Sunday, September 30, 2012

Montefiore Plans New 12-Story Bronx Facility

A new ambulatory surgery center will fill the 12-story, 278,000-square-foot building slated to rise at Simone Development's growing Hutchinson Metro Center campus, in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx. Montefiore is planning to spend $142.3 million on what will be its first freestanding ambulatory surgery center. 

The hospital is seeking state permission to build the facility at 1250 Waters Place in the Bronx, the second new tower of the growing Hutchinson Metro Center campus, as reported in ElectricWeb | Blogger (Sept 19, 2012).

Montefiore has an agreement to lease a 12-story, 278,000-square-foot building to be constructed at the site along the Hutchinson River Parkway. Simone Development is the owner of Hutchinson Metro Center.

Total project costs will be funded with a $35 million lease from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York; $14.3 million in cash; and a $93 million construction loan from M&T Bank.

The project won approval on September 19 from the Establishment and Project Review Committee of the Public Health and Health Planning Council. The plan calls for relocating some of Montefiore's ambulatory surgery cases from operating rooms at its hospitals to what it calls a "more efficient and patient-friendly environment."

The patient experience is a key factor driving the project. Improving access to care and patient satisfaction would "retain patients in the system, critical to an accountable care organization," Montefiore noted in its certificate of need application.

The proposed center will have 12 operating rooms; four procedure rooms; space for pre-op testing, laboratory services, pharmacy, outpatient surgical specialty clinical programs, and primary care services; and an outpatient imaging center.

Montefiore is making the investment to meet rising demand for ambulatory surgery services. Volume at its three campuses rose by 6.5% between 2008 and 2012, while during that period, inpatient surgical discharges rose only 1.5%.

The hospital projects that by the third year, the site will generate $11.7 million in profit.

Hospital expansions create jobs. Montefiore estimates the center will result in an additional 260 employees in the first year and 538 by the third.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Woodbury Commons Mall for Brooklyn Waterfront?

Interest among developers in bringing a Woodbury Commons-like outlet mall to the city appears to be ballooning, with three real estate companies now vying to build New York's first discount shopping—each with its own borough in mind. Following similar proposals from Staten Island and the Bronx, one Brooklyn landlord thinks that their property next to Ikea in Red Hook would be even better.

Following recent reports that the Lightstone Group has its eye on the Bronx and that BFC Partners is pitching his own project on Staten Island, reports are that Thor Equities is mulling the possibility of adding an outlet mall along the Brooklyn waterfront.

"New York definitely needs one," said Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities, adding that a handful of developers and more than a dozen retailers have approached him in recent months about transforming the site of the former Revere Sugary Refinery in Red Hook into a spot for discount duds. "And Brooklyn would probably be the most successful location."

Mr. Sitt has proposed several ambitious projects in the past for the 660,000-square-foot parcel he owns between the Ikea superstore and Fairway supermarket in Red Hook. His earlier proposals include a BJ's Wholesale Club and a student-housing complex. Thor Equities has not committed to an outlet mall at the site. "So far, we've just been listening to the sudden blitz of interest."

Thor's potential rivals in the Bronx and Staten Island appear to be much further along in their plans. The Lightstone Group, which paid $30 million for a nearly 1-million-square-foot property in the Bronx's Castle Hill neighborhood in May, has already met with borough officials. The Manhattan real estate company would not need any government approvals to build a mall because it is an as-of-right site that is already zoned for all commercial uses except large outdoor amusements.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Bloomberg administration is in "advanced talks" with BFC Partners about building a 500,000-square-foot outlet mall near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. But no deal on the proposal has been reached.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Staten Island to Get World's Tallest Ferris Wheel

Staten Island's ferry terminal will be getting the world's tallest Ferris wheel as well as a little something next door along the north shore waterfront—a huge retail outlet mall and 200 room hotel. The two projects will spur a total of $480 million in private investment and create more than 1,200 construction and 1,100 permanent jobs.

The New York Wheel, which will rise 625 feet high and surpass the London Eye and Singapore Flyer in height, will be built on a city-owned site north of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark in St. George.

Meanwhile, south of the ballpark local developer BFC Partners will invest $230 million to build Harbor Commons, an outlet mall of up to 350,000 square feet with 100 stores, a 1,250-car garage, and a 200-room hotel replete with a 15,000 square foot banquet facility.

Both sites are currently used for parking. The two projects will spur a total of $480 million in private investment and create more than 1,200 construction and 1,100 permanent jobs.
"Our Administration has made major investments all along the North Shore of Staten Island, because we know this area is full of potential for economic growth," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a statement. "But this newest plan is the most exciting of all. The New York Wheel will be an attraction unlike any other in New York City—even unlike any other on the planet. It will offer unparalleled and breathtaking views, and is sure to become one of the premier attractions in New York City and the latest exciting addition to our newly revitalized waterfront."
The wheel, which will operate year-round, will boast 36 capsules each carrying up to 40 passengers for rides that last up to 38 minutes. Netherlands-based Starneth, which worked on the London Eye, and Perkins Eastman will be the architects, engineers and designers of the wheel. The wheel is expected to attract as many as 30,000 riders per day during the peak season and 4.5 million people a year. At the base of the wheel will be a 100,000 square foot building with commercial, retail and exhibition space. It will apply for Platinum LEED certification and have a 950-space parking garage with a green roof.
"The New York Wheel is destined to become one of the City's—and the world's—great landmark attractions," said Richard Marin, president and CEO of the New York Wheel, an investor group that the city has partnered with to build the wheel.
Harbor Commons will be designed by SHoP Architects and managed and marketed by EWB Development, a provider of outlet mall services, and Staten Island-based brokerage Casandra Properties.

"As the first ever designer outlet complex in New York City, the development of Harbor Commons will provide a once in a lifetime opportunity for specialty retailers to expand their stake in the most vibrant market in the country," said Donald Capoccia, managing principal and founder of BFC Partners.

New York Wheel and BFC have signed 99-year leases with the city and combined they will pay $2.5 million a year in rent to the city. That rent is expected to increase when the ride opens and when certain revenue goals are met. Both developers will also contribute $300,000 to upkeep and maintain the waterfront esplanade.

Construction on Harbor Commons and the hotel are expected to begin late next year with a 2016 completion date, according to BFC. The New York Wheel is aiming for a grand opening by early 2016.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

$56M Contract Awarded for East Side Access Ventilation Facility

The MTA announced Monday that it awarded a $56 million contract to build a ventilation facility for the tunnels that will carry Long Island Rail Road trains to Grand Central Terminal. The contract was awarded to Schiavone/Picone of Secaucus. The civil engineering company is a joint venture of Schiavone Construction Co. and John P. Picone, Inc. The facility, which is slated to be finished in April 2015, will be constructed completely underground at East 55th Street in Manhattan, between Park and Madison avenues. 

