Thursday, November 29, 2012

South Street Seaport in Danger of Sinking

The South Street Seaport was recently on the verge of a major redevelopment designed to lure more tourists to the charming, but largely ignored, neighborhood on the southeast tip of Manhattan. Now, experts say that revitalization looks uncertain. Sandy has decimated most of the buildings, including the Seaport Museum, and may have caused structural damage to Pier 17, on which Howard Hughes Corp. planned to develop a large glass mall as an attraction.

Stores are expected to be closed for months, a number of them until the spring. Brokers and officials fear that by the time they reopen, the neighborhood will be further forgotten by locals and avoided by tourists.

On a recent morning, the seaport was even more quiet than usual as workers in white suits hauled debris from buildings into containers lining Fulton Street. Almost all of South Street Seaport's shops, restaurants and tourist attractions were closed. The windows of chains such as Gap, Guess and Abercrombie & Fitch were boarded up or clouded over with steam, while small-business owners worked to clean up.

Pier 17 is blocked off to pedestrians by rows of metal gates as divers check on the piles that sit under the pier to see whether they were damaged. "We are currently evaluating whether Pier 17 is structurally sound," said a spokesperson for Howard Hughes Corp.

He said the mall itself was not flooded, so the pier could reopen by the end of the year if it is found to be structurally sound. Pending public approval, Howard Hughes had planned to begin redeveloping the mall in 2013 and to open in 2015. A representative for the developer said Sandy would not affect that timeline.

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sept 12, 2012 ]

However, real-estate experts nonetheless said the storm would make the redevelopment more challenging. If stores are closed for months and the mall is then closed for two years due to construction, it could be difficult to attract visitors.

Retailers might also be hesitant to sign leases in an area seen as vulnerable to flooding. "People have a short time span to remember. When they remember the seaport, they'll remember all those stores being closed."

Another important attraction, the South Street Seaport Museum, estimates that repairs will cost nearly $22 million—a huge blow for an institution that was on precarious financial footing before the storm. Although the museum's tall ships survived the storm, flood waters knocked out all of its mechanical systems.

The museum's flood insurance policy covers $500,000. It is applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for aid, and its landlord, the city's Economic Development Corp., said it will cover repairs to the museum's electrical panels and sprinklers. The equipment, which was in the basement, must be replaced and relocated, adding to the cost.

The museum plans to reopen in late December, using a generator and kerosene-fueled heaters in the lobby and on the third and fourth floors. Visitors will have to take the stairs to the galleries.

Aside from the daunting cost of repairs, the museum's operating budget will take a hit from its closure and decreased foot traffic once it reopens. Ms. Jones said she is optimistic about the museum's ability to adapt in the short-term—and heartened by an outpouring of volunteer help and $130,000 in post-Sandy donations—but less confident about the museum's prospects for funding the needed equipment. "I'm concerned about 2013 and 2014," she said.

Most of the businesses and attractions in the area have similar concerns. "Lots of businesses were just devastated. The cleanup is expensive and in some cases very slow. With the reopening store by store, sometimes you find fewer customers than you had before," said state Senator Daniel Squadron, who represents the area.

Small-business owners also said they needed chain stores to reopen in order to bring foot traffic back to the area, but many of them have not been doing much visible clean-up work. A spokeswoman for Guess said the store is expected to open in mid-December.

"It seems like if anyone could afford to reopen immediately, it would be those big corporate stores. They have the deepest pockets for sure," said the general manager of Cowgirl Seahorse. Local officials likewise expressed frustration with the rate at which buildings and larger stores in particular, have been reopening.

"We really need to use whatever leverage we have to get the developer and chain stores to get back into business," said Margaret Chin, the City Council member who represents the area.

She said Howard Hughes Corp., which owns a number of buildings in the area, would need to appear before the council to seek approval for its Pier 17 project. "Before they talk about the new plan, we need to talk about how are we going to get everything back up and running now," Ms. Chin said.

Howard Hughes said many of its area buildings sustained "significant flooding and other damage," and it is evaluating the extent of structural, mechanical, electrical and environmental damage. "This is an ongoing process which we are diligently pursuing," said a spokesman.

Nevertheless, glimmers of activity have started to appear. A handful of restaurants have reopened. The Artion Galleries is going ahead with its grand opening next week as planned. "We still feel it's great because the neighborhood after so much devastation needs that connection," said Carmen Molina, whose photography is being exhibited.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Zeckendorf’s Unveil New UN Plaza Tower

The Zeckendorfs have broken ground on their new tower, 50 United Nations Plaza, on the corner of 46th Street and First Avenue. The location will afford prime river views, as well as a prominent place on the skyline between the United Nations headquarters and the Trump World Tower. The project will rise 44-stories and include 87 luxury condominiums, ranging from one to three bedroom full-floor residences, as well as a duplex penthouse and private driveway. The development is expected to cost $500 million, with completion by the end of 2014.

From William Zeckendorf’s work with I.M. Pei and Minoru Yamaski in the 1960s and ’70s to his grandsons’ projects with the likes of  Robert A.M. Stern, who created both the brand new 15 Central Park West and the newly renovated 18 Gramercy Park South, the Zeckendorfs have a thing for star architects and high design.

Add to that now 50 UN Plaza, a 44-story condominium tower on the East Side that will be Lord Norman Foster’s first residential commission in the United States.

Mr. Foster is well known for his work on the Hearst Tower, Two World Trade Center, as well as a new commission for 425 Park Avenue for L&L Holdings. With this latest commission, he cements his place as an all-around architectural power in the city.

This morning, Arthur and William Zeckendorf will break ground on the project at 345 East 46th Street, on the corner of First Avenue. The location will afford the project prime river views, as well as a prominent place on the skyline right between the United Nations headquarters and the Trump World Tower. A rendering of the project shows a glassy building of in the high-tech vein for which Foster + Partners is best known.

More demure than buildings like the Hearst Tower, 50 UN Plaza seems to strike the proper balance of brash understatement the Zeckendorf’s so seem to favor.

The project holds special significance for the Zeckendorf family, since they got their start at the United Nations. William Zeckendorf, Sr., assembled the land that Nelson Rockefeller then bought to build the United Nations complex, and Arthur and William Lie Zeckendorf’s maternal grandfather was Trygve Lie, who served as the first secretary general of the United Nations.

The project will include 87 units, ranging from one-bedrooms as large as 1,100 square feet to three bedrooms as big as 3,000 square feet. There will also be a number of full-floor residences twice that size, as well as a penthouse duplex measuring some 10,000 square feet. Like at 15 Central Park West, one of the marquee features will be a private driveway. It is Lord Foster’s first American apartment tower, following on the success of work he did in Vancouver, at Jameson House, completed in 2004.

The development of 50 UN Plaza is expected to cost $500 million to build, with completion by the end of 2014. If it is even close to the success of 15 Central Park West, which sold $200 million worth of units when it first came on the market - and is worth probably twice that now given a gangbuster market for resales in the famed building - then the Zeckendorfs and their partners should have no problem making an easy return on their investment here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giant Apartment Project Planned for Gowanus Shore

The Lightstone Group is planning to construct a huge rental apartment complex on the banks of the Gowanus Canal, in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens. The proposed apartment development will include 700-rental unit, and will cost around $257 million to complete. Despite concerns from community leaders, Lightstone Group, led by David Lichtenstein, has responded that it will not put the plan on hold, and claims the project's design already addresses flooding and contamination issues. Lightstone aims to start construction within nine months.

Sandy's flood waters hadn't even fully receded when the conversation in the city's design community turned to the question of building—or rebuilding—the city to minimize damage in future natural disasters.

In Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood, the focus of that discussion has been on the polluted, green-hued Gowanus Canal, on whose banks the Lightstone Group is planning a huge rental apartment complex.

Renderings of the project show two block-y buildings with lots of glass, trimmed in orange and black and hemmed in from the water by a tree-lined promenade.

Some Brooklyn residents—including City Council member Brad Lander—are calling for the project to be reconsidered. They point out that Sandy's storm surge breached the canal and flooded a block-long area on both of its sides.

"As you are no doubt aware, the site of your proposed development was under several feet of water during the storm," Mr. Lander said last week in a letter to Lightstone that he posted on his website. The letter asked the company to "reconsider—and, for the time being, withdraw" its plans for the 700-unit, $257 million project so that the community could "rethink our approach to the development of areas along the water's edge."

However, Lightstone, led by scrappy New York native David Lichtenstein, has responded that it will not put the plan on hold, and claims the project's design already addresses flooding issues.

"We had FEMA maps that anticipated conditions like this. We had already been planning for storms like this. I think we've got a development here that's going to be fine," said David West, the project's architect. In addition, he said, the design process for the project is ongoing, and the Lightstone team is fine-tuning the plan in response to the storm. "Maybe we'll find we want to raise the level a little more, but it will be relatively easy to do that. I don't foresee there being any serious design changes," Mr. West said.

The dust-up highlights the tension that exists between the fast-moving real-estate development business and the pensive, academic pace of urban planning.

Gowanus is an area fraught with legal and planning issues since the federal government declared it a Superfund cleanup site in 2010, scaring off some developers who were worried about environmental remediation issues.

Some locals, including Mr. Lander, want development on the canal to stay quiet until the city can devise with a master plan that addresses zoning, promotes new projects and coordinates with the Environmental Protection Agency's effort to clean up the canal.

Real-estate professionals look at the area and see a neighborhood in flux that is attracting young, professional residents, artist studios and hip restaurants. They want to capitalize on its momentum by building housing and commercial projects. Lightstone, for one, aims to start construction on its project within nine months.

The destruction caused by Sandy has given ammunition to the wait-and-see-and-plan crowd. David Briggs, a local architect and co-founder of Gowanus by Design, a neighborhood advocacy group that is pro-development but also supports strong planning rules, said he visited a friend on Second Street, less than a block from the canal, whose basement was flooded with six feet of water a day after the storm hit.

"I could have gone swimming in there," Mr. Briggs said. He supports the project generally, but agrees with Mr. Lander that more planning is required.

"We want to see the project happen, but we prefer it that happens within the context of a master plan," Mr. Briggs said.

Nevertheless, Lightstone said its design was uncommonly prescient and already took into account Sandy-size flood surges. The current design calls for a complex of two buildings with no basement space to house mechanical or electrical systems. In its place a concrete slab that will keep the ground floor of the building at least a foot and a half above the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 100-year flood plain, according to the disaster relief agency's latest maps.

To passersby, the building's ground floor will appear to begin between one and six feet above the sidewalk, depending upon which part of the building it is.

Lightstone also plans to raise the grade of First Street—which bifurcates the project's site between Bond Street and the canal—so that it slopes more gradually toward the canal, and maybe to build flood gates around the project's parking areas.

"Hurricane Sandy’s of the future will not put a drop of water into this project," said Ethan Geto, a representative working on behalf of Lightstone.

The council member, however, still is not convinced. He said he expects new flood maps to be released by federal officials in the coming months. In the meantime, Lightstone this month was scheduled to go before the city's Planning Commission for approvals related to building permits, though a date has not been specified.

"I can't tell you what the storm surge was on the site, but neither can Lightstone. For them to suggest that their design is appropriate without even having seen the FEMA maps suggests that they are not the least bit interested in being thoughtful about reality," Mr. Lander said. "We'd be fools not to incorporate the experience we just had going forward."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Is South Ferry Station Worth Reopening at $600M?

The MTA says it will incur $5 billion in costs related to Hurricane Sandy, forming part of New York's request for federal aid. But some of the items within that tab are so high that it is questionable whether rebuilding and reopening is the right course. Particularly the estimate of $600 million to restore just a single subway station: South Ferry-Whitehall Street on the 1 and R lines at the tip of Manhattan. The station recently underwent a $530 million overhaul in 2009, paid for largely with federal September 11 aid funds.

The $600 million figure has a lot of people scratching their heads, and the MTA has given some clarification: The estimates are preliminary (which is understandable), and the actual cost figures 'may' come in lower (which is unbelievable).

But if the MTA’s preliminary figures are right, they wouldn't be unprecedented: New York pays drastically more for most urban rail infrastructure projects than other jurisdictions around the world.

Of the four urban rail projects under way around the world that cost more than $1 billion a mile, three are in New York City. Milan is about to open a 3.5-mile fully underground subway line, with seven stations, at a cost of just more than $700 million, just slightly more than the MTA might spend to repair just the South Ferry-Whitehall station.

Let’s hope the MTA finds a way to come in far under budget. If they don’t, the best course of action is an unappealing one: closing the station permanently.

Imagine that the South Ferry-Whitehall station just didn't exist. We are in essentially that situation already: The MTA is running R trains through the station (though they don't stop), and the No.1 is currently terminating before South Ferry. Both lines have stations about one-third of a mile north of the closed station, so closing South Ferry would subject its users to about a five-minute walk.

If that were the status quo, and we were presented with a plan to build a new subway station on the site of South Ferry at a cost of $600 million, the city should vote "no" -- especially because, as sea levels rise, the station will face greater risk of similar flood damage in future storms.

Of course, the best response to excessive infrastructure costs isn't to stop building. It's to bring costs down by addressing the planning, engineering, contracting and labor-relations failures that have driven U.S. infrastructure costs so high. As we contemplate the need for flood barriers to protect lower Manhattan from storm surges, making big infrastructure projects affordable will only become more urgent.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Plugs Could Spare Subways,Tunnels From Flooding

Huge inflatable plugs -- now being developed by the federal government to protect subway tunnels from terrorist attacks -- likely could have saved some of New York's subway tunnels from storm-related flooding, according to officials, wistful that development wasn't completed in time for Hurricane Sandy. The Department of Homeland Security successfully tested a plug in January, using a 16-foot diameter prototype to hold back pressurized water at a test tunnel. Another test to demonstrate the plug's reliability is scheduled for next week.

Click to enlarge
"If we would have had these things installed in the right places in New York City, they could have made a terrific difference," said Greg Holter of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

"The problem is we don't have a stock of things that we could put in place. It's not like we have a bunch of these sitting in a warehouse," Holter said. "It's a little frustrating really that we weren't at a better stage at this thing."

"We've proved that these plugs can hold back water," said Dave Cadogan of ILC Dover, the plug's manufacturer. "I wish we had moved a little bit faster as a team and had gotten this development done."

Evan Barbero, a West Virginia University professor who helped develop the idea, says he thought of the plug immediately when he saw a news report that New York was closing the Holland Tunnel in advance of the storm. "I said to my wife, 'It's a pity that every tunnel doesn't have two of these plugs'," he said.

When he heard reports that tunnels had flooded, he said, "The first thing that came to us is maybe we have work cut out for the next 20 years. I think now everybody will say, 'I should have plugged this tunnel.'  But DHS project manager John Fortune, while bullish on the plug, says the plug is not ready for prime time and are two years away from marketing them to the nation's transit and highway authorities.

"This is an experimental prototype. This is something that is probably two years away or so" from real-world applications," Fortune said. "It would be like asking Apple, 'Why can't I have an iPhone 6 now?' Because it's somewhere in the lab now. It's not ready to go."

The plug -- simple in theory, but sophisticated in design -- inflates like a balloon to fit the contours of a tunnel, and can reduce leakage to amounts manageable by pumps.

Placed on either end of some of the tunnels under New York's East River, the plugs could have prevented flooding. But plugs would not have prevented water from infiltrating porous underground subway stations and other infrastructure, they said.

In all, seven New York subway tunnels and two commuter train tunnels flooded during Monday's record flooding. Some of the tunnels were flooded from track to ceiling and "it is still too early to say how long it will take to restore the system to full service," the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which operates the rail systems, said Wednesday.

The Department of Homeland Security began the "Resilient Tunnel Project" in 2007, focusing on the threat of terrorist gas attacks and fires in transit tunnels. But almost from the start, developers believed the technology could serve a dual purpose, protecting tunnels from floods during natural disasters.

DHS teamed with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, West Virginia University and ILC Dover, a private Delaware company, on the project.

An early scaled-down plug, consisting of a single layer, was effective at preventing smoke or gas penetration. But when the team used a stronger, single-layer plug in a full-scale inflation test, the fabric failed, sending the team "back to the drawing board," Fortune said.

The current plug consists of three layers, including a tough outer layer that consists of thick webbing made of Vectran, a liquid-crystal polymer fiber. The plugs must be fitted to individual tunnels.

"When you look at these things, you get the idea of a kid's balloon," Halter said. But "they are not at all stretchable. They are specifically made to fit a tunnel of a specific dimension. They are tailor made. Their ability to expand or contract is less than 1%."

The plugs can be inflated in about three minutes. But once inflated, they are pressurized with either air or water. The existing test plug is roughly 32 feet by 16 feet and holds 35,000 gallons of water.

ILC Dover, which also manufactures spacesuits for NASA, believes the product is ready for the marketplace. "I'd say the technology is ready for implementation now," Cadogan said.

"What we're doing now is in essence confidence testing, multiple deployments, just making sure."

If New York had had plugs, "I think they could have stopped a fair amount of incursion of water in the transit system