Friday, June 29, 2012

Nordstrom to Build $300M Flagship near Columbus Circle

After decades on the sidelines, Seattle-based retailer Nordstrom will open its NYC flagship store two blocks south of Columbus Circle, at 225 West 57th Street, between Seventh and Eighth avenues. The new store will cost Nordstrom $300 million. Construction of the one-million-square-foot tower will begin early next year, creating more than 1,000 construction jobs. The tower is expected be completed by 2017.

The department store will cover 300,000 square feet on seven floors in a new tower by Extell Development Co., the builder behind the tallest residential building in the city, One57, which is still under construction.

The retail chain has had its sights on New York for 25 years, but finally settled on the West Side's growing retail scene. Nordstrom would be situated near Columbus Circle, only a couple of blocks from the Time Warner Center where retailers are reportedly getting about $1,600 a square foot in sales.

Nordstrom noted that it had an estimated 20,000 Nordstrom credit card holders in Manhattan alone, even though the nearest stores are on Long Island and New Jersey. "We wanted to be where the people are," said Peter Nordstrom, an executive vice president and president of merchandising of Nordstrom. "We fully expect this to be our most productive store."

New York's retail sales have doubled in the past 10 years, according to the city. The company, with 231 stores in 31 states, aims to tap into the city's 50 million yearly visitors, many of whom shop while walking along Broadway between Central Park and Times Square.

"We're not pioneering something, we're joining something," said Mr. Nordstrom, who anticipates the creation of more than 300 construction jobs, and 1,000 permanent jobs once the new store, is complete.

Nordstrom already operates a Treasure & Bond shop in SoHo and a Nordstrom Rack location near Union Square.

The major hold up in the company's decades-long mission to open a New York location has been its inability to find an ideal space.

The department store's requirements included ceiling heights of at least 25 feet and open floor plates without central elevator cores, and that combination made most existing buildings unworkable. Nordstrom considered several high-profile developments for a future home, including a high-rise condominium tower planned for the former Drake Hotel site and the Hudson Yards project.

Replacing the original Hard Rock Café, the store will open in 2017. Excavation on the site's 40,000-square-foot footprint could begin by the first quarter of 2013. The tower will include additional retail space, a hotel and residential units.

The hotel portion is expected to create about 250 construction jobs.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Second Accident in Two Days at World Trade Center Site

A construction worker was impaled in fall at 4 World Trade Center on Tuesday, suffering a puncture wound to his side. The worker was transported to Bellevue Hospital Center in critical but not life-threatening condition. The following day, a crane raising a steel beam repeatedly crashed into same building, shattering glass toward the top of the skyscraper. High winds caused the beam to spin, crashing into the glass panels about 50 stories up.

Just one day after developer Larry Silverstein and local politicians held an emotional ceremony to mark the topping-out of the 977-foot skyscraper, construction workers at 4 World Trade Center weather two accidents in as many days.

Construction Worker Impaled in Fall at 4 World Trade Center

A construction worker at 4 World Trade Center fell and impaled himself on a metal rod Tuesday afternoon. The 37-year-old worker was helping to build the new skyscraper at 150 Greenwich St. when he slipped and fell about 1:20 p.m., an FDNY spokesperson said.

The worker landed on a small steel rod he was carrying in a pouch, suffering a puncture wound to his side. The injured man was transported to Bellevue Hospital Center in critical but not life-threatening condition.

Steel Beam Crashes Into 4 WTC, Shattering Windows

A crane raising a steel beam crashed into 4 World Trade Center Wednesday, shattering glass toward the top of the building. Fifty firefighters responded to the scene after being alerted to the accident on the south side of the rising tower about 11:30 a.m., the FDNY said.

This is the second accident at the site in as many days.

Construction workers at the scene said that the beam began to spin and crashed into a few panels of glass about 50 stories up due to high winds.

Police taped off Church Street between Cortland and Rector streets and closed Zucotti Park, and workers were asked to leave the building. The falling glass also shut down the 9/11 Memorial for the afternoon, officials said.

Tishman Construction, the general contractor at 4 World Trade Center, released a statement saying
"A sudden gust of wind caused a load of steel to hit the tower's glass. As a result, some pieces of glass fell onto Liberty Street. Fortunately, the street was closed at the time, and the Liberty Street sidewalk is protected by a construction shed. There are no reports of injuries. We have suspended steel lifts pending an investigation, are inspecting the entire facade of the building and are reviewing protocols for evaluating weather conditions."
Other recent accidents at 4 World Trade Center include a February incident in which a load of steel beams fell 40 stories from the building, crushing a truck. Just a few months earlier, a teenager suffered a minor injury when a 4-foot rod fell from the building.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Manhattan's Tallest Residential Tower Tops Out

One57 held its official topping-out ceremony on Wednesday. New York by Gehry, downtown at 8 Spruce Street, has passed the torch and One57, at 1,004 feet, will be the tallest residential building New York City—at least for a little while. It will eventually be overtaken by 432 Park Avenue - which will be the tallest residential structure in the western hemisphere - with a planned height of 1430 feet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Columbia Unveils Design for New Medical and Graduate Center

Columbia University Medical Center announced plans for a new, state-of-the-art medical and graduate education building on its campus in Washington Heights. The new building, with a design led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in collaboration with Gensler Architects, is a 14-story glass tower that incorporates technologically advanced classrooms, collaboration spaces, and a modern simulation center. Construction is expected to begin in early 2013 and will take approximately 42 months.

The building will become an important landmark to the skyline of Northern Manhattan – as it will be visible from the nearby George Washington Bridge and Riverside Park. Construction of the new building is supported a September 2010 gift of $50 million from Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, M.D., the former chairman and CEO of Merck & Co, and an alumnus of Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The Medical and Graduate Education Building incorporates green design and building techniques that will create a welcoming environment and contribute to the long-term sustainability of the entire neighborhood.

The University is planning the building to meet LEED-Gold standards for sustainability. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a national design standard for green buildings and sustainability, which is administered by the United States Green Building Council.

Located on existing Columbia property on Haven Avenue between West 171st and West 172nd Streets, the Medical and Graduate Education Building will be used by students from all four Columbia University Medical Center schools (College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Nursing, College of Dental Medicine and the Mailman School of Public Health), and the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The high-tech medical simulation center, which will allow hands-on learning in realistic settings, will transform the way Columbia University trains health professionals in medicine, dentistry, and nursing, as well as how practicing physicians maintain their clinical skills and learn new techniques. A terrace with views of the Hudson River will be incorporated into the new building.

