang, in a related civil suit.

Mr. Varganyi had thought Ms. Wang, then 26, was a sales representative for RTR. She was actually the company’s founder. “My company, RTR, has a very small office with seven workers, including me,” Ms. Wang wrote in a 2009 affidavit. “RTR does not employ any engineer, has no factory and does no manufacturing.”

Prosecutors have sought to highlight what they have characterized as Mr. Varganyi’s and Ms. Wang’s “collective incompetence,” and the lack of judgment in the decision to allow RTR to make the critical part — even when it became apparent that the company did not know how to do so. Nevertheless, the arrangement also underscored the risk in trusting a far-flung company whose credentials on Web sites and brochures are difficult to ascertain.

The overstatements by RTR are a common problem for Western companies looking for suppliers in China, and not all buyers are eager to uncover the truth, said Paul Midler, author of “Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the Tactics Behind China’s Production Game.”

Mr. Midler, who lives in Hong Kong, said he had accompanied western buyers on visits to Chinese manufacturing plants and watched as agents like Ms. Wang described themselves as factory owners while the actual factory owners pretended to be plant managers.

“Chinese sellers can make all manner of false claims,” Mr. Midler said in an e-mail. “It really is relatively easy to perform basic due diligence in China, but relatively few American importers do any of it.” American entrepreneurs, he added, tend to think, “‘if all this is legitimate, we could make a fortune.’ Sometimes we really are our own worst enemy.”

Prosecutors have said that is the calculus Mr. Lomma made, putting money ahead of safety, an accusation his lawyers deny.

In 2007, a crack was found in the turntable assembly of one of Mr. Lomma’s cranes when it was in use at another work site, and the city Buildings Department ordered Mr. Lomma to repair it before putting it back into service. It became clear that the damage was too severe to repair and that a new assembly would have to be built.

After estimates from the original manufacturer and a second United States company came in higher and more slowly than Mr. Lomma liked, he told Mr. Varganyi, his crane mechanic who had worked on cranes for four decades, to find a cheaper and faster alternative.

Mr. Varganyi found Mr. Wang’s company on the Internet; its Web site said that RTR was established in June 1998, when Ms. Wang, who majored in Russian at a Chinese university, would have been 17.

Asked about the discrepancies between her affidavit and the Web site, Ms. Wang replied in an e-mail, “We do not have our own factory, the two factories in the Web site means our cooperate factories. We are agent for their product in exporting.” Mr. Varganyi’s only contact with RTR was in e-mail exchanges with Ms. Wang. He never spoke with her on the phone or visited China. Nor did he request a list of references. He testified that Mr. Lomma never expressed interest in the supplier, only in the price and time estimate.

More than 90 e-mails between Mr. Varganyi and Ms. Wang were filed as evidence in the criminal case. Many show Mr. Varganyi, whose formal education ended in the ninth grade in Hungary, and Ms. Wang struggling with English and complex measurements.

After seeing what Mr. Varganyi called his hand-drawn “cartoons” of the large bearing, Mr. Wang wrote back expressing doubts that her company could handle a weld that played a role in holding the turntable atop the crane tower. She did not let on that some other company would actually be doing the welding.

“Just discussed with our general engineer,” she wrote, adding that the last time her company did a similar bearing it had not done the weld “because in the crane it is a very important part, and we are afraid the weld technic we had is not good, because normally we didn’t do that.” The e-mail continued, “And honest speaking we don’t have confidence on this welding.”

Mr. Varganyi sent Ms. Wang several pages of welding instructions he had from an American supplier. Ms. Wang wrote back “we fully understand your meaning on this.”

"If have any require, please feel free to contact with me!” she added.

In early 2008, the first bearing from RTR arrived and was put atop the crane at 91st Street. A second one arrived soon after and was found to have a defective weld. But that did not cause Mr. Lomma’s company to double-check the weld on the crane at 91st street. On May 30, 2008, the large bearing within the turntable assembly that RTR supplied to Mr. Lomma’s company broke off at the weld that Ms. Wang had been concerned about. The operator’s cab and the boom plummeted 20 stories, killing the crane’s operator, Donald Leo, 30, and a worker on the ground, Ramadan Kurtaj, 27.

Mr. Lomma’s lawyers have said they will show that the failing of the weld was a symptom, not a cause of what actually caused the collapse. They have said that the crane’s heavy boom rose too high, putting too much stress on the turntable.

Mr. Varganyi, who pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide to avoid a prison sentence, testified that he regretted not getting an engineer involved in the discussions with Ms. Wang. “That was my mistake,” he said. The civil cases in which Ms. Wang’s affidavits were filed were brought by the families of the two men who died. Those cases have been on hold pending the outcome of the criminal trial in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Ms. Wang filed the statement from the American embassy in Paris after lawyers for Mr. Lomma filed a subpoena with Google seeking e-mails between her Gmail account and Mr. Lomma’s company. She wrote that she worked for other bearing suppliers for two years after college before forming RTR. Her given name is “Jun,” not Joyce. She said her company acts only as an agent for actual factories, taking sales orders and finding the best price from manufacturers.