As part of East Side Access project, ventilation facilities are also being built between Park and Madison avenues at 37th, 44th and 50th streets. Another facility is under construction along 63rd Street at York and Second avenues.

The new East 55th Street facility also will provide ventilation for Grand Central's new LIRR passenger concourse. Seventy percent of the jobs in central Manhattan are within walking distance of Grand Central Terminal, located on the east side of Manhattan.

The East Side Access Project was conceived by MTA's Long Island Railroad to provide Long Island-based commuters with a "one seat ride" to the east side of Manhattan. The newly bored tunnels in Manhattan cross beneath operating transit lines and some of the most expensive real estate in the world

The $6 Billion project includes:
  • 2-miles of tunnel boring through soft ground in Queens
  • The use of the lower level of the existing 63rd Street tunnel that crosses beneath the East River
  • 7-miles of TBM-bored tunnels extending from the East River over to Park Avenue, then southward to Grand Central Terminal 
  • Two blast caverns that will house new LIRR platforms below Grand Central Terminal's existing subway and Metro North platforms

Monday, September 24, 2012

Swiss Drug Giant Picks Manhattan for Research Site

What New Jersey loses, New York City gains, at least in part. Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, will establish a new research facility in the Alexandria Center for Life Science, at 29th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan. The new research center will take on some of the former responsibilities of its big New Jersey campus. Roche anticipates moving its team to the 421,000 square foot West Tower, when it is completed in December 2013. 

Roche announced in June that it would shut its Nutley, New Jersey site, where the tranquilizer Valium was invented more than 50 years ago, as part of a cost-cutting effort that would eliminate about 1,000 jobs.

At the time, the company said it would open a new translational clinical research center somewhere on the East Coast. The decision by Roche is a coup in New York City’s efforts to develop a life sciences and biotechnology hub.

Translational research provides a bridge between basic research and clinical practice. The research center would coordinate the early clinical trials of experimental drugs developed by Roche in Europe. Roche will move 200 people from Nutley to work at the new site.

New York and New Jersey both competed for the new site. The move will create more than 600 new jobs in Manhattan. As a concession, Roche said it would keep 50 management-level positions in northern New Jersey.

Roche said it chose the new location in part because of its proximity to leading academic medical centers. It said it had taken an 11-year lease on the property and anticipated moving staff members there at the end of 2013.

The TCRC will be the mission-critical presence for Roche Pharma Research and Early Development in the United States.

Located in the East Side Medical Corridor, the Alexandria Center for Life Science will provide Roche with adjacency to New York City's nine academic medical centers and its ongoing clinical trials in an environment purposely built for life science collaboration and innovation.

Roche's decision to relocate to New York City will allow its TCRC to build upon its connections to key stakeholders in the U.S., maintain interactions with the Food and Drug Administration, and enhance collaborations with U.S.-based partners.

Employees of the TCRC will be responsible for leading early development programs and clinical trials, as well as developing strategy and implementing translational research programs focused on disease understanding and the development of potential new medicines.

Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. developed the Alexandria Center for Life Science in a relationship with the City and State of New York, to become the commercial destination in New York City for life science entities to translate innovative discoveries into breakthrough products for patients with significant unmet medical needs.

The first phase of development, which included the LEED Gold Certified, 308,000 square foot 15-story East Tower, opened in December 2010 and is fully leased.

Some Alexandria Center research clients include:
  • Eli Lilly
  • Kadmon Pharmaceuticals
  • New York University
  • Pfizer 
  • The East Tower features a variety of creative environments designed to foster life science convergence including Apella, a digital conference center and event space; two culinary establishments – Riverpark, a Tom Colicchio Restaurant, and Witchcraft  Sandwich shop; a fully equipped fitness center; an onsite parking garage and shuttle with transportation to and from Penn Station; and a one-acre riverfront plaza.

    With the completion of the West Tower, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. will have completed approximately 729,000 square feet of laboratory/office space in New York City for life science entities to translate innovative discoveries into safe and effective products that save lives and manage disease.

    Roche is the world's largest biotech company. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a leader in research-focused healthcare, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. In 2011, Roche had over 80,000 employees worldwide, invested over $9 billion in research and development, and posted sales of over $47.8 billion.

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Brooklyn's New $1Billion Arena to Open Friday

    Nine years after it was first announced, Brooklyn's new 675,000-square-foot Barclays Center  - the jewel of the massive Atlantic Yards project - will host its first event on Friday. Jay-Z, the Brooklyn native and minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets, will host a sold-out concert in the home of his basketball team. An announcement regarding ground breaking on the first of 16 residential towers planned for the site is expected to emerge from the event. Forest City Ratner has promised to break ground before the end of this year.

    Nearly nine tumultuous years after it was first announced—a span of time marked by multiple protests, at least seven lawsuits, a global financial crisis, the involvement of a Russian tycoon and the firing of a star architect—the Barclays Center at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards is slated to be officially unveiled on Friday.

    The 675,000-square-foot arena at the center of Forest City Ratner Co.'s massive project is set to host its first event when Jay-Z, the Brooklyn native and minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets, opens a sold-out concert series in the venue that will serve as the home of the basketball team. Various officials will be on hand Friday to cut the ribbon on the arena, including Forest City Ratner chairman and CEO Bruce Ratner, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who bought the majority of the team and 45% of the arena in 2009.

    Perhaps the most interesting news expected to emerge from the event will be the date for breaking ground on the first of the 16 residential towers Forest City plans for the site. The developer has said that although the date would be announced Friday, the company has not yet decided whether to use modular or convention construction to build it. Forest City had promised to break ground by the end of the year. It wants to use modular construction to save money, but first needs to reach a deal with the unions to go down that path.

    The entire project is years behind the original schedule, in part because of repeated lawsuits filed to block the use of eminent domain to clear the site. That use was eventually allowed, but as the battle was being played out, the economy went into tailspin, handcuffing Mr. Ratner's ability to move forward. In need of cash, he sold the majority of the Nets and the arena stake to Mr. Prokhorov.

    He also fired star architect Frank Gehry, who had designed the project's master plan and had a vision for the arena, to save money. Mr. Ratner eventually had to renegotiate his deal with the state to allow him to take longer to finish the project. Now instead of 10 years, he has a 25-year timeline.

    However, a court ruled earlier this year that a new environmental impact study must be done because the construction may be drawn out for so long.

    Opponents are wondering why that study has not started, and they are hoping that government officials will put more pressure on Forest City to move at a faster pace to provide the jobs and affordable housing that were promised as a part of the project. The Empire State Development Corp. has oversight authority on the project because it used the state's power of eminent domain to secure the land.

    Any major architectural project undertaken in the city will have lovers and haters. Moreover, when a building pushes the design conventions of the day, it will invariably be compared to a giant something or other.