The formal learning space will have state-of-the-art electronics that facilitate the delivery of information to students. In addition, there will be space where the students can informally interact and work as teams – reflecting our new curriculum, which emphasizes team-based learning. In addition, there will be space to relax and have coffee. It will incorporate every aspect of medical and graduate education – updated in a modern, environmentally responsible way.

A new auditorium and event areas with integrated technology; centralized student support services; student lounges and cafés; and multiple-purpose outdoor spaces, including a terrace with views of the Hudson River, will be incorporated into the new building. The design centralizes all social and public spaces in a vertical stack at the south face of the building. This continuous space features a multi-story glass facade that maximizes light and offers exceptional views to the south.

Outdoor gathering spaces and terraces that are clad in cement panels, wood, and other materials complement the interiors of the study cascade – a system of special alcoves reserved for social interaction.

In addition to serving as the principal design element for the building, the transparent façade of the study cascade is designed to serve as a visual landmark at the northern limit of Columbia University’s medical campus. The northern face of the building houses space for classrooms, clinical simulation and administrative space.

For more than two centuries, Columbia University has been a premier destination for medical education, training generations of outstanding physicians and scientists. It was the first medical school in the United States to award the M.D. degree in 1770. The new building is intended to keep Columbia at the forefront of innovations in medical and graduate science education.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pro Soccer Stadium Proposed for Flushing Meadows

CitiField and the National Tennis Center could be joined by yet another professional sports arena. Officials from Major League Soccer presented the city with a detailed proposal to build a 25,000 seat pro soccer stadium on eight acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Local politicians are supporting the plan, which could create 2,000 union construction jobs, 300 permanent full-time jobs and 900 part-time jobs.

The plan is still in the early stages, but if approved, the MLS thinks it could be built within one to two years. The plan would face several hurdles, as the land is city-owned, and it would be taking away parkland, so they'd have to make a new park somewhere else. But apparently the meetings are going quite well - considering how much this city loves sporting venues.

The arena would be for a currently unnamed team, and would be privately financed. Major League Soccer's pitch: "The world's game should be played in the world's park," a nod to the park being the site of the 1939 and 1964 world's fairs. The propsal is surprising given that MLS opened the $220 million Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., in 2010.

But landing a stadium in New York City—a media capital and an ethnically diverse urban center—would be a significant boost to the league's international stature. Founded in 1993, the MLS comprises 19 teams, 16 in the U.S. and three in Canada.

Six acres of the eight-acre site are currently occupied by a fenced off concrete pool filled with stagnant water, which would be an improvement for the park. As part of the proposal, the league would also refurbish public soccer fields on the site and create a cricket field and volleyball courts.    

The league has scoped out several sites in the city in recent months, including Willets Point in Queens and Pier 40 on the Hudson River Park. The Pier 40 proposal was criticized after the plans became public this spring. Community members were concerned the stadium would overwhelm the popular waterside park and lead to parking and transportation problems.

A home in Flushing Meadows Corona Park would put the stadium near other major sports venues, Citi Field and the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Skating Venues Proposed for Two Vacant Armories

An ambitious proposal to convert the Kingsbridge Armory  into the world’s largest ice sports center, and a plan to turn the vacant Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights into a roller skating rink, have been submitted and are under consideration by the city. The privately funded projects will cost more $1 billion and create thousands of sorely needed construction jobs.

Kingsbridge Armory (Bronx)

A group of developers and educators submitted a proposal to the city for the world’s largest ice sports center.

The proposal, backed by Rangers legend Mark Messier and Olympic skater Sarah Hughes and Deutsche Bank executive Kevin Parker, features nine indoor rinks and includes the possible acquisition of land north of the armory for an ice sports-themed public school.

The proposal has earned the ears and praises of local council members, the community board, and Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Murray Beynon, who led the Madison Square Garden renovation, will design a privately funded $400 million renovation of the armory with five rinks on the ground floor, including a center rink with 5,000 seats, four rinks on the mezzanine and one outside. Locker rooms and parking would be included for the ground floor.

The Kingsbridge proposal was submitted to the city in March. Other bidders include a plan to bring a church and shops to the 500,000-square-foot landmark, and Vornado Realty Trust may bid to buy or lease it.

The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, which defeated a shopping mall plan for the site three years ago, will rally and pray for community access to the armory, jobs at the armory that pay living wages and a new school.

The city is expected to select a winning bid as early as next month.

Bedford-Union Armory (Brooklyn)

The Kingsbridge Armory is not the only former military facility that could become a skate haven.

One of the proposals being considered for the vacant Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights is to convert it into a roller skating rink to replace defunct Empire Roller Skating Center, which survived in the neighborhood for 66 years.

The National Guard is transferring ownership of the historic Bedford-Union Armory to the city and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has pledged a total of $1 million in funding for redevelopment of the 105-year-old building. Besides a roller skating rink, other proposals include bringing in a community recreation center or an entertainment venue.

Comprising a full city block in Crown Heights, the shuttered Bedford-Union Armory between Union and President Streets has a lot of potential.  Money for operating the armory would come from building apartments on the site of its one-story parking facility. The property will need to be rezoned for this to happen.

Other uses for the Drill Hall are a multipurpose community recreation center for sports ranging from basketball to badminton, or an events and entertainment venue.

A makeover of the Park Slope Armory, which the report called “a great success,” could serve as a model for the Bedford-Union building’s rehab.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lights Out for T-12 Fluorescent Lamps

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy banned manufacture or import of magnetic ballasts used in many T-12 fixtures for commercial and industrial applications. As of July 14, 2012, most T-12 lamps will also be phased out of production. For businesses considering fluorescent lighting upgrades at their facility, changes to federal standards for linear fluorescent lighting may help them decide to act sooner rather than later.

New Program Helps Businesses Meet Ban on T-12 Fluorescent Tubes
Independence LED Lighting, a leading U.S. Manufacturer of energy efficient LED Tubes, has launched a comprehensive $10 Million CASH for CLUNKERS Lighting program. The incentive covers the cost of banned T-12 tubes, proper disposal of the toxic tubes and ballasts, and an LED Lighting Retrofit Return on Investment Assessment.