Last week, Alvaro Ortega, a co-founder of a Miami-based bearing company, testified that he had ordered a bearing through Ms. Wang. But when it was delivered, his quality control department rejected it.

He said that after he placed the order, he toured a plant that Ms. Wang had worked with in China and found outdated equipment and a “pretty dirty environment” with poor lighting.
“I was surprised to see that in that environment they could still assemble the piece,” he said, adding, “Their quality control was basically nonexistent.”

By Russ Buettner
The New York Times

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Buildings Sky High In Manhattan

Despite sluggish sales in the rest of the Manhattan apartment market, demand for New York's most-expensive properties has been soaring, drawing multimillionaire buyers from around the world. Developers say that there is a shortage of trophy apartments—those with unrivaled views and features —that has driven prices far above levels seen during the real-estate boom.
Real estate brokers who work with very high-end buyers say their business has been extremely busy, and they could sell much more if a larger supply of apartments was available. 

And with more than twenty Russian billionaires, each with a net worth of over $7 billion dollars, reportedly in the market for homes in New York City, construction of new "super luxury" buildings is moving ahead at a furious pace.

Recently, the 22-year-old daughter of Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, purchased a sprawling penthouse with a wrap-around terrace at 15 Central Park West - for the full asking price of $88 million. She has stated that she will use the 6,744-square-foot penthouse on the 20th floor as her "dorm" while attending New Youk University this fall.

The previous high sale in Manhattan had been a $53 million townhouse sale back in 2006.

Developers believe that an $88 million apartment sale justifies the construction of more luxurious and even more expensive homes in Manhattan, where presently there are more than twelve apartments currently listed for at than $40 million - including two penthouses in the sky-high One57, each with a reported asking price of over $115 million.

Wealthy Russian buyers, who once looked mainly to London for second homes - where Mr. Rybolovlev this past month, purchased a $90 million second home - are particularly active in the Manhattan market, which is a time of rising political uncertainty in Russia. 

So far this year, there have been ten sales recorded for $30 million or more in Manhattan, city property records show, with a $48 million deal at the Plaza Hotel closing this past week. The buyer was another Russian, Igor Krutoy, a music promoter, who made a fortune with investments in Russian media. 

The number of closed sales at or above $30 million recorded to date is the highest since 2008, when there were 21 such sales.

Suddenly, the East 80th Street mansion off Fifth Avenue, with the $90 million asking price, seems a bit less out of range.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Construction Worker Hospitalized After Jobsite Fall

Focus on jobsite safety: A crane worker was hospitalized after he took a nasty fall while erecting a crane in midtown Manhattan on Saturday.

The worker was tightening bolts while erecting the machine in front of an empty lot on Fifth Avenue near East 31st Street, about 5:30 PM when he slipped and fell about 18 feet, injuring his leg Fire Department officials said.

The man, whom officials did not identify, was well enough to call his mother and tell her he was going to be OK, workers at the scene said.

The injured man was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he was admitted and listed in stable condition.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cops say Cooper Thief Butt-Dialed 911

Connecticut State Police used GPS to pinpoint the location of the cell phone call and found a burglary in progress. A man wearing his cell phone accidentally dialed 911 in the early morning hours on Thursday, while allegedly stealing copper scrap from a residential housing complex construction site.
According to police, the 911 dispatcher heard noises in the background and - thinking that maybe someone was in some type of medical distress - used GPS technology to pinpoint the caller's location.

Officers arrived at the construction site and found the thief loading more than 700 lbs. of copper scrap, which he had hidden in a dumpster, into the back of his pickup truck. A spokesperson from the Connecticut State Police said "the thief thought he was going to get away with something, but instead he butt-dialed his cell phone and put himself away."

Charged with grand larceny and criminal trespass, the 'butt-dialing thief' was released on $5,000 bond.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Construction Worker Killed at Columbia University Jobsite

A century-old warehouse that was being demolished to make way for Columbia University's expansion collapsed on Thursday, killing a construction worker and injured two others. Investigators found that workers cut a structural beam supporting what had been a two-story warehouse on West 131st Street. The section crumpled, burying the men in a cascade of steel beams, bricks and reinforced concrete.

The contractor, Breeze National Inc., was cited for two violations at the site on March 5 but had been cleared to resume work, a spokesman for the Department of Buildings said. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the general contractor, Bovis Lend Lease, said it is working with Breeze and the city to determine how the incident occurred.

Investigators were looking at the demolition plan and blueprints for the building to try to learn why the workers sliced into the crucial beam to determine what they knew and if they matched the site conditions. 

The warehouse, built in 1915, was being razed for Columbia University's expansion into a 17-acre site just north of the main campus in Morningside Heights. The extension will include classrooms, research facilities and administrative offices. The City Council approved the project in 2007.

The project has riled some neighborhood residents and local business owners, who have been especially critical of the decision to seize private property for the expansion. Coincidentally, a protest against the project had been scheduled for Thursday night.

The collapse left piles of debris where 604 West 131st Street once stood, and left part of the site unstable. Breeze workers had been tasked with clearing the debris to make it safe for investigators.