    The Citigroup Center on East 53rd Street seemed radical in its early years. A familiar part of the skyline now, its sliced-off top nonetheless calls to mind the end of a highlight marker. A row of massive X-shaped girders dominates the much-maligned Port Authority Bus Terminal. The building is stellar at least in its resemblance to the scorecard of a perfect bowling game.

    Last week's ceremonial ribbon cutting at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn provides the perfect Rorschach moment for the hulking arena. Some have compared it to the alien spaceship in the movie “Independence Day.” Another sees a collapsing chocolate soufflĂ©.

    Thursday, September 20, 2012

    Loews Regency Plans $70M Hotel Renovation

    Loews Corp. plans a $70 million renovation of the Loews Regency Hotel New York, a 354-room luxury property at the corner of Park Avenue and East 61st Street, as the company focuses on an expansion of its hotel division in Manhattan.

    The upgrades should be completed by February 2014, when the National Football League's Super Bowl will be held at MetLife Stadium in nearby East Rutherford, N.J. The venue is the shared home of the New York Giants, which is 50%-owned by members of the Tisch family, Loews Corp.'s founders.

    The Regency renovation, which will be done in stages to avoid service disruptions, is part of an initiative to overhaul and bolster Loews's hotel business, its smallest unit. Loews Corp., the New York-based insurance and energy holding company, plans to more than triple the hotel division's net income by the end of 2015 and increase its hotel count from 18 to about 30.

    It is widely expected that the company will make a major acquisition in Manhattan by the end of this year, as Loews is willing to pay more than $500,000 a room for properties in New York City. The company is expected to boost its number of hotels from one - to as many as four- by next year.

    Outside of New York, Loews is looking to pay as much as $400,000 per room for hotels in major cities, and the company expects to complete three acquisitions and announce one ground-up development before year's end.

    The CEO is looking for high-end hotels that are in need of renovations and cater to business groups and corporate travelers, such as the Renaissance Hotel & Spa in Hollywood, which it bought from CIM Group last week. Loews will have a heavier focus on individuals to balance out a drop in group bookings during economic slowdowns.

    The hotel division contributed $4 million to Loews Corp.'s $367 million of net income in the first quarter of this year, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Loews Hotels is ultimately aiming for a similar business model and portfolio size as Four Seasons Hotels Inc. and Marriott International Inc.'s Ritz-Carlton brand, with about 60 to 70 properties.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012

    Luxury Hotel to Check into the Bronx

    In a first, a luxury hotel is checking into the Bronx. Marriott Corp. has agreed to open a Residence Inn in Simone Development's new 370,000-square-foot Hutchinson Metro Center Atrium, in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx. The new hotel will also get a big L.A. Fitness Center. It'll be a boon for tourists, the borough president says.

    Simone Development Co. announced that it has reached an agreement for Marriott to operate a luxury hotel under its Residence Inn brand, at Metro Center Atrium—Simone's new 370,000-square-foot mixed-use property in the Pelham Bay section.

    The developer also announced it has agreed to lease 43,000 square feet in the building for a major fitness center. The Atrium is the latest building to sprout on Simone's 42-acre Hutchinson Metro Center commercial campus. Other tenants in the complex include Visiting Nurse Service of New York and medical offices.

    "We're thrilled that Marriott has chosen this location," says Joseph Simone, president of Simone Development. "This truly is a landmark event for Metro Center Atrium, for our company and for the Bronx."

    Metro Center Atrium, which is located between the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, will also feature three floors of Class A office and medical space, as well as retail and restaurant space. More than 1,100 parking spaces will also be included. The new hotel is expected to open in two years.

    "My office is thrilled that the Bronx will see the development of a high-level hotel in the east Bronx," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., in a statement. "This hotel will help drive business to our borough, offer tourists a chance to spend more than one day in the Bronx and shows us that the business community has a positive feeling about the future of the Bronx."

    The new complex is part of the final two phases of the Hutchinson Metro Center. It is under construction and is expected to be ready for office and retail occupancy in October 2013.

    L.A. Fitness is expected to open its new state-of-the-art center in November of next year. According to the developer, retailers will find Metro Center Atrium attractive because there are more than 4,000 people working at the Hutchinson Metro Center and another 800 are coming when New York City's 911 call center north of the Hutchinson Metro Center is completed.

    "We are off to a fast start and anticipate tremendous demand for the remaining office, medical, and retail space, particularly given the strong performance of previous phases of our development at Hutchinson Metro Center," said Mr. Simone. These are exciting times for the Bronx and we're very proud to be a major contributor to the economic renaissance underway in the borough."

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    New Residential Towers Ready to Break Ground in LIC

    Thanks to a host of new developments, Long Island City is on the rise — one tower at a time. In defiance of the current real estate market, about 1,250 condominiums and rental apartments are slated to hit the market in the western Queens community next year. And that’s just the beginning of what is planned over the next few years. Queens developer The Criterion Group is very busy these days, with four new, off the radar residential projects about to break ground in the once predominantly industrial area.

    Purves I
    Criterion Group is ready to break ground on a 28-story, 294 foot apartment tower on a 15,000 square foot lot adjacent to the Thompson Avenue viaduct to the Queensborough Bridge.

    Located at 44-41 Purves Street, just off Jackson Ave in Long Island City, the development will consist of 150 rental apartments. The building will be a mixture of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

    Building amenities will include a full service gym, indoor lounge and a rooftop recreational space with spectacular views of Manhattan.

    Purves II
    Construction on this project is expected to begin early next year on the 11,250 square foot lot at 44-51 Purves Street, adjacent to the Purves I project.

    The 209-foot tower is slated to rise 22-stories and consist of 121 rental apartments. Like its neighbor, Purves II will be a mixture of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

    The near-twin building will also include a full service gym, indoor lounge and a shared rooftop recreational space with panoramic views of Manhattan.

    12-07 Broadway
    Criterion is developing a 55,063 square foot lot off 14th Street in Astoria, into a residential apartment complex.

    The 8-story development will be located at 12-07 Broadway and consist of 190 rental apartments with parking for 98 vehicles.

    The 80-foot building will have a wide array of amenities including a full service gym, bicycle parking, private outdoor spaces, common sun deck and roof top patio with panoramic views of Manhattan.

    Broadway Residences
    Already under construction at 11-15 Broadway in Astoria, Broadway Residences will be an eight story, 80 Unit Class A residential tower. It will consist of (15) studios, (59) 1-bedroom, and (6) 2-bedroom rental apartments. 

    Amenities will include a private fitness center, private outdoor spaces, on-site parking, and state of the art communication systems. All apartments will have access to the rooftop recreational area providing panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline. The project is slated for completion early in 2013.