The incentive is for U.S. businesses that choose to retrofit with Independence LED Tubes, which are three times more energy efficient and last three times longer than the obsolete T-12s.  To further assist qualified business owners, Independence LED provides $0 down financing programs providing net savings from the flip of the switch. The program runs through 12/31/2012.

With almost 1 billion T-12 tubes in U.S. properties, according to government data in the T-12 White Paper, the ban covers more than 30% of American linear lighting. The cost burden of the ban could reach $18.75 billion, given needs for new 'legal' tubes, ballasts, and installation - a challenge for business and building owners.

"This ban will have significant financial implications for American businesses. The 'CASH for CLUNKERS' Cars and Appliances programs made an impact, so we decided to roll out a program to our customers for LED lighting efficiency retrofits," states Charlie Szoradi, Chairman and CEO of Independence LED. 

Made In the U.S.A. 
"Now, our 'CASH for CLUNKERS Lighting' and cash flow positive financing works well with available utility company incentives and Federal tax benefits to make clear business sense for replacing T-12s with LEDs today. Since the government has not offered cash for T-12 clunker lighting, we took the private sector initiative to step up to meet this challenge."  
Since moving its manufacturing from China to Boyertown, PA, Independence LED has experienced over 300% growth in sales.  Customers range from industrial distribution centers to Fortune 100 companies and from independent business owners to national retail and service chains. In 2011, the Company won the Green Business of the Year Award from the Main Line Chamber of Commerce. 

The T-12 Ban is July 14, 2012
CASH for CLUNKERS Lighting is a program specifically developed to assist American Business owners with the U.S. Department of Energy’s July 14th 2012 ban on inefficient fluorescent tubes.
Any U.S. Owned Business
Registration Dates
June 14th to September 3rd 2012 (Labor Day) 
Program Closing Date:
December 31st 2012

About The Program: 
CASH for CLUNKERS Lighting not only covers the cost of the banned fluorescent tubes, but it also covers the cost of proper disposal of the toxic tubes and ballasts, and the cost of a Return on Investment (ROI) Lighting Assessment. 

The program is specifically for U.S. businesses choosing to save 60% or more on electricity by retrofitting with the energy efficient American Made Independence LED Tubes over the banned T-12 fluorescents. To further assist qualified business owners, Independence LED has included optional $0 down financing programs with cash flow positive results from the first month.
Business Owners and Operators:
If you would like to learn more about the program, please call 347-763-5006 or click here to ContactUs.
If you would like to learn more about Independence LED, please click here for Distribution.

THREE POINT Cost Coverage:  
Cost of T-12 Tubes
CASH for CLUNKERS Lighting pays businesses what they paid up to $4 for 4’ tubes or shorter and up to $8 for tubes over 4’.  If records are not available from the date of purchase, the program will provide current retail prices. The payment is made as a rebate netted against the final cost of the LED replacement tubes.

Cost of Proper Disposal of T-12 Tubes and Ballasts
CASH for CLUNKERS Lighting absorbs this cost directly. In the event that the Qualifying Business manages the installation or contracts with a third party, CFC-Lighting pays up to $.10 per linear foot per tube and up to $.50 per ballast for proper disposal. CFC-Lighting reserves the right to schedule pick-ups and coordinate the disposal upon mutual approval of scheduling with the Qualifying Business.

Cost of Return on Investment (ROI) Assessment
CASH for CLUNKERS Lighting provides analysis through the Independence LED Account Managers or members of the Authorized Reseller Network. The LED Lighting Retrofit Return on Investment (ROI) Assessment produces a Saving Report for review by property owners and managers. Qualifying Businesses can choose to submit the key assessment data such as the total weekly hours of run time on the lighting, the cost of electricity per kWh, the length and wattages of the tubes, and the size of the facility. See page #4 of this file for a sample Savings Report.

$0 Down Financing:
Independence LED works with multiple financing partners that offer $0 down payment solutions that yield cash-flow positive results in the first month. Approval for this option is subject to a credit review that includes two year of trailing tax returns or audited financials.

Sample Case Study – Over 2 Miles of installed LEDs replacing T-12s
Retrofit Photos – Multiple Property Types
Technology Differentiation – 10 Point Advantage
2’ T-12 Video
4’ T-12 Video 
8’ T-12 Video
CASH for CLUNKERS Lighting 
T-12 to LED Tube White Paper
T-12 Ban DOE Fact Sheet
T-12 Ban EPAct Amendments
White House Memorandum Dec 2011

Friday, June 22, 2012

4 WTC Will Top Out Monday, Day Ahead of 1 WTC

Developer Larry A. Silverstein will join more than 1,000 construction workers at a Topping Out Ceremony to mark completion of steel erection for 4 World Trade Center, which will be the first tower to open on the WTC site, at 10 AM on Monday morning. The last steel beam will be signed by a group of construction workers before it is lifted 977 feet in the air and placed atop 4 WTC – the first tower completed on the 16-acre WTC site when it opens in Fall 2013.

Last week, President Obama visited 1 World Trade Center for an update on the project’s progress. He gave a speech and signed the beam that would top the country’s maybe-tallest tower. We'll have to wait until next week before the beam is hoisted into place.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the site, 4 World Trade Center was quietly rising. Today, Silverstein Properties announced that the tower will have its topping out ceremony this Monday, when the building reaches its final height of 977 feet.

When building buildings, especially symbolic ones, every little milestone tends to be freighted with attention.

        The building reaches street level. 
        The building is halfway. 
        It has its first glass. 
        It has reached a hundred stories. 
        It is taller than any other.
This is ignoring dozens of other benchmarks, no doubt. Whether we want to or not, no one can help but care deeply about these projects.

But in the construction industry, only three really count:
  1. Groundbreaking
  2. Topping out
  3. Opening
We are about to get two of those at the most watched construction project since the Tower of Babel.

Does it matter who gets there first?

With their varying heights, time lines, designs, delays, developers, interests and complexities, it would be a mistake to compare these two just because they are a few hundred yards apart and are the remnants of the same terrorist attack.

If anything, this is a happy coincidence, another moment of celebration at a site where once there was only mourning, another step closer to the World Trade Center just being another piece of New York again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Labor Deal Reached For $6 Billion Tappan Zee Project

An agreement with labor unions paves the way for Governor Cuomo's signature capital project, a new Tappan Zee Bridge costing $6 billion. The PLA reached with 14 labor organizations calls contains a no-strike pledge and includes $452 million in savings for the state, achieved via work-rule changes. Key provisions include a straight 40-hour work week, flexible scheduling, more apprentices allowed on the job; and standardized holidays.