Firefighters who arrived on the scene after receiving a call at 7:51 a.m. found two workers partially covered by the wreckage and a third completely buried. It took 45 minutes to free the buried man, who had to be reached by tunneling.
Juan Ruiz, 69 years old, was one of the first men to be rescued but later died at St. Luke's Hospital. A native of the Dominican Republic, Mr. Ruiz came to New York 15 years ago and almost immediately began working in construction.

The two injured workers, King Range, 50, and Sakim Kirby, 30, were in serious condition at the hospital. All three had been conscious when they were taken from the site.

The city issued demolition permits for the site in February, and an anonymous complaint about unsafe conditions prompted a surprise inspection on March 5. Breeze received citations for failing to ensure workers wore protective harnesses and failing to notify the city that demolition work had begun. Work was stopped for two days until Breeze satisfied the buildings inspectors.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

1 WTC Soon To Be NYC's Tallest Building

One World Trade Center hit a milestone at the end of January when it passed the 90th floor and became the most expensive building in the world. Now, with construction passing the 93rd floor, it'll soon hit another milestone: in the next few weeks, it will pass the Empire State Building to become the tallest building in New York City.

Eventually, the 104-story tower will be taller than 1776 feet (including spire and antenna). “It’s the eighth wonder of the world,” says Steve Plate, the PA’s director of World Trade Center Construction. 

“It’s a statement of fortitude and determination and the absolute best of mankind.” The tower’s three-level observation deck on the 100th, 101st and 102nd floor—around 1,269 feet up—is projected to be open to the public by early 2014. 

Here's the construction status per The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey: steel has risen to the 93rd floor; installation of glass curtain wall has risen to the 70th floor; installation of concrete floors has risen to the 87th floor.
By Ben Yakas / NY Daily News
Puiblished: March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

WTC Accident Sparks Move For Lighter Cranes Throughout City

The city is ordering contractors to lighten the weight carried by cranes across the five boroughs in the wake of a frightening accident at the World Trade Center last month, a contractor said.

Until investigators figure out why the TG-1900 tower crane at 4 World Trade Center suddenly dropped a massive load of steel beams from 40 stories high on Feb. 16, the Department of Buildings is asking all contractors with similar cranes to use only up to 75 percent of their capacity, Tishman Construction Corp.  revealed.

 "All their loads have been reduced while they're under investigation," Bethany Klein, vice president of structural engineering at Tishman, which is building at 4 World Trade Center, told Community Board 1 at a meeting last week.

Klein said the DOB recently sent a letter to Tishman informing them of the new rule — and added that the letter said contractors citywide who operate TG-1900 tower cranes are subject to the new regulation.

The enormous cranes, used to build skyscrapers, normally have a capacity of up to 150 tons, according to one company that rents them.

At a recent public hearing, Tishman executives assured residents of 4 World Trade Center's safety following the construction accident, in which three steel beams plummeted to the ground but amazingly did not injure anyone.

Dwayne Carter, vice president of corporate safety for Tishman, said the reason no one was hurt is that all workers were following safety rules and kept their distance from the crane as it lifted the steel. "If we didn't put into place protocols…it could have been a total tragedy — it would have," Carter said.

However, the executives declined to say which part of the tower crane had failed. The crane was manufactured in 1976, but some of its pieces were newer than that.

The Department of Buildings, the Port Authority and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have all been investigating the accident. The investigations will take months given all the reviews that will be done, including expert reviews of the crane’s hydraulics and metallurgy.

Tishman removed the TG-1900 tower crane from the north side of 4 World Trade Center almost immediately following the accident and continued construction using the other crane, which is a different type, on the building's south side.

The contractor, however, continues to use a TG-1900 for construction of Tower 3.

The accident set work on the tower back about two months, so it will now top out in early July rather than in early May. Tower 4, which had been scheduled to open at the end of 2013, will now open in the beginning of 2014.

Monday, March 19, 2012

9/11 Museum Tussle Hits Subcontractors

An ongoing battle between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum over $150 million in costs at the latter's home costs subcontractors $38 million. The ongoing battle about who is responsible for some of the construction costs at the Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum has cost subcontractors roughly $50 million, according to the head of a trade group.

Ron Berger, executive director of the Subcontractors Trade Association, said 12 of his members report that the dispute is costing them $38 million, while a company that isn't part of the organization told him it is out $12 million.

For nearly six months, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum have sparred over who is responsible for $150 million in costs. “It's like there are two elephants having a big fight and we are the grass that's being trampled,” said Mr. Berger.

He said his members have laid out money to buy supplies and pay workers so they have a right to know how the negotiations are progressing, but that instead he's been told nothing substantial about them. “We really want answers,” Mr. Berger said.

A trade organization representative plans to speak at the Port's board meeting on March 29 if there is no resolution before then to highlight the subcontractors' financial plight. The construction companies have contracts with the Port so they say it should be paying them, adding that the agency's issues with the museum have nothing to do with them or their work.

One of the subcontractors, who requested anonymity, said that the Port has always had a good reputation for paying contractors promptly. He said if the Port doesn't start paying soon, it might have problems attracting bids when the economy improves and contractors can afford to be choosier about who they work for.