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Subway Fire Result of Copper Wire Theft

    Hundreds of people were evacuated from two subway trains during the evening rush on September 8, after a fire broke out in the subway tunnels under the Lower East Side. It was initially unclear exactly what started the fire—but it has now been determined that the fire was sparked when a cable fell across the third rail and a track rail as someone tried to steal the underground copper wire. 

    In a statement, Deputy Assistant Chief Jim reported that the fire started “in a wall mounted electrical vault box that supplies power to the third rails.” MTA officials at the scene echoed that, it was an electrical fire. "A lot of smoke was coming out of the grates of the subway, and we believe that is clearly an electrical issue."

    Investigators believe the apparent copper wire theft may be part of a larger operation—tools used for cutting wire were found in a closet-sized enclosure in the tunnel. The theft has been going on for months, and in all, as more than two thousand feet of 250 MCM – 600 MCM cable appear to be missing from the station.

    An electrical spark travelling along the rail caused the fire and smoke condition after lengths of stripped cable dropped by the suspected copper thieves fell across the third rail and a track rail.

    FDNY officials reported that approximately 500 people were evacuated from J and M trains at the Delancey Street/Essex Street stop, but no injury were reported.

    A few years ago, there were a spate of copper wire thefts throughout the city —including the Greenpoint Warehouse Terminal fire in 2006,  which police believe was started by a homeless copper thief.

    Thursday, September 13, 2012

    Unions Agree To Hudson Yards Labor-Cost Deal

    After months of tense negotiations, the Related Cos. and the city's construction unions have agreed in principle to a series of cost-saving measures that will help push the $15 billion Hudson Yards mega-project forward and ensure that it is built with union labor. Hudson Yards is the biggest development project in the city since Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s. Some 13 million square feet of construction is planned for the 26-acre site, creating an estimated 39 million "man-hours" of work.

    Some four dozen unions covering more than a dozen trades agreed to cut wage and benefit packages and change work rules in order to grab a piece of a massive construction project that could keep their members working for at least 10 years.

    The overall deal, known as a project labor agreement, is not yet final, but last week, District Council of Carpenters delegates voted to approve a 10% wage and benefit reduction for work on Hudson Yards, the last of the participating unions to agree to help Related control costs.

    "We're not done, but we've made the final turn," said Paul Fernandes, chief of staff of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. "Everyone has done in their own way things that are very substantial, not just nickel-and- dime stuff, but substantial changes to both the way they're compensated and the way they work on projects."

    The missing piece now is the operating engineers who run the cranes that are crucial to major construction projects. The union does not sign project labor agreements; although it is possible that a separate understanding could be forged with Related.

    The project labor agreement covers the first half of the Hudson Yards project: two large commercial buildings, a residential skyscraper, a mixed-use tower and a retail complex encompassing about 8 million square feet on the eastern rail yards. Both sides expressed optimism that a further deal will be worked out when construction is ready to begin on the remainder of the project.

    Both Related executives and leaders of the Building and Construction Trades Council approached the negotiations with a singular focus, with Related Chief Executive Stephen Ross and council president Gary LaBarbera personally engaging in the talks.

    Related needed cost savings to help make Hudson Yards affordable to tenants and competitive with commercial buildings being constructed in lower Manhattan. With the first building—a 46-story tower to house the corporate headquarters of retailer Coach—slated to start rising in the fall, time was running out for a deal.

    Organized labor had a major incentive to make a deal, with some trades facing unemployment levels of 25% or higher. Hudson Yards is the biggest development project in the city since Rockefeller Center was built in the 1930s. Some 13 million square feet of construction is planned for the 26-acre site, creating an estimated 39 million "man-hours" of work.

    "The dollar costs, what they're spending to build it, the amount of time, the construction jobs, the number of carpenter hours—they're all huge," said Mike Bilello, executive secretary-treasurer of the District Council of Carpenters. "There was a prospect of putting a lot of our members to work, and its real now.

    It's a good deal for our members." Mr. Fernandes compared the discounts being offered by the unions to those a shopper would get at a warehouse store. "When you walk into Costco and buy three months of groceries, you pay a lot less than when you're buying a week's worth," he explained."

    Related puts nearly 8 million square feet of construction on the table for the first phase of the project, plus all the other work associated with people moving into the buildings, when you buy in bulk you sometimes get a better deal."

    Related drove a hard bargain in the negotiations and threatened to build some of the project non-union if it did not get the savings it needed. In one instance, it decided to build the Coach headquarters with reinforced concrete instead of steel, a move that sent a signal to ironworkers that they needed to get on-board.

    Some 80 meetings were held in the past few months, and there were an uncountable number of phone calls, conference calls and exchanges of documents via email in what Mr. Fernandes called a "fully consuming process."

    On nearly two dozen occasions, Mr. Ross made personal appeals to leaders of various unions to let them know that the project would not be feasible in the current market unless they served up significant savings. At one point this spring, momentum temporarily stalled. Related had one-on-one conversations with just about every union leader involved to help jump-start talks.

    Related also made it clear it was not just asking for savings from the union; it was hustling to increase efficiencies on its end as well.

    The company changed its bidding system for subcontractor work, eliminated intermediaries from its procurement process and streamlined its management structure.

    "Both sides had to change the approach to how it is we promote development that uses union labor in this city," Mr. Fernandes said, "particularly given the current set of financial and economic challenges, which don't appear to be going away anytime soon."

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    South Street Seaport Rebuild Gets Green Light

    Howard Hughes Development Corp., the firm that leases the South Street Seaport, announced that it has reached an agreement with the New York City Economic Development Corp. for a major, three-year revamp of Pier 17, which include plans for a glass-enclosed retail center, a rooftop concert space and more. Construction of approximately 195,000 square feet of new leasable space is expected to start in 2013 and be completed by 2015.

    The red, boxy Pier 17 building at South Street Seaport will be getting a modern makeover. City officials have reached an agreement with developer Howard Hughes Corp. to redevelop the building.

    The contemporary design calls for a glass-enclosed mall and larger open spaces on the pier that juts out onto the East River, as well as on the building’s roof.

    Howard Hughes CEO David Weinreb said the revamped pier will transform the Seaport into "an energetic, highly engaging destination for shopping, dining and entertainment in lower Manhattan."

    The plan has been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, with the support of Community Board 1, according to a statement released by the real estate company. Construction is expected to start next year and to conclude by 2015.

    Howard Hughes Corp. plans a "complete transformation" of Pier 17, including adding a glass-enclosed retail center, new architecture and a rooftop space that could be used for concerts and other live-entertainment events, the statement said.

    Late last year, representatives from the company and their designer, SHoP Architects, met with members of Manhattan Community Board 1 to show them renderings and to discuss development options.

    "As lower Manhattan continues to grow and thrive, the reimagined Pier 17, along with the new Pier 15 and East River Waterfront Esplanade, will present New Yorkers with an even better reason to explore and visit the South Street Seaport, said Seth Pinksy, president of the city Economic Development Corp., in the statement.