The Cuomo administration has reached a deal with building trades unions that could save the state nearly half a billion dollars on its ambitious Tappan Zee Bridge project and guarantees that labor disruptions won't mar the construction.

The project labor agreement, or PLA, was approved after twice failing to gain the favor of the unions.

Labor leaders had opposed a state plan to cut, bend and fabricate the reinforcing steel for the bridge in an offsite factory instead of having the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46 do the work on or near the bridge. The union feared the original state plan would deprive its members of $40 million in wages and benefits.

"Replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge represents one of the largest public infrastructure projects in the nation, and the agreement reached today will allow thousands of New York's working men and women to secure good jobs building a new, safer bridge," Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

In addition to a no-strike pledge, the deal reached with 14 labor organizations includes $452 million in savings for the state, achieved via work-rule changes and other means. Local 46 gave the state the same 15% wage and benefit reduction it offered earlier this year in its private contracts.

Key provisions in the deal include a straight 40-hour work week, including flexible scheduling; more apprentices allowed on the job; and standardized holidays.

"I'm very happy the governor's office worked with the union to get the best possible deal for the taxpayers," said Terrence Moore, Local 46's business manager.

Howard Milstein, chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority, which has jurisdiction over the project, said the deal was good for both taxpayers and workers. "It ensures that we will have reliable, local labor for the duration of the construction project," he said.

Earlier this month, construction trades councils in Rockland and Westchester counties overwhelmingly voted down the PLA. But the Cuomo administration reversed course on moving work traditionally done by Local 46 upstate, paving the way for a deal.

It's not clear why the state pushed for the off-site rebar work, but one possibility is that it would have created jobs upstate and helped the governor sell the $6 billion project in sections of New York that might otherwise be skeptical of such a large downstate expenditure.

The move could have also lowered costs. The wages could have been significantly lower if the off-site jobs did not pay prevailing wages. Local 46, whose jurisdiction includes New York City, has been a perennial target of major construction managers, who argue that its contracts protect an outdated business model.
Labor sources believe some of those contractors may have pressed the Cuomo administration to use the Tappan Zee to help establish a new standard.

But after the councils voted the PLA down in early June, the Cuomo administration faced the possibility that labor turmoil could have disrupted its signature economic development initiative. It still needs to figure out how to finance the project, but at least one potential headache has now been alleviated.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brooklyn Bridge Park Developers To Be Revealed

The team selected to develop a residential building and a hotel at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park will likely be made up of Toll Brothers and Starwood Capital Group. The Pier 1 development will be made up of a hotel with up to 225 rooms, an 180-unit apartment complex, 300 parking spaces and a 17,500-square-foot restaurant/café. Construction will begin early in 2013.

Earlier this year, the number of developers competing to build and operate the site was winnowed down to three from seven.

The three finalists were teams led by The Dermot Company, Toll Brothers, and Starwood Capital. Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp., the entity responsible for the planning, building and maintenance of the 9.5-acre waterfront park, is still negotiating closely with all three teams and its final decision may result in a combination of different submitted plans.

The search for a developer of Pier 1 began in August, when the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. issued a request for proposals. The winner is expected to be announced at the board of directors meeting next week.

In November, the Brooklyn Bridge Corp. released renderings and site plans for the seven proposals that were submitted ahead of the Oct. 24 deadline. Toll Brother's hotel partner was Hampshire Hotels and Resorts, which is behind the Dream Hotel brand in Manhattan. Starwood Capital, whose hotels include the St. Regis in Manhattan, teamed up with Alloy Development. Each group also has its own design team and architect. Toll has Rogers Marvel and Starwood has Bernheimer Architects and n Architects. It could not be determined what design was selected.

The Pier 1 development will be made up of a hotel with 170 to 225 rooms and a 150- to 180-unit apartment complex. The number of hotel rooms would decrease proportionately as the number of residential units increase and vice versa, according to the request for proposals. The project is also required to include 300 parking spaces and will boast a 17,500-square-foot restaurant/café. The developer would also have to follow maximum height guidelines of 100 feet for one portion of the site and 55 feet for the other, adjacent portion as well as observe square footage limits.

Construction is expected to begin early in 2013 and be completed two years later. The Pier 1 development is expected to play an important role in funding the maintenance and operating expenses of the entire park.

Rounding out the seven developers that submitted proposals to develop the site were Extell Development, RAL Companies, SDS Procida and Two Trees Management. Those groups did not make the final cut, according to sources. Two Trees is currently negotiating to buy the troubled Domino Sugar factory site.
Images from each proposal appear in the slideshow below./a>
Pier 1, which opened in March 2010, is Brooklyn Bridge Park's largest pier and the only one built on landfill as opposed to the others which are built on piles. The pier features two large lawns, which hosts free summer movies and other events. Last week, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy hosted its fundraiser, called Sunset Bhangra, there.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bloomberg Reveals $3 Billion Willets Point Plan

After years of fits and starts, the city has settled on a deal to revitalize a portion of Willets Point. It has agreed to terms with two major developers on the $3 billion project. The 62-acre project is expected to generate $3 billion in investment and create 12,000 union construction jobs and 7,100 permanent jobs. It's expected to bring in $310 million in construction tax revenues and $150 million in annual tax revenues.

Because rundown Willets Point is far from ready to attract homebuyers, Related and Sterling will push back the housing component of the plan, a decision that has upset local elected officials. The developers will start by spending up to two years cleaning up a 23-acre swath of Willets that needs extensive remediation—nearly twice the 12-plus acres called for in the city's request for proposals. The developers then plan to build a 200-room hotel just to the east of CitiField along 126th Street, as well as a retail strip and temporary parking lots.

After that, they will add a new component to the project—an approximately 1 million-square-foot retail and entertainment complex on the parking lot just west of CitiField. Tentatively called Willets West, the mall will connect Willets Point and CitiField to Corona, expanding the scope of the redevelopment and creating thousands more jobs.

Once the mall west of CitiField is built, the developers plan to start construction of up to 2,500 housing units, 35% of which would be affordable, and more retail space east of the stadium. In all, the project entails 5 million square feet of new development.

The city negotiated for a clause that would force the developers to pay $35 million if they don't break ground on the housing according to the timetable set by the Bloomberg administration. The city could also replace the developers at that point.