Construction on the museum has all but stopped, and now there is no way it will be ready to open on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, as was initially planned. One reason the negotiations are dragging on is the Port's decision to simultaneously try to resolve a dispute with the city over security costs even though that feud is unrelated to the museum issue.

Sources said representatives from the Port, the museum and the city are scheduled to meet again Monday to discuss a possible resolution. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the chair of the museum and deputy mayor Robert Steel has been active in the negotiations.

Representatives for the museum and the city declined comment. “We have in the past paid our share of monies owed to parties working on this project and we look forward to continuing to work together with the Memorial to resolve these contractor claims,” said a Port spokesman in a statement.

By Theresa Agovino
Crain's New York Business
March 19, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mount Sinai Seeking $115M Queens Expansion

Mount Sinai, the world-renowned Manhattan-based hospital and teaching facility, has filed an application with the state to undertake a $115 million expansion of its site in Queens. The proposal is gaining traction in the community as state officials continue to mull the proposal. Mount Sinai Hospital Queens is seeking regulatory approval to construct a four-story addition atop its main building, adding 95,000 square feet to the facility.

The proposal, filed in December, was prompted by a population boom in the Astoria/Long Island City area that has put a premium on hospital beds. Mount Sinai Hospital Queens is located at 25-10 30th Avenue in Astoria.

The present facility has 235 beds and handles 50,000 emergency cases a year, according to a recent hospital newsletter, a figure that the hospital says has grown by about 1,000 cases every year for the last several years. The proposed expansion would focus on the emergency department and surgery, according to Ian Michaels, a Mount Sinai representative.

The only other hospital open to residents in the area is the 545-bed Elmhurst Hospital Center - more than five miles away - that saw double-digit increases in its volume of patients in 2009 and 2010. Additionally, several Queens hospitals have closed in recent years, including St. John’s Queens Hospital in 2009 and Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, at the end of 2008.

Mount Sinai Queens filed a Certificate of Need with the state Department of Health at the end of December, in which it requests a four-story addition to its building. The addition would accommodate a new emergency department.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

NYC Adopts New Laws Aimed at Increasing Energy Efficiency

New building codes in New York City are expected to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 10% and save more than $500 million in energy costs by 2020, according to a new report from the Urban Green Council.

The report refers to building codes as “the DNA of a city—rules that are applied many times over with an exponential impact on how the city functions.” Most of the 29 individual code changes in the last two years are not headline items. While each little law in itself may not seem important, all together they can make a serious difference.

At the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s request, the Urban Green Council convened a green codes task force in 2007 to recommend code changes mitigating the environmental impacts of construction and renovation as part of agency-wide preparations for population growth and climate change—an effort dubbed PlaNYC. The task force made 111 recommendations in February 2010; of the proposed changes, 29 have since been made into law and eight others are partially implemented or in development.

Many of the updates streamline the green building process by removing red tape and arcane policies. For example, two new codes address what are sometimes unintentional prohibitions on alternative energy. There have been cases in which outdated wording meant huge HVAC equipment could be installed on a roof but solar panels could not.

Among the changes most visible to city pedestrians will be the lighting in “sidewalk sheds,” those scaffolding tunnels formed during building construction. Previous regulations encouraged excessive use of incandescent bulbs in the city’s 4,500 sidewalk sheds; now they must meet higher efficiency standards

And in a move with implications for health, energy savings, and waste reduction, vending machines selling bottled water can no longer serve as substitutes for water fountains in renovations or new construction.
The New Energy Efficiency Laws:

New York City’s four new energy efficiency laws focus mainly on incorporating the use of daylight, as well as automatic occupant and photo sensors, to meet lighting requirements in egress areas, commercial buildings, construction sites and multiple dwellings. In addition, the new laws amend various illumination level standards to reduce excessive lighting requirements.
Local Law 47
Effective January 1, 2011, Local Law 47 amends current egress illumination requirements to reduce unnecessary electric lighting in lobbies and hallways that are adequately lit by daylight or are unoccupied. Generally, Local Law 47 permits the use of daylight to meet certain lighting requirements, amends various illumination level standards, permits the use of automatic occupant sensor or photo sensor lighting controls (provided they are equipped for fail-safe operation), and lessens certain lighting requirements.
Local Law 48
Local Law 48 , which took effect December 28, 2010, seeks to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings by amending the New York City Energy Conservation Code (NYCECC). In part, the law adds a requirement that sensors and controls (including occupant sensors) in classrooms,[2] conference rooms, employee break rooms and offices smaller than 200 square feet,[3] (i) only enable lights to be turned on manually; (ii) automatically shut lights off within 30 minutes of all occupants leaving the space; and (iii) enable lights to be turned off manually. Further, such sensors are not permitted to have override switches which allow for the sensors to be converted from “manual-on” to “automatic-on” functionality.
Local Law 51
Local Law 51 aims to increase energy efficiency at construction sites by amending lighting requirements for temporary walkways, foot bridges and sidewalk sheds. The new law calls for illumination to be measured by foot-candle (a measure of light) rather than by wattage (a measure of energy used), and will also permit the use of photo sensors to control lighting based upon available daylight (again, provided the sensors are equipped for fail-safe operation). This law took effect on July 1, 2011. 
Local Law 52
Effective January 1, 2011, Local Law 52 updates certain residential building lighting requirements of the housing and maintenance code to bring them into conformance with other NYC codes, specifically the NYCECC. Subject to any stricter requirements of the multiple dwelling law, Local Law 52 permits the use of both automatic occupant and photo sensors and daylight to meet certain lighting requirements in multiple dwellings and tenant-occupied two-family dwellings. The law also updates how illumination levels are measured (e.g., foot-candles instead of watts).