    "We look forward to a day soon when Pier 17 will once again be viewed as one of the city's premier destinations."

    Pier 17 was in the news in July when a fire broke out beneath the pier on the East River. None of the buildings or the pier suffered any significant damage. The project still needs to go through the city's Uniform Land Use review procedure, which include public hearings, but is widely expected to pass with little resistance.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2012

    Lego Tower Ready To Rise in Brooklyn

    Forest City Ratner is preparing to construct the world's tallest prebuilt towers in downtown Brooklyn. SHoP Architects has designed a 32-story residential tower made up of 930 prebuilt modules containing portions of finished apartments—everything from bathrooms to kitchens—bolted to a steel frame. It will also take a prominent position next to the Barclays Center, in the developer's Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn. There it may ultimately be joined by 15 other modular apartment buildings, at least one soaring as high as 50 stories.

    Legoland Comes To Brooklyn

    Christopher Sharples of SHoP Architects knows what most people think of when they hear the term "modular construction: A bunch of shoeboxes sitting on top of one another."

    Soon he hopes to shatter that negative stereotype in record-setting fashion. Mr. Sharples is part of a core group of 18 people brought together by Forest City Ratner to design a 32-story residential tower made up of 930 prebuilt modules containing portions of finished apartments—everything from bathrooms to kitchens—bolted to a steel frame.

    It will not only be the world's tallest modular structure but likely the least uniform one as well, boasting four different facades. It will also take a prominent position next to the Barclays Center, in the developer's Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn. There it may ultimately be joined by 15 other modular apartment buildings, at least one soaring as high as 50 stories.

    "We can show we can build modularly and be creative," said Mr. Sharples. "This type of project is why we are in business."

    What remains to be seen, however, is whether it actually gets built. Forest City will construct a prototype module this month and then decide by Christmas on whether to build modular towers or conventional ones. The choice hinges largely on whether Forest City can ink a deal with unions that would require them to take significant pay cuts to help the developer achieve its goal of lowering construction costs by up to 25%. Saving that money is especially important because 50% of the 4,500 rental apartments planned for Atlantic Yards are designated to be affordable or low-income housing. Forest City hopes that its system eventually will become a model for other large-scale developers.

    "This could revolutionize how we do construction in the city," said MaryAnne Gilmartin, the Forest City executive vice president who is spearheading the project.

    For starters, 60% of the construction would be done indoors in a factory where carpenters, plumbers, painters and electricians would build the modules. Meanwhile at Atlantic Yards, crews would erect the tower's steel frame.

    The dual tracking of construction alone could shave as much as six months off the process, saving millions of dollars.
    Fitting the pieces together

    Setting up a factory will be essential for Forest City, not just for this project, but also for any hopes it might have of churning out modules for other developers in the future. Nearly two years ago, Forest City launched its modular journey by tapping SHoP, engineering firm Arup and consultant XSite Modular to devise a plan. The group said that the big difference between a modular design and a standard one is not in the tools and technology needed, but in the process itself—one that requires early and near-constant collaboration of all those involved.

    "Building modularly is like creating a Swiss watch," said David Farnsworth, a principal at Arup. "There are all the pieces that just need to fit together absolutely perfectly."

    Typically, when architects design a building, they consult with engineers and hand over the plans to contractors, who figure out how to construct it.

    By contrast, every detail in modular construction needs to be documented early and precisely to ensure that the pods fit together seamlessly when they reach the site. Each component must line up perfectly so that plumbing, heating and electrical lines can be smoothly connected when the pods are hoisted into position.

    Forest City gave the team 16 weeks to see whether anything on such a scale was feasible. Only a 25-story university dorm in Wolverhampton, England, had come close to the height planned by Forest City. Adding to the challenge, the developer insisted that its tower transcend the dull uniformity for which modular buildings are known. Instead, its plan calls for a tower with setbacks outside and 24 different apartment layouts inside. That variety, however, led to a need for 225 different modules, which in turn require a more complicated frame. "We wanted architecture with a capital A," said Ms. Gilmartin.

    To deliver it, the entire team met every Wednesday at Forest City Ratner's downtown Brooklyn headquarters from 9 a.m. to noon. Team members also attended another four or five subgroup meetings throughout the week.

    Factory work

    Among the first issues tackled were those posed by the building's height. Shorter buildings can be made by simply stacking modules. Towers like those at Atlantic Yards need to be able to withstand high winds and earthquakes. In Forest City's design, that stability comes from the steel frame that anchors the pods.

    If Forest City opts for modular construction, it plans to locate its factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and it will likely resemble one that Capsys, a 16-year-old modular company, operates there.

    A visit to Capsys' cavernous facility, with its 50-foot-high ceilings, shows just how easily work traditionally done on site can be done in a factory.

    On a warm, sunny day in July, some 50 workers wearing matching orange T-shirts and hard hats were working on modules of a 60-unit, six-story residential building that will rise nearby in Brooklyn. Thanks to the roof and a series of large fans, none of the workers were sweating or squinting. At one station, a worker welded steel beams to form a module's frame. At another, two men connected the drywall to a frame, while nearby an electrician installed wall outlets. Just outside the factory were eight finished units with studio apartments that looked like those in any other brand-new building.

    By Theresa Agovino / Crain's New York Business
    Published Sept.10, 2012

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Construction Worker Killed at Brooklyn Jobsite

    A construction worker died and a second was critically injured Monday morning when the top level of a townhouse under construction in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, caved in, causing two men to plunge 30 feet into the basement of the new building. Investigators from DOB believe the beams were not properly supported, which led to the collapse, and has halted any further construction at the jobsite pending a full investigation.

    Five construction workers were standing on the top level of a four-story structure at 227 Carlton Avenue, between Willoughby and DeKalb avenues when the floor gave way at 9:15 a.m. They were receiving a load of heavy concrete blocks when a support beam gave way.

    Workers had loaded four pallets of cinder blocks onto the third floor with a boom truck. When they set down a fifth pallet, the floor gave way, according to a representative from the Department of Buildings. "We believe it was such a heavy load that it created pressure on the top floor, causing it to collapse.

    As the structure caved in, two workers jumped to safety onto an adjoining structure, and a third hung suspended over the collapsed debris and managed to pull himself to safety, said James Leonard, Brooklyn borough commander for the Fire Department.

    It took firefighters about 20 minutes to pull the two fallen workers from the basement. One of the men, a 67-year-old Brooklyn resident, was brought to Brooklyn Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead. The second man was brought to Kings County Hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. He was in stable condition Monday afternoon, police said.

    "This tragic incident raises serious concerns about the safety practices at this construction site, and whether there was proper oversight of this construction by both the Department of Buildings and the developer," said City Council Councilwoman Leticia James, who represents Fort Greene.

    The construction site had no prior complaints or code violations filed with the Buildings Department, according to the agency and contractors had obtained the proper permits to work on the building.

    The New York Times recently reported that neighbors said they had noticed structural damage to their homes and called 311 to report excessive vibrations at the construction site but did not file formal complaints

    The four-story apartment building, which was being erected by Professional Grade Construction of Brooklyn, is part of a complex known as Carlton Mews.

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    Hudson Square Redevelopment Clears Hurdle

    The City Planning Commission has certified the rezoning proposal of Hudson Square, setting in motion a development plan that seeks to bring residential high-rises and retail to a swath of commercial Manhattan by the mouth of the Holland Tunnel, transforming the 300-year-old neighborhood into a mixed-use residential neighborhood.

    The 300-year-old neighborhood, squeezed between the Hudson River and Sixth Avenue and Houston and Canal streets, is known for its proximity to the nearby Holland Tunnel as well as its association with Trinity Church to the south, which controls the land.

    It is currently zoned for manufacturing and neighbors are seeking to block big-box stores from getting a toe hold. Trinity Real Estate and the Hudson Square Connection business improvement district, have promoted the rezoning effort on their websites, saying that mixed-use plan would allow a limited number of residential units and a public elementary school to be built.

    Developers hope these features will round out the neighborhood and attract a variety of retail stores.

    The board recently rejected both New York University's expansion and the redevelopment of the former St. Vincent's Hospital into residential condominiums. The votes were non-binding, but spurred changes. NYU, for example, shrank its development plans. The City Council later approved both plans.

    Rezoning would attract a variety of residential and commercial amenities, though critics express that some of the plans' building sizes might be "excessive."

    The Hudson Square plan would limit residential development in order to protect much of the existing commercial real estate. In terms of making the neighborhood attractive to residents, the greatest challenge will be the lack of parks—something that Hudson Square is trying to address.

    Certification means the beginning of a seven-month-long public review of the private development, culminating with a City Council vote. City planner, Arthur Huh, said he did not see "any major roadblocks" for the plan's approval.

    Community Board 2 will vote on the plan Oct. 18. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer must also review the plan before the council votes on it. A city planning spokeswoman said the Commission would take into consideration the Community Board and borough president’s comments as well as public testimony before voting on the proposal.

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    New Sports Arenas, Mall Proposed for Queens

    An ambitious plan to remake a corner of Queens with two new professional sports arenas and a giant suburban-style mall, is meeting with unexpected opposition that could stymie the effort. Among Mayor Bloomberg's signature development plans is an 8,000-seat U.S. Tennis Association stadium, a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium—both in Flushing Meadows Corona Park—and 1-million-square-foot mall on a gritty swath near CitiField, across from the stadium.

    Although the projects are separate from each other, they are all in or near Flushing Meadows Corona Park and have roiled groups that accuse the city of eroding green space without considering the impact of an influx of traffic and thousands of new spectators and shoppers.

    Importantly, the coalition of about half-dozen groups has the initial support of the local City Council member—who, in the tradition of the council, has almost unilateral power to hold up necessary approvals.

    More likely, it could force new concessions from developers as the groups push the City Council to look at the fallout of all three projects combined when voting on approvals for them individually.

    A Bloomberg spokesperson said the projects are vital to reviving the area. "In all of our conversations with Queens community groups, we hear the same message consistently: the borough needs more jobs and economic activity. These projects would meet that need in spectacular fashion and provide employment to thousands of Queens residents," said spokesperson Julie Wood.

    The developers expressed similar sentiment, saying they would work with the community.

    Project proposals to build two professional-league sports arenas and a mall in or near Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, have met with criticism. While new stadiums would undoubtedly create strains, they could also be an opportunity to make needed upgrades, some have said.

    The Willets Point development already went through an extensive public review and was approved in 2008. But the plan, now backed by a partnership of Related Cos. and Sterling Equities, was significantly revised and will begin undergoing an additional environmental review later this month. The USTA proposal is expected to face a review this fall. MLS, which has yet to strike a final deal with the city, also would be required to seek City Council support.

    Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area, echoed concerns about the temporary loss of community soccer fields during construction, reduced access to the park, increased traffic, pollution, noise, safety, litter and the impact of the mall on mom-and-pops. "I have an obligation to make sure that our community gets a voice in the process…The community needs to decide if these three different proposals are a good use of parkland," Ms. Ferreras said.

    [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, June 25, 2012]

    To be sure, some developers have already promised benefits to the community. MLS has pledged to refurbish public soccer fields on the site, make additional park improvements and minimize disruption, according to people familiar with the matter, which has helped it win support from a number of politicians and community groups.

    Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the borough's largest park, where a mostly Latino and Asian immigrant population plays soccer, bikes and picnics. Nevertheless, the sprawling space has been plagued by funding shortages, inconsistent maintenance, and neglect, park advocates say.

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    Feds Widen Probe into Construction Industry Fraud

    Prosecutors investigating overbilling practices and corruption by city contractors have led to a spate of criminal prosecutions, which is rocking New York’s struggling construction industry just as it is beginning to regain its footing after the economic downturn. After construction giant Lend Lease agreed to pay $56 million to settle high-profile charges, it came as no surprise to the industry when, the U.S. Justice Department reported it had widened its probe into practices at Turner, Plaza, Skanskaand Tishman, including rigged contract bids, inflated billing and no-show jobs.

    In April, construction giant Lend Lease agreed to pay $56 million to settle high-profile charges with U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch’s office for allegedly overbilling clients at major construction projects, including the renovation of Grand Central Station, the construction of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and the construction of CitiField, the home of the New York Mets. [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, April 26, 2012]

    Officials at the Australia-based construction giant (formerly known as Bovis Lend Lease) said they have made wholesale changes to ensure that this type of activity does not happen again.

    However, in speaking about the settlement, a company executive claimed that billing fraud is widespread in the city’s construction industry. “While we understand these practices were common in the industry in New York, we should always hold ourselves above the industry reflecting our strong values and high ethical standards,” Steve McCann, a group chief executive officer at Lend Lease, said at an annual investor meeting.

    As part of the U.S. Attorney’s settlement, Lend Lease agreed to cooperate in prosecutors’ future investigations into other construction firms.

    So it did not come as a huge surprise to the industry when, in July, Lynch’s office had widened its probe into the practices at Turner Construction, Plaza Construction, Skanska USA and Tishman Construction — all firms either declined or did not respond to requests for comment.

    [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, August 1, 2012]

    Attorney Barry LePatner, a specialist in the construction industry, noted that billing fraud is not a new issue, but said government investigators have had a difficult time, until now, gathering enough evidence to conduct such a sweeping investigation. “Contractors have always tried to take advantage of owners on the basis that they control information on pricing. Owners usually have little, if any, information about the true cost of the work.”

    While it is unclear exactly what the wider probe is zeroing in on, the Lend Lease case largely involved rigged contract bids, inflated billing and no-show jobs.

    The firm also engaged in a scheme called Eight-Plus-Two, where it paid foremen for up to two hours a day on sites where they never worked. It allegedly used that tactic to overbill public agencies and private developers to the tune of $19 million over a 10-year period.

    Construction experts say another common practice for contractors is underbidding the competition in order to secure a construction job.

    “If you talk to insiders in the construction industry and ask if they underbid, they say, ‘Yeah,’ on the face of it.”

    Thomas Thacher, president of construction consulting firm Thacher Associates and the former inspector general of the New York City School Construction Authority, said that type of fraud may be tied to the weak economy.

    “In some instances, cheating in a bid process can increase when you have an economy that’s impacting the industry the way this one has,” he said.

    Thacher led the state’s first Construction Industry Strike Force, which was created under Governor Mario Cuomo to root out organized crime and other corrupt practices in the construction industry. He said organized crime is much less of a factor now in the industry than it was in the past, but noted that today’s corruption is more centered on underpaying workers, fraudulent use of minority contractors and bid rigging.

    The increased scrutiny on both corporate spending and at taxpayer-funded projects is shining a new light on corruption in the industry. In addition, it has prompted many to call for the implementation of more safeguards to prevent overbilling, underbidding and other fraudulent practices.

    Scandals In The Spotlight

    While the construction giants have garnered the most attention, there have been plenty of recent scandals, involve smaller firms, government contracts and public institutions.

    An April audit by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli uncovered fraudulent bids for construction at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn made by Eagle Two Construction, a Brooklyn-based contractor.

    The report noted the construction firm won six contracts worth $92,000, largely with the help of phony bids from front companies that made it seem like there was more competition than really existed.

    Those fake companies were all affiliated with Two Eagle. The contractor was paid more than $1.2 million from SUNY for construction work over a 14-year period ending in 2010. The comptroller forwarded the findings to law enforcement officials, but it is unclear whether criminal charges will be pursued.

    Eagle Two has since been suspended as a contractor for its biggest client, Columbia University.

    Meanwhile, in June the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development was rocked when former assistant commissioner Wendell Waters pleaded guilty to bribery and racketeering conspiracy. Waters was originally charged in October 2011 with six developers who allegedly bribed HPD officials to get affordable housing contracts. The developers allegedly received millions in kickbacks from contractors they hired to perform the construction on these sites. Five additional arrests have been made as part of the HPD case.

    Legal experts say the increased amount of fraud can be tied to the rush to complete projects, as developers often have deadlines placed on them by lenders — especially in this post-recession environment. Many of the recent cases being pursued stem from the boom, industry experts said. “People were throwing these buildings up with spit and cardboard and selling them out as quickly as possible,” said attorney Steven Sladkus, chairman of the real estate practice at Wolf Haldenstein.

    In late July, Sladkus represented the condo board at Beacon Tower, a 79-unit luxury building at 85 Adams Street in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, which filed a $150 million RICO lawsuit against developers Shaya Boymelgreen and Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel. The suit alleges that the developers filed false documents to get a temporary certificate of occupancy from the city in time for a closing deadline.

    It also says the building’s architects and engineers submitted documents verifying there was fire-stopping material in the walls, but a later inspection showed the material had not been installed.

    Industry Clean Up

    Cleaning up the construction industry may not be easy, but those who have been caught in the crosshairs have taken steps to make sure they never repeat these same mistakes.

    Meanwhile, city officials have implemented more rigorous review processes to root out crooked contractors and government officials. Specifically, the agency has increased monitoring of developers and general contractors.

    HPD also maintains a list of contractors that require “enhanced review” based on their history of compliance with labor laws and construction quality. HPD said it might block the closing of a project if the developer wants to use a contractor that is on that list.

    Meanwhile, Thacher said his firm has worked as an “integrity monitor” at various sites, ranging from Madison Square Garden to Columbia University and the new Yankee Stadium site, to provide an increased level of oversight over construction activities.

    All of these scandals come as the New York construction industry is struggling to deal with the still-tenuous economy. Overall construction employment fell 3 percent year-over-year in the first quarter to 102,000 — the lowest level of construction employment since the first quarter of 1999. According to the New York Building Congress, a trade organization that promotes the construction industry, private and public institutions launched $702 million in construction projects in New York City in the first half of 2012 — a 41 percent decline from $1.2 billion in the same period of the previous year.

    However, there may be an improvement on the horizon: New office construction in Midtown is projected to rise to 2.1 million square feet in 2012, up from 1.7 million square feet in 2011.

    Moreover, some say it is only a few players creating the appearance of wider trouble in the industry. “I don’t want to label the whole industry, but there are still a few bad apples out there who think it’s still the 1980s,” said Bob Viterertti, a former prosecutor and managing director at Kroll Advisory Solutions, a firm that consults on corporate security issues.

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    Residential Conversion Planned for Tribeca Landmark

    The economic meltdown stalled plans to convert Tribeca's 443 Greenwich Street into a luxury condo-hotel. However, this summer, a new owner—Metro Loft Management—bought the landmarked property, and now plans are in the works again for a building conversion. The original permit called for a residential conversion with up to 120 hotel rooms, but the new proposal scales back the conversion to 100 apartments averaging 2,500 square feet each, along with two enormous penthouses and an eighth floor addition. Although the hotel option is still on the table, CB1 approved the permit renewal for the huge, red brick building, on the condition that the developers not include a hotel.

    Special Permit for 443-453 Greenwich Granted

    In July of 2008, the property’s then-owners requested—and were granted—a special permit from the City Planning Commission, with Community Board 1 support.

    The original permit approved  the developers plans for conversion of the building into residential apartments, construction of up to 120 hotel rooms with ground floor retail, and to add an eighth floor to the structure.

    The Landmarks Preservation Commission signed off on the plan. However, 2008 being 2008—the project stalled. This past summer, the property was bought by SGN, a company owned by Nathan Berman of Metro Loft Management. By now, the construction permit has lapsed, because there has been no substantial construction in over four years.

    In 2010, the city rezoned northwest Tribeca from manufacturing to residential and hotel (up to 100 rooms), mooting part of the original permit. The rest of the permit, however, has been renewed allowing Berman to convert the building for residential use, with 80 to 100 units, averaging 2,500 square feet.

    SGN said that the hotel component has been shelved for the moment, but options were being kept open. A health club component, along with a restaurant, has been floated as a possible compromise.

    Plans for two ultra-luxury penthouses spanning the entire eighth floor are still in the design phase.

    Neighbors from 195 Hudson, 181 Hudson, and 47 Vestry were surprised that no one had run the idea by them, and are not pleased.

    Still, there was lots to dislike: The plans called a putting the mechanicals on the far eastern side of the roof—right by the two residential buildings—and any increase in traffic was going to be a nightmare for the neighborhood, given all the cars and buses that descend on neighboring Tribeca Rooftop each night.

    Cut To The Chase
    • CB1's role is strictly advisory, and the vote is non-binding, so Berman can still build a hotel if he wants.
    • Construction of the additional floor is already a done deal.
    • Moving the mechanicals will be a tough fight, because their position has already received approval from the difficult-to-please Landmarks Preservation Commission, which only cares about sightlines from the street, not from adjacent buildings.

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    City Planners Approve Chelsea Market Expansion

    The City Planning Commission unanimously approved a proposal by Jamestown Properties for new construction above Chelsea Market. The controversial plan would allow for the addition of 330,000-square-foot of new office space, by building big new additions on the roof of the block-long complex between Ninth and Tenth avenues. The developers have adjusted its plan over recent months to satisfy community groups, such as agreeing to drop plans for a 125-room hotel. The City Council, however, gets the final vote on the matter.

    The City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve Jamestown Properties' controversial plan to build a major addition on top of the Chelsea Market.

    Jamestown's plan would allow for the addition of more office space by building atop the Ninth and 10th avenues ends of the block-long complex. Now Jamestown's application heads to the City Council, which must hold public hearings on the matter before it votes. The plan needs city approval because the proposed additions are prohibited under current zoning.

    "We are gratified by the City Planning Commission's thoughtful and balanced approach in the consideration and approval of Jamestown's application to expand Chelsea Market," said Michael Phillips, Jamestown's chief operating officer in a statement.

    "Jamestown looks forward to continuing its discussions with area stakeholders as the plan moves to the next and final phase of the approval process," he said.

    The vote puts City Council Speaker and presumed mayoral candidate Christine Quinn in a delicate position because the market, between West 15th and West 16th streets, is in her district. Pro-business and development groups want the plan approved while some of her liberal base adamantly opposes the plan. In most cases, council members take their voting cues from the member whose district is affected by the issue under consideration.

    [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, April 17, 2012]

    Jamestown has already made adjustments to its plan, such as agreeing earlier to drop plans for a hotel. Yet, some members of the community still are not satisfied.

    "The proposed upzoning and huge additions atop this historic complex will ruin a beloved New York City landmark and greatly exacerbate traffic and congestion in a neighborhood already bursting at the seams," said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

    "To upzone Chelsea Market simply adds insult to injury, lining a successful developer's pockets while the local community picks up the tab in increased crowding and congestion and decreased quality of life."

    Sunday, September 2, 2012

    Futuristic Downtown Sliver to Begin Construction

    Directly across from the new Four Seasons Hotel at 99 Church Street, a narrow vacant lot is about to sprout a 21-story condominium. ABN Development will start construction in the next couple of weeks, on a glassy, futuristic-looking tower designed by architect Ismael Leyva.

    The construction site is 19 Park Place, a 25-foot wide sliver in the shadow of the Woolworth Building. Until recently, it was 3-stories of 19th century brick known as 16 Murray Street, from where Mark Twain once arranged his famous lecture tours. Demolition of the old building was completed in October of 2010.  

    Recently, however, construction update signs went up around the property announcing a new 21-story, 232-foot condominium tower with 29 residential units. 

    Architect Ismael Leyva has collaborated on many projects which have been changed the Manhattan skyline, including Tribeca Green, Place 57 and the recently completed 63-story MiMA Tower, at 450 West 42nd Street.

    According to developer ABN Realty, construction will begin in the next couple of weeks and be completed by November 2013. Calabrese Associates of Mott Street is the general contractor for the project. 
    ABN Realty LLC
    420 Madison Ave, Suite 806
    New York, NY 10017
    Tel: (516) 825-6123

    Construction Manager
    Calabrese Associates Inc
    128 Mott Street, Suite 307
    New York, NY 10013
    Tel: (212) 274-1848

    Ismael Leyva Architects, P.C.
    48 W 37th Street, Suite 13
    New York, NY 10018
    Tel: (212) 868-9381

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    Queens Factory to Become Waterfront Condo Complex

    A stalled proposal to transform a dilapidated 150-year-old paint factory in College Point into a waterfront condominium complex has come back to life this month after spending years off the community’s radar. For several years, the owner of the derelict property at 109-09 15th Avenue has been trying to convert the former Chilton Paint factory into a residential complex, but so far, nothing has happened at the site. However, recent permits filed with city suggest that construction of a six-story, 134-unit waterfront condominium development - with views of the Manhattan skyline, as well as LaGuardia Airport and Rikers Island - may not be far off.

    The city Board of Standards and Appeals received a request to extend a set of permits to allow construction at the old Chilton Paint Co. factory, at 110th Street and 15th Avenue.

    The permit, called a variance, allows the developer to circumvent zoning laws and build housing in a manufacturing district.

    The permit was initially issued in 2005 but was only valid for three years. When it first expired in 2009, the developer had still not put a shovel in the ground and went back to the board. According to documents filed with BSA, construction was delayed because the ownership of the property changed hands and the economic downturn caused funding to dry up.

    The BSA granted the extension for another three years “on condition that substantial construction shall be completed by July 19, 2012.” Yet substantial construction has not been completed. In fact, no work appears to have been done on the property as the developer again approached the city for another extension.

    Details of the latest plans show the developer’s vision for a six-story, 134-unit condominium complex with views of the Manhattan skyline, as well as LaGuardia Airport and Rikers Island. Out of the total units, 14 would be three-bedroom, 68 would be two-bedroom and 52 would be one-bedroom apartments, according to plans submitted to Community Board 7.

    The exterior of the three-story brick factory would be kept intact, although its innards would be renovated and connected to two long, six-story buildings that would form the bulk of the housing. Those two buildings would extend outward from the factory toward the water, forming a U-shape with a courtyard in the middle, according to the plans.

    Due to city laws governing the development of waterfront property, a public walkway would also be required to hug the coastline in front of the complex.

    The building would also feature 139 parking spaces, but that did not stop the community from worrying about traffic.

    CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty said the additional traffic generated by the complex could prove troublesome for the mixed residential/industrial, area as another condominium complex was erected next door to the derelict factory a few years ago.

    “The massive development we have is unbelievable,” College Point Civic Association President Andrew Rocco said, "but you can’t just build all this stuff and not provide infrastructure.” Rocco added, "The project could be good for the area — especially if developers clean up the waterfront and open it to the public."

    Susan Brustmann, executive director of the Poppenhusen Institute, a community cultural center several blocks away, said the development could be a boon to the community. “It’s been an abandoned building that’s an eyesore,” she said. “Something’s going to come in there. Let’s just hope that it’s something that will benefit the community.”