"Unlike any other proposal, it includes everything we were looking for in the first phase, exactly as envisioned and approved by the community and City Council back in 2008," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a breakfast sponsored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce. "Does it include everything on everyone's wish list and on the time line we were hoping for? No. But it is a strong proposal that will allow us to completely transform Willets Point into a vibrant community and destination."

The developers did not pay anything for the land, prompting opponents of the project to contend that the city reversed course. They pointed to a 2008 City Council hearing, where under questioning from then-City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber said the city's "goal would be to get the city taxpayer money back."

The city estimated that the project would generate $3 billion in private investment and create 12,000 union construction jobs and 7,100 permanent jobs. It's expected to bring in $310 million in construction tax revenues and $150 million in annual tax revenues. "The market responded to what is feasible, and this is a clear, achievable path to the vision that the City Council approved," said a spokeswoman for the city's Economic Development Corp.

The new project will need the approval of the City Council, which must approve zoning adjustments pertaining to the temporary parking lots. In order to speed the development process, the project will not go through the city's laborious land-use review process again.

"After all of the controversy, after all of the anxiety and after all of the effort to remove people from their property, for a project that was supposed to be for all kinds of public benefits, all we are left with is a mall—a $3 billion mall that the city is giving as a gift to two developers," said Jake Bono, a property owner and spokesman for Willets Point United. "We fully expect and hope that the City Council will send this newly conceived Willets Point project into the wastebasket, where it properly belongs."

At the breakfast, Mayor Bloomberg said at that the city had acquired more land from property owners in the phase-one area, upping its control to 95%. The city wants to avoid condemning land through eminent domain, but hasn't ruled it out. Five parcels, controlled by four owners, remain in private hands. Officials are in discussions with three of the owners.

 The Related/Sterling plan was the only one of four proposals the city received that didn't seek substantial subsidies, a rezoning or continued city liability at the site. The city's budget for the project hasn't changed—it still has about $400 million earmarked—but some of that money will be moved around to help the developers with remediation and infrastructure. Economic activity from the initial parts of Related/Sterling project will allow the city to put $65 million into its capital budget for 2020 to build Van Wyck Expressway ramps that must accompany the housing.

The selection of the Related/Sterling plan virtually ensures that one of Mr. Bloomberg's signature economic development initiatives will not get off the ground before he leaves office. Assuming approvals are granted, the new plan calls for remediation to begin in 2014.

The challenges of Willets Point have bedeviled officials for decades. In 2007, Mr. Bloomberg appeared to be on his way to a solution, calling the area's future "very bright indeed." But his ambitious plan for 5,500 units of housing, 500,000 square feet of office space, and 1.7 million square feet of retail space, hotels and a convention center was based largely on a real estate boom that abruptly ended. The city then broke the project into phases. The first one finally appears to be on track.

"Willets Point is one of those things that's gone on and on and on," Mr. Bloomberg said. "It may have taken a long time but we are going ahead with a plan that is very innovative, creative, fits the needs, is affordable and we have guarantees this is going to get done on time, on budget, on schedule and make a very big difference in our city."

Friday, June 15, 2012

$500M Renovation for National Tennis Center

The U.S. Tennis Association will spend $500 million to reconstruct two stadiums and update infrastructure at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The renovations will add capacity for an extra 140,000 during the annual, US Open's two-week Grand Slam event. The impact of renovations on the 42-acre tennis hub, specifically for the Louis Armstrong and Grandstand stadiums, will be a boost to the local economy.

An estimated 700,000 people attend the US Open yearly, but after construction, the tennis center will hold an extra 10,000 people each day for the two-week Grand Slam event. Louis Armstrong Stadium will be rebuilt on its 125,000-square-foot plot, but its seating will grow by 50%, to 15,000. The Grandstand will move from the east side of the property to the southwest corner, growing in capacity by 2,000 seats along the way.

"The US Open is one of the city's greatest sporting events, and it generates more than $750 million a year in economic activity," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.

The event provides more than 5,000 seasonal jobs for New Yorkers, putting $40 million directly and indirectly into the pockets of Queens employees.

The total footprint of the tennis center will grow by about an acre, with the reconstructed Grandstand expanding by 12,000 square feet. Movement of some tournament courts to the south will add 33,000 square feet, replacing grass and one of United Nations Avenue's three lanes. There will also be more retail, administrative and parking space within the site's current space.

"Our goal remains to ensure that the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center remains a world-class facility," said Jon Vegosen, president of the USTA in the statement.

The USTA, which will find its own funding for the upgrades, hopes to begin construction after the 2013 tournament and complete the project by 2018. Tournaments will continue to be held during the five-year period because much of the construction can be done during the off-season. Louis Armstrong Stadium poses the biggest challenge, as it has to be rebuilt where it is razed.

Both stadiums were built for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. While the USTA has invested $500 million in the tennis center's upkeep since 1978, it says the overhaul is necessary to remain competitive with similar stadiums and events around the world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Three Electricians Injured in Panel Explosion at Hilton

An electrical explosion rocked the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan Wednesday, leaving three people with injuries and knocking power out for hours. Three workers tending to an electrical panel in the basement of the hotel were hurt in the blast.

An explosion at a Midtown hotel Wednesday afternoon sent people running into the streets, while others were stuck inside an elevator.

Three electricians from H & L Electric were working on a pair of panel boards in the basement of the Hilton New York on West 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue, suffered minor injuries after something caused a spark, which was followed by a loud boom.   

One of the electricians suffered a burn to his hand, another worker was struck in the head during the blast and a third worker suffered unspecified injuries described as minor.

More than 60 firefighters responded to the scene. Responders searched the building's elevators and meeting rooms to make sure everyone got out. Responders rescued nine people from stalled elevators, and people in the lobby were given green glow sticks.

A spokesperson for Fire Department said that some guests stayed in their rooms, but some who fled in elevators were briefly trapped as the power went from main to back-up.  One hotel employee was trapped in an elevator for two hours.

Firefighters had to search 24 elevators. Communication was an issue, so special units were called in. There were approximately 3,000 people in the fully occupied hotel at the time of the explosion.

Witnesses described the lights going out and then, 15 seconds later, hearing what sounded like a series of gunshots. Shortly thereafter, they heard a public address announcement indicating there was a fire.

As of Wednesday night, the hotel said that all guest floors and guest rooms have power, but the lobby currently has only temporary lighting.  There is still no word on when there will be full power restoration.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Houston Developer Finds Cash for Bryant Park Tower

Houston-based developer, Hines is close to a deal with JPMorgan Chase to provide construction financing for its planned 470,000-square-foot, 28-story tower across from Bryant Park. The property's relatively modest size is seen as easing the path to funding. Construction could start as early this fall.

Houston-based developer, Hines has reached a deal with JPMorgan Chase to get financing for a planned 470,000-square-foot office tower on Sixth Avenue, overlooking Bryant Park.

It is unclear how much JPMorgan had pledged to lend the developer and its partner, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, to build the 28-story tower that will be known as 7 Bryant Park. Pacolet, a private, family-run investment company has owned the land since 1954.

Any loan would be quite an accomplishment for Houston-based Hines, or any other developer, because lenders hate to open the purse strings for speculative office towers.

Nevertheless, while some of the developers, including Brookfield Office Properties, Silverstein Properties and The Related Cos., need tenants to commit to leasing around 500,000 square feet of space in their respectively huge planned projects to make the developments financially viable, Hines does not need a tenant anywhere near that big.

However, it will still face competition for tenants from other new buildings that are under construction, such Minskoff Development's property at Astor Place in the East Village and Boston Properties' project at 250 West 55th Street.

Hines has tapped architecture firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners to design the steel and glass building. It noted that construction could start as early this fall and be ready for tenants as early as 2014.

Hines is close to securing financing for the luxury residential tower it plans to construct across the street from the Museum of Modern Art.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cuomo's Tappan Zee Plan Triggers Union Backlash

Governor Cuomo's proposal for a new Tappan Zee Bridge, already criticized for its fuzzy funding plan and lack of mass transit, now has another problem: a rift with organized labor that threatens to throw the project into turmoil. Union leaders say members would lose $40 million in wages and benefits if the state relocates rebar work for the $6 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.

Construction trades councils in Rockland and Westchester counties last week overwhelmingly voted down a project labor agreement, or PLA, proposed for the new bridge that would've eased union wage and work rules. The Cuomo administration's insistence on shifting much of the work away from Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46 prompted rejections by 30 of the 36 trades that voted.

The state wants to cut, bend and fabricate the reinforcing steel for the project off site, possibly upstate, instead of on or near the bridge. It's not exactly clear why, but one possibility is that it would create jobs upstate and help the governor sell the project in sections of New York that might otherwise be skeptical of such a large downstate expenditure. It could also mean a big payday for an upstate company, or a federally defined "disadvantaged business" that could be created there to do the work.

The state's move could also lower costs, though it's not clear by how much. Local 46 recently reopened its contract and agreed to cut wages and benefits by 15% on private projects and offered the same deal for the Tappan Zee. Even with the discount, the labor in a place like, say, Buffalo would could cost about $25 an hour less, though shipping the material nearly 400 miles to the bridge site would add an expense.

Also, if the union cuts its rates on the Tappan Zee, it would establish a new, lower prevailing wage that would save money on other public projects.

A push by business groups for any off site jobs not to pay prevailing wages is also possible. A letter to Mr. Cuomo last month by a statewide business coalition opposed extending prevailing wage to public works where materials are fabricated off site. It did not specifically mention the Tappan Zee project.

Local 46, whose jurisdiction includes New York City, has been a perennial target of major construction managers, who argue that its contracts protect an outdated business model. Labor sources believe some of those contractors may be pressuring the Cuomo administration to use the Tappan Zee to help establish a new standard.
The administration could also attribute an off site work plan to the Federal Highway Administration's insistence that no provision in the PLA may restrict competition. Other federal projects along Interstate 287 have included protections for Local 46 members, but they have not been as large as the Tappan Zee.

In a letter to Sen. Charles Schumer, Local 46 Business Manager Terrence Moore wrote that carving his members out of the cutting, bending and fabricating of rebar for the bridge would deprive them of more than $40 million in wages and benefits.
"It would be suicide for our local to support a PLA that deprived our members of much of the work that they should be doing in connection with this project," he wrote.

Last week, Mr. Moore gave a 50-minute speech before the vote by the Rockland County Building & Construction Trades Council and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester and Putnam, swaying other unions to his side.

It's not clear how much the lack of a labor deal will affect or delay the project. Questions about whether the state is circumventing the competitive bidding process could also lead to legal challenges.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dumbo Developer to Buy Stalled Domino Sugar Site

Two Trees Management has signed preliminary papers to purchase the sprawling Domino Sugar factory site in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for $160 million. In a deal that could close as soon as the end of next week, Dumbo's biggest developer will take over the stalled project from CPC Resources and its partner, The Katan Group.

Despite recent efforts to save the by making the project's lender, Pacific Coast Capital Partners, an equity partner, and looking for a deep-pocketed developer to inject additional cash into the project, CPC wants to get out of the project.

"The market told us that now is the time to sell the property outright," said Rafael Cestero, chief executive of CPC, adding that since taking over the firm in January, his goal has been to rebuild the troubled CPC as an affordable housing lender and to make sure that the Domino site gets developed. "Two Trees understands waterfront development, is well-capitalized and is the best chance for this site to get developed into the mixed-income, mixed-use community it was intended to be."

See [ElectricWeb | Blogger,  May 26, 2011], [ElectricWeb | Blogger,  Apr 21, 2012]

Mr. Cestero said within the past six weeks CPC had received about a half a dozen offers to buy the site. A spokesman for Two Trees declined to comment. Two Trees is responsible for transforming the once-gritty waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo into a thriving community.

CPC has presented the offer to its partner, The Katan Group, which had sued CPC for mismanaging the project and asked the court to block CPC's earlier efforts to salvage the project. Last month, the court ruled against Katan, but since then, Katan has appealed the ruling and filed other suits against CPC.

"We are studying the possible deal, but one thing is already obvious: CPC is undervaluing the asset yet again. As we have said numerous times in court papers, CPC has mismanaged the asset and has wasted millions of dollars, " Y. David Scharf, a partner at the law firm of Morrison Cohen, who represents the Katan Group, said in a statement. "Should CPC seek to go through with the Two Trees transaction over Katan Group's objection, we will seek to enjoin that transaction. Katan has already exercised its right of first refusal and we will not stand idly by as CPC attempts to end-run that right with this new deal."

Mr. Cestero said under its joint venture agreement with the Katan Group, while CPC needs to consult and notify Katan of the sale, Katan does not need to agree to the sale for the deal with Two Trees to proceed.

Five years ago, Katan and CPC partnered to buy the 11.2-acre sugar-factory site for $55 million and convert it into a $2 billion, mixed-use development that would feature 2,200 apartments, 30% of them affordable, and four acres of open space. Those plans also called for restoration of the 100-year-old industrial landmark's famous sign, which looms over the East River. They faced many difficulties, including a long and costly effort to have the site rezoned to residential. The new owner would be required to follow those zoning guidelines, Mr. Cestero said.

If the sale goes through, the $160 million deal would be enough to cover the outstanding mortgage and interest of $125 million on the property. Mr. Cestero says it would also provide a return on capital plus a little bit more to the equity partners in the project. If all goes as planned, the sale could be finalized by the end of next week, he said.

According to Mr. Scharf, the Two Trees deal would not be that simple to pull off. "This new deal contains significant contingencies that could prevent it from ever being closed, leaving the project in limbo," he said in a statement.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cuomo Weighs Convention, Casino Complex on Pier 76

Pier 76 is home to the Police Department's tow pound and horse stables. But in the near future, it could become an extension of the neighboring Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, complete with a grand casino and luxury hotels.

Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to tear Javits down. Now the center's supporters, and perhaps even the governor, are weighing plans to expand the facility and make it part of a massive development project that will include a Las Vegas-style casino, hotels and retail along the Hudson River. The plan is gaining support from many corners, including individual members of Friends of the Hudson River Park Trust.

It's not an entirely new idea—parts of it first surfaced 20 years ago—but it's gaining renewed interest now that exclusive talks between the governor and casino operator Genting Americas about building such a facility at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens have ceased and an open bidding process for a mega-convention center in the city seems to be in the works.

All proposals suddenly are fair game, from plans to expand Javits to proposals to bring gamblers and conventioneers to sites ranging from Willets Point and Sunnyside, Queens, to the Yonkers Raceway in Westchester County to even Governors Island, which MGM looked at 14 years ago as a possible location for a casino.

Javits is currently undergoing a $463 million expansion and renovation. A further expansion has wide support from trade show and convention industry executives, who had been sidelined from earlier discussions with the governor and are now talking with all the major casino operators.

The Javits plan has one big booster in William Wachtel, a well-connected real estate attorney who also owns a commuter ferry business, BillyBey Ferry Co., at nearby Pier 79 off 12th Avenue, a short walk from Javits.

Six years ago, Mr. Wachtel tried to interest public officials in a design he had commissioned that connects Javits to Pier 76 via a skywalk over the West Side Highway and replaces the tow pound at the pier with more than 1 million square feet of hotel, banquet and retail space, a winter garden, a 2.4-acre public park and an 800-car garage.

It has also been identified by the operators of the London Eye as a possible spot for New York's own Ferris wheel.

The idea also has plenty of competition and could face fierce political opposition. The biggest casino companies in the world are now exploring their options. MGM Resorts International, for one, recently hired New York-based public relations and lobbying firms to represent it here.

Others, such as Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands Corp., have also publicly expressed interest in New York.

According to the Regional Plan Association, an urban development advocacy group, there are at least four viable sites in the city for the mega-project, including Aqueduct. The other locations RPA identified are closer to Manhattan than Aqueduct, which is one hour away by subway.

Willets Point, the 61-acre site in northeast Queens slated for redevelopment by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is seen as the trade show industry's first choice for a huge convention center—in addition to keeping Javits.

The city is close to a deal with the Related Cos. and New York Mets owner Sterling Equities to develop 12 acres at the site, which would include retail and residential units, but many hurdles remain, including a yearlong environmental study and City Council approval.

Sunnyside Yards in Long Island City, Queens, was suggested in 2007 as a possible site for relocating Javits. There is a 167-acre space, much of it used by Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road. The area is largely zoned for manufacturing. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's East Side Access project, once completed, will make the yards even more desirable for development once trains connect from Long Island City to Grand Central Terminal.

Governors Island is the least likely of the options, because it can be accessed only by ferry. Convention centers require easy access by 18-wheel trucks.

The biggest impediment to a casino and convention hall project, however, is not a dearth of good sites but whether a constitutional amendment allowing full-scale gambling will pass in New York. The Legislature passed a proposed amendment this year to allow up to seven full casinos. A second vote must occur next year to confirm the intention; then New York voters would get their chance to weigh in on changing the state's constitution to legalize casino card games, roulette wheels, craps tables and other types of gaming.

What's more, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has voiced opposition to locating a casino in Manhattan.

Casino operators will most likely lose interest in New York—and their desire to fund a massive convention center—if the law is not enacted.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Major Approval for NYU Campus Expansion

Despite widespread community opposition, New York University's plan to grow its Greenwich Village campus by roughly 2 million square feet moved one-step closer to becoming a reality. The Department of City Planning approved the plan Wednesday morning with some modifications. There was only one dissenting vote.
The thumbs up comes two months after Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer approved NYU's plan with some recommended modifications, which the school agreed to make.

Less than a month before, Community Board 2 had voted unanimously against the school's expansion. City Planning Commission's modifications to the NYU plan include a mix of changes, some of which reflect Mr. Stringer's recommendations and some, which are new.

The alterations include the elimination of the hotel that had been planned for the school's proposed zipper-shaped building on Mercer Street, the removal of some dormitory space, the elimination of a temporary gym and the rejecting NYU's request to be allowed to add more retail space east of Washington Square Park.

In addition, the commission called for the creation of an Open Space Oversight Organization to oversee and monitor the public spaces. In total, NYU will have to shave about 300,000 square feet off its original proposal.

"The commission's review of NYU's application has been careful and deliberative, and we have greatly benefitted from the thoughtful input from Manhattan Community Board 2, from the borough president of Manhattan, from residents of the area, and from community organizations," said City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden in a statement. "I am confident that the`ted into the neighborhood while meeting NYU's significant need for new and modern space."

As part of its ambitious expansion plan, NYU proposes to build four new buildings in Greenwich Village. While the hotel was eliminated from its planned zipper building, it will remain a 1 million-square-foot dormitory and academic building as well as home to a new 280,000-square-foot Tisch School performing arts center and athletic center. NYU will also have to forego 55,000 square feet of dormitory space that would have been added below the Bleecker Building, where the public school will go. On the north block in between Washington Square Village, the school will only be allowed to build on property it owns, therefore reducing its planned square footage by 24% to 585,000 square feet. Additionally, the height of its proposed Mercer Building is cut to 162,000 square foot from 218,000.

NYU's expansion has generated a slew of criticism from area residents and preservationists as well as several hundred faculty members. The university's expansion will be a 20-year effort that will take place in two phases. The revised plan will now move to the City Council and then mayor for final vote. Opponents of the plan are still hopeful that the expansion can be stopped.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Massive Seward Park Project Gets Green Light

After more than 40 years, the massive Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Project in the Lower East Side moved one important step closer to becoming a reality. Community Board 3 voted in favor of a plan to turn seven city-owned acres just south of the Williamsburg Bridge into a 1.7 million-square-foot, mixed-use development. 

The project calls for turning five vacant city-owned lots, totaling seven acres just south of Delancey Street, near the Williamsburg Bridge, into a 1.65 million-square-foot, mixed-use development made up of 40% commercial and 60% residential.

The residential portion of the development will be comprised of roughly 900 apartments, half of which will be affordable. Altogether, this would be one of the biggest redevelopment projects in Manhattan on city-owned land in decades.

The community board approved the plan under the condition that the affordable housing be permanent instead of just for 30 to 60 years as had been suggested earlier. The city agreed to the stipulation. Affordable housing has been a major obstacle for the project in the past. Previously, many in the community insisted that 100% of the apartments be affordable. Most now accept that some market rate apartments are needed to make the project financially feasible.

The vote is just the first step in a complex public approval process, known as the Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure, which is expected to be completed in the fall. The City Council and mayor have the final approval. If the project were given the green light, the next step would be for the city to issue a formal request for proposals to find a developer to take on the project.

"Over the course of the last three years, it has been made abundantly clear that the issue of permanent affordability was one of, if not the, highest priority for this community board and Lower East Side residents," said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the area, in a statement.

Aside from affordable housing, the community was also very concerned about remaining actively involved in the Seward Park development.
While the issues over affordability and community involvement have been settled for now, new concerns have emerged. Some residents would like to see a school added to the development and others would like to make sure that the retail space would not go to a big-box store.

The plan will now move to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for his review and recommendations.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wage Snafu Adds Billions to Project Costs

A scathing report from Columbia University charges that misapplication of the prevailing wage law has been improperly setting wages at construction projects that do not require it - adding up to $3 billion a year to public construction projects across the city. 

The 45-page report from the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia University argues that prevailing wages in New York are miscalculated and urges reforms that would peg the rates to federally published data on average wages.

Under state law, prevailing wage is set at the rate in a union contract that covers at least 30% of the workers in a trade and locality. Yet the report contends that in many instances, prevailing wages are being set even when 30% of the workers are not covered by union agreements.

The underlying premise of prevailing wage legislation is not a bad one—that if you are pouring government money into an area, then you need to be sure that money does not undermine the labor market. Nevertheless, almost surely, 30% is not met in many cases because unionization in construction is on the decline.

The paper argues that data shows construction unions represent considerably less than 30% of the construction workforce throughout the state, as well as in most, if not all, localities, including the city. An analysis of federal stats by that shows 25.9% of construction workers statewide were covered by union contracts in 2011, while only 23.6% of construction workers in the New York City area were covered by such agreements.

In the New York City, the 30% threshold for collective bargaining coverage was last met in 2002—a decade ago, the report argues.

The report says that prevailing wages increase the cost of development by up to 30%, leaving the state unable to afford much-needed infrastructure work. It recommends that where the prevailing wage threshold is not met, wages should be set using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics mean wages, plus up to 40% for fringe benefits.

Where the 30% threshold is met, contracts should be made available to the public so taxpayers know exactly how the rates are being determined, the report contends.

The report was funded by the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, the trade association for the state's affordable housing industry. Affordable housing is not covered by prevailing wage law, but the group beat back an attempt last year in the state Legislature to impose prevailing wage mandates on construction of certain affordable housing projects that receive tax abatements.

Last month, a new bill was introduced that would impose prevailing wage on affordable housing projects of greater than 80 units.

Supporters of prevailing wages said the report erred by using data for the New York metropolitan area rather than the city, where the unionized construction workforce is stronger.

Prevailing wage supporters also argued that using federally published mean wages is not a fair way of determining what workers should earn on government-funded projects. The mean wage picks up workers whose skill levels are not comparable to those who work on most of the projects.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Two Construction Workers injured in Explosion

An explosion rocked one of the busiest retail, tourist areas of Manhattan, leaving two construction workers hurt, and hundreds running to safety near the High Line elevated park. A pair of construction workers was removing old gas tanks from the Chelsea site, a former Mobil gas station, when the explosion occurred Friday morning. The explosion sparked terror concerns among eyewitnesses.

It happened in an 18-foot deep crater around 10:30 this morning. Most of the hole had already been dug by a front-end loader to help the 15 workers on the site of a former gas station under the High Line remove six 6,000-gallon gas tanks. However, the hole took an extra impact, while the workers were doing their job.

At the scene, the impact of the violent explosion threw two workers against the fence of the former Mobil gas station that is being environmentally rehabilitated in order to be converted into shops. 
Medics took the men to Bellevue Hospital to check for internal injuries they may have suffered from the impact.

The area is full of shoppers, workers and tourists just about all of the time, with the Apple Store at one end of the block, Chelsea Market next door, and the very popular High Line Park running through Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, where this took place. Nevertheless, on a pleasant and sunny Friday, the area was particularly crowded when it was shaken up.

Among many people who ran away or thought they had to, just one thing went through their minds. "A bomb," said one eyewitness. "Of course you know you're always thinking about that, especially where we're at."

The two injured men walked into the waiting ambulances workers were taken to Bellevue Hospital with minor injuries, a Police Department representative said.

Inspectors from the Department of Buildings issued a stop work order for the site while they check to ensure the scene is safe.

Inspectors and fire officials closed off the area where the explosion took place, at 450 West 14th Street, near 10th Avenue, and stayed on the scene for hours after the explosion to make sure the support pillars of the High Line, which surround the impact zone, are secure. They determined that they were, and by 1:30 in the afternoon, the world-famous elevated park reopened.

A spokesperson for the High Line said. "All is well, and the park is structurally sound." The park runs above the site where the explosion occurred.