Other improvements include:

• treatment of the 15 million gallons of construction wastewater poured annually into streets and sewers;
• increased green stormwater infrastructure;

• “cool roof” requirements to mitigate the urban heat island effect;

• a requirement that 2% of heating oil be biofuel, some of it from waste cooking oil;

• strict regulation of toxic emissions from all carpet sold or installed in the city.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Three Huge Projects Underway on West 54th Street

There's always something new going on between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, along West 54th and 55th streets, where four giant projects are clamorously under way. Nearly the entire city block is under construction, save for a tiny three-story apartment building that is sandwiched between the jobsites.

Foundation work has begun at 237 West 54th Street, where the Moinian Group is constructing a new 34-story Hilton hotel. The general contractor for the project is ICON NY/NJ Inc.

The block is also home to three rapidly rising, much bigger projects: Boston Properties' 1-million-square-foot office tower at 250 West 55th Street, and Granite Broadway Development's twin 68-story hotels at 1717 Broadway
Caught in the middle of all the commotion are the tenants of 243 West 54th St, a tiny three-story apartment building that is sandwiched between the giant Boston Properties tower and the Hilton Hotel project. 

237 West 54th Street
The Hilton project has sparked some controversy, as a special zoning benefit allows Broadway theaters to sell air rights — undeveloped space above a building — to developers building projects between West 40th and West 57th streets from Sixth to Eighth Avenue. The Moinian Group agreed to purchase 24,000-square-feet of development air rights from the Booth Theater on West 45th Street, which will allow the new hotel to rise even higher, despite neighbors’ objections.

1717 Broadway
When completed in 2014, the Courtyard by Marriott and Residence by Marriott at 1717 Broadway will be 35 feet taller than the Mandarin Oriental at Time Warner Center, and more than 120 feet taller than the Trump International, making them the tallest hotels in New York City. The construction manager for the project is F.J. Sciame Construction.

250 West 55th Street
Construction of the 39-story office tower at 250 West 55th commenced in late 2007, but was suspended in late 2009 after the completion of excavation and foundations, and construction of the building to grade level. Designed by noted architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the building will feature a landscaped “green” roof and has been LEED Gold pre-certified. Turner Construction Company is the construction manager for the project, which upon completion is expected to cost approximately $1.2 billion.

One thing is for sure, 243 West 54th Street is certainly no place for an afternoon nap.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Arts Institutions Undertake Major Construction

New York's arts institutions have gone through countless expansions throughout the years. However, curators say there is more pressure now than ever to attract crowds and boost income—especially with further cuts in city funding on the docket. Besides the excitement about stunning new architecture, many of these building projects feature construction of new gift shops and restaurants that should directly increase revenue.

Last month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced plans for a $60 million renovation to turn the four-block plaza in front of its entrance into an urban oasis with dancing fountains and trees from the Palais Royal in Paris.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art upgrade is just the latest in a slew of building projects at cultural institutions across the city.

With construction that includes a new visitors' center at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a complete overhaul of Performance Space 122's East Village facility and the 200,000-square-foot home for the Whitney Museum of American Art going up in the meatpacking district, among many others, it seems that nearly every cultural organization has a shovel in the ground.

Presently, The Queens Museum of Art is in the middle of a $70 million expansion that is doubling its size to 100,000 square feet.

Between 2003 and 2005, 94 cultural building projects were completed in the city, according to a study on the economic impact of construction at New York's cultural institutions. Now there are more than 400 design and construction projects in the works at 197 cultural organizations across the five boroughs. Those projects, to which the city is contributing $632.7 million, are all at different stages.

The Brooklyn Museum, which recently had to a cancel a show because it could not raise the funding for it, is redesigning its first floor to greatly expand its gift shop, create a destination restaurant and increase its exhibition space. The shop, opening April 4, will have 4,500 square feet, a 50% jump, and will feature work by Brooklyn artists. The restaurant will debut in the fall, will have outdoor seating and will be open in the evenings when the museum is closed. Mr. Lehman declined to give the cost of the project.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is opening a new 22,000-square-foot visitors' center in May, which will include a new gift shop and a second event space that can seat 150 people. Scot Medbury, president of the Garden, said he expects the shop and event space to bring in $600,000 of additional earned income a year. At the same time, the visitors' center will be able to better accommodate the crowds the garden has been experiencing. Last year, a record 725,000 people visited, with 37,000 on one day alone.
Though some of these projects were delayed because of the recession, many arts executives say the downturn actually helped spur other projects by lowering construction pricing. And though capital campaigns have moved more slowly, donors—and the Bloomberg administration—are still interested in funding building projects.

The Queens Museum originally issued a request for bids in the spring of 2008, but construction companies were so flush with work that the job attracted few qualified bidders. After the global financial meltdown some months later, when construction had stalled around the city, the museum was suddenly inundated with interested contractors. The expansion project broke ground last April, which was a long wait, but it allowed the museum to raise more money and increase the scope of the project.
Additional costs

Now the Queens Museum executives and trustees are working to raise additional operating funds to help offset the new costs of running a larger facility for the first three years after it opens.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden started its $100 million capital campaign before the economic crisis, and has raised $80 million. It bid out the project to contractors in the fall of 2009, and the prices came in 15% under the architect's projections.

Other cultural groups are just as happy not to rush their construction projects. Renovations on Performance Space 122's building, which are being funded and managed by the city, were supposed to start last summer. Now, because of delays in permits and other issues, work is expected to begin late this summer, and is scheduled to take two years.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Compromise Deal Saves St. Vincent's Redevelopment

Developer agrees to cut number of condos to 350 as plans to redevelop the defunct hospital's Greenwich Village site win final approval. Since St. Vincent's Hospital closed in the spring of 2010, residents and council members have voiced opposition to the plan to replace it with luxury housing. Now $100 million emergency-care center, as well as a new school and park will soon break ground.

After two years of wrangling and compromises on both sides, the future of the site of the defunct St. Vincent's Hospital campus in Greenwich Village was finally settled. Developer Bill Rudin, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council agreed on a revised plan that includes the construction of 350 luxury condos—down from 450 previously—plus a school, a park and a $100 million emergency-care center.

Since the hospital closed in the spring of 2010, many residents and council members had voiced opposition to the plan to replace it with luxury housing—including one high-rise—and a far smaller health care facility. Under the final agreement, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System will operate a 24-hour comprehensive health care center, and Rudin Management Co. will build fewer housing units than originally planned. The city, meanwhile, will buy a nearby building from the state and turn it into a middle school.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the district, had been among those opposed to the original proposal. In the end, however, she voiced her support for the newest scaled-down iteration.

“While we continue to advocate for a full-service hospital, I welcome the outstanding emergency, primary and specialty health care services that this project will bring,” Ms. Quinn said in a press release.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Flashy New Office Tower Breaks Ground in Cooper Square

If you build it, will they come? One developer sure hopes so. It turns out that new pedestrian plazas and road realignments are not the only major changes coming to Astor Place. A new 13-story ribbed granite-and-glass office building will soon rise from the site of Cooper Union's old engineering building.

Developer Edward Minskoff made a deal with Cooper Union to purchase and raze their former engineering building at 51 Astor Place for a new 13-story mixed-use tower designed by Fumihiko Maki. The new building will house 430,000 square feet of space for office and retail use, and will be located near Cooper Union's new space-age academic building designed by Morphosis.

The 51 Astor Place site sits on an island at the top of Astor Place, bounded on all four sides by streets — Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, 9th Street and Astor Place — providing the space needed to create an architecturally unique structure. 
All four sides are different…Each side has its own aesthetic quality and is different. This building is expected be the most technologically advanced building built in New York City, since the Bank of America Headquarters on 42nd street.

The black granite and clear ribbed-glass building will rise 145 feet, reaching 13 stories in one section with a shorter part rising 11 floors. The building will be constructed “on spec” to achieve LEED Gold certification.
Preparation of the site is presently underway with construction expected to commence next month. Completion of the building is slated for spring of 2013. 

The total development cost the project is expected to be north of $300 million.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

NYC Hotel Projects Presently in Development

As the pace of hotel construction in New York City increases, we are tracking approximately 50 projects in various stages of development, which will open over the next 18 months.  We have selected 32 of these projects for list below:

Courtyard by Marriott—168 rooms
960 Sixth Avenue
Projected opening: mid 2012
Located in Manhattan’s Fashion District, this is a redeveloped office building in a mixed-use neighborhood.

Hyatt Place—188 rooms
52 W. 36th Street
Projected opening: mid 2012
McSam Hotel Group LLC is developing this property just off Fifth Avenue in midtown.

Clarion Brooklyn—65 rooms
1120 36th Street
Projected opening: mid 2012
Marshall Hotels & Resorts will manage new build

Unnamed Hotel—56 rooms
308 W. 40th Street
Projected opening: mid 2012
McSam Hotel Group LLC is developing this property.

Days Inn—120 rooms
548 W. 48th Street
Projected opening: mid 2012
McSam Hotel Group LLC is developing this property.

Best Western Staten Island—111 rooms
290 Wild Avenue
Staten Island
Projected opening: mid 2012

Hampton Inn—62 rooms
32 Pearl Street
Projected opening: mid 2012
McSam Hotel Group LLC is developing this property in Lower Manhattan.

Unnamed Hotel—73 rooms
Wythe Avenue & N. 11 Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Projected opening: mid 2012
Two Trees management will build a new hotel in this up-and-coming neighborhood, with a design in keeping with the area’s history and architecture.

The GEM Hotel Union Square—114 rooms
54 W. 13th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
Projected opening: late 2012
This hotel will be owned and operated by Gemini Real Estate Advisors LLC.

Holiday Inn—132 rooms
150 Delancey Street
Projected opening: late 2012
McSam Hotel Group LLC is developing this property on the Lower East Side

Holiday Inn Express—175 rooms
538 W. 48th Street
Projected opening: late 2012
McSam Hotel Group LLC is developing this property in midtown.

Park Hyatt—210 rooms
157 W. 57th Street
Projected opening: late 2012
This new build project is a joint venture between Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Extell Development

Hyatt Place—219 rooms
206 E. 52nd Street
Projected opening: late 2012
McSam Hotel Group LLC is developing this property.

SpringHill Suites by Marriott—173 rooms
25 W. 37th Street
Projected opening: late 2012

Comfort Inn—48 rooms
3070 Webster Avenue
The Bronx
Projected opening: late 2012
Another new small hotel slated for the Bronx adds convenience to travelers to NYC.

Unnamed Hotel—172 rooms
237 Duffield Street
Projected opening: 2013
V3 Hotels is slated to open this new property in downtown Brooklyn.

aloft Chelsea—170 rooms
815 Sixth Avenue
Projected opening: 2013

Cambria Suites Times Square—194 suites
30 W. 46th Street
Projected opening: early 2013

Cambria Suites Chelsea—140 suites
123-125 W. 28th Street
Projected opening: early 2013

Unnamed Hotel—400 rooms
237 W. 54th Street
Projected opening: early 2013

Willow Hotel—250 rooms
120 W. 57th Street
Projected opening: early 2013

Hotel 38—180 rooms
45 West 38th Street
Projected opening: early 2013

Lodgeworks is developing this property

Four Points by Sheraton—140 rooms
Jamaica, New York
Projected opening: mid 2013
Marshall Hotels & Resorts will manage this property.

Four Points by Sheraton Financial District—264 rooms and suites
6 Platt Street
Projected opening: summer 2013
 Developed by The Lam Group, the property will have suites, rooms, a restaurant and conference space.

Unnamed Hotel—114 rooms
218-222 W. 50th Street
Projected opening: 2013
Developed by Brack Capital Real Estate, the team behind recently opened, James New York SoHo Hotel.

Hyatt Times Square—487 rooms
135 W. 45th Street
Projected opening: late 2013
Extell Development Co. has started construction of this 54-story project, which will have a long-term management agreement with an affiliate of Hyatt Hotels Corp.

Courtyard by Marriott—378 rooms

1717 Broadway at 54th Street
Projected opening: late 2013

Residence Inn by Marriott—261 rooms
1717 Broadway at 54th Street
Projected opening: late 2013
Marriott International, Inc. and Granite Broadway Development announced a franchise agreement to develop this twin 68-story, multi-hotel property to be managed by Interstate Hotels and Resorts.

Four Seasons Downtown—175 rooms
99 Church Street
Projected opening: 2014
The hotel will occupy the lower 22 stories in the 80-story condominium tower being developed by Larry Silverstein on the TriBeCa site

Hilton Hotel—450 rooms
237 West 54th Street
Projected opening: 2014
3 the Moinian Group is developing this 34-story hotel

Unnamed Hotel—330 rooms
218 West 35th Street
Projected opening: 2014
34th Street/Penn Association is developing this 28-story hotel in Herald Square

Hudson Square Hotel—300+ rooms
68 Charlton Street
Projected opening: 2014
Extell Development is constructing this 35-story, four-star hotel off Varick Street in SoHo.


Monday, March 5, 2012

New Police Academy Rises in Queens

The steel is rising as huge cranes lift beams for the classroom buildings at the new thirty-five acre Police Academy campus in College Point. The $656 million Phase 1 project - which is designed to achieve LEED Silver certification - is scheduled for completion in December 2013. Total price tag for the project will exceed $1 billion.

With the largest municipal police force in the United States, the NYPD has as many as 4,000 recruits annually, 36,000 police officers and 15,500 civilian employees. 

The New York City Police Department needs a place to train recruits and provide ongoing programs to its civilian staff and active officers. In 2013, “New York’s Finest” will have the state-of-the-art facility it deserves.

Phase 1 construction includes the glass-covered, main academic building - which will include classrooms as well as tactical areas featuring an office and a subway car for training - and the physical training facility, which will be connected to it by a second-floor bridge. Phase 1 will also include the construction of gyms, a pool, a field house, a running track and a dining area, as well as parking for up to 900 cars.

It is estimated that up to 2,000 cadets will be able to train at the new academy during their 

six-month cycles. 
Although the project began last year, not much was visible until recently because the area, a former landfill and later the city’s largest car impound lot, required a lot of clearing and site preparation. It was also necessary to install a methane gas venting system. Because of the area’s high water table, more than 6,000 piles had to be driven. 

Phase 2 work, which will begin immediately after the earlier construction is completed, will incorporate NYPD facilities now located across the city, will feature indoor shooting ranges, a tactical village, a police museum, additional parking for 300 cars and a housing area for visiting officers from out of the area.

The project, designed by Perkins + Will Architects, is targeting a LEED Silver certification from the United States Green Building Council. Green features of the facility include daylight harvesting, green roofs atop the buildings, storm water harvesting and reuse and redevelopment of an existing tidal stream located within the site.
The present academy, located in Manhattan, is over 40 years old, and was built for a department half the size of the current one. The new state-of-the-art, one million square foot campus will be bounded by College Point Boulevard, Ulmer Street and 28th and 31st avenues.

A joint venture between Turner Construction Co. and STV Inc. is providing construction management/build services for Phase 1 under a $656 million contract. STV/Turner’s services include campus development, technical problem-solving, financial management, contract administration and project controls.

The project is both on time and on budget. An on-site office houses about 50 employees from Turner Construction/STV and the NYC Department of Design and Construction. Presently, there are 180 construction workers on the job, but soon, more than 800 will be working at the site. The total cost for the project is expected to come in at between $1 and $1.5 billion.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

NYC Construction Projects Are Now Made In China

Rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure is a growing priority, with President Obama highlighting construction jobs as part of his $447 billion jobs plan. Nevertheless, more $400 million in federal funds to renovate the Alexander Hamilton Bridge here in New York has been awarded a Chinese government owned construction company. The company uses U.S. labor but the coveted skilled jobs, such as engineering and design work, are being done in Beijing. The profits will also go overseas.  

However, that is only the tip of the iceberg. China Construction America - a subsidiary of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation - has been awarded $100 million in contracts for the 50th Street Ventilation Facility as part of the Long Island Railroad East Side Access project.  CCA also holds a $65 million contract to build a ventilation building structure on the 7 Line Extension project, as well more than $42 million in current NYC Housing Authority contracts. 

At a time when we do not have enough work to support our own industry, how can our government officials justify giving away the little we do have?  
The Port Authority last year announced it was looking to the private sector to construct the replacement for the aging Goethals -- a project expected to cost $1.5 billion with a slated completion date of 2017. 
The Tappan Zee Bridge, long overdue for an overhaul, is one of 14 projects chosen by the Obama administration for expedited federal review and approval — possibly allowing work on a new $5.2 billion replacement bridge to begin as early as the spring of 2013. China Construction America is already high on the short list for both projects. 

'Savings' don’t tell whole story
Politicians have justified awarding the contract to China Construction based on numerous savings they claimed it would produce. That does not take into account the wages lost by workers who otherwise would have been employed on the project. It does not take into account the taxes those workers would have paid — from state and city income tax to Social Security and unemployment taxes. 

It does not take into account the multiplier effect, all the related benefits derived across the economy from the daily purchases made by people with jobs. It does not count all the state and local taxes that employed workers pay for schools and highways. Nor does it take into account all the tax revenue that New York State and City government will have to expend for unemployment, health care and other costs run up by people who have no jobs. In short, what may look like a "savings" is anything but

      • If people don't have jobs, they don't make money.
      • If people don't make money, they don't buy things.
      • If people don't buy things, there is less demand.
      • If there is less demand, then companies don't produce goods.
      • If companies don't produce goods, they don't need employees. 
      • If people don't have jobs, they don't make money... 

What is clear is that New York has lost an exceptional opportunity to create good-paying jobs at home during a time of high domestic unemployment.

With 25 million Americans unemployed, underemployed, working part time because they cannot find a full-time job, or so discouraged they gave up looking for a job; when millions are out of work for the longest period in our history; when millions are in the process of losing their homes because they were unable to keep up with mortgage payments after corporations eliminated their jobs or they were forced to absorb runaway medical bills, New York is providing work for a Chinese construction company, and shipping more our tax dollars oveseas

by Peter Coyne,

T12 Fluorescent Bulb Phase Out: How Much Time Do I Have Left?

Are you still installing T12 fluorescent lamps? If so, time is running out on the opportunity for your customers to take advantage of rebates and tax incentives for upgrading to more energy-efficient alternatives.

The National Lighting Bureau has estimated that more than 500 million T12 lamps are still in use. However, recent regulations by the Department of Energy have initiated a plan to phase out traditional T12 lamps and ballasts by July 2012.

T12s were originally designed to respond to demand for more energy-efficient fluorescent lamps back in the 1970s during the energy crisis. Unfortunately, for a number of technical reasons, T12s have proved to have shorter lamp life, poor color and low lighting output.

Despite continued use, T12s are widely known as inefficient, dead technology that is easily replaced by T8 or T5 fluorescents, which are more energy-efficient, longer lasting and have better quality light.

“With available rebates and tax incentives, plus the monthly energy cost savings that occur when retrofitting to energy-efficient T8s or T5s, the upgrade virtually pays for itself within a year,” said Sean Neman, director of operations at ReGreen Inc., an energy conservation company. “People need to act fast to cash in on the available rebates and incentives while they are still available. With recent regulations virtually eliminating traditional T12s by 2012, these incentives will not be available for long."

The simplest retrofit for T12 lamp and magnetic ballast is a T8 lamp and electronic ballast. This switch-out can save 30 to 40 percent on energy costs. In qualifying areas, rebates from utilities can subsidize the cost for upgrades anywhere from 60 to 100 percent. Additionally, using the Commercial Building Tax Deduction, owners and managers can receive tax benefits up to 60 cents per square foot.

If you'd like to know more about this tax deduction, go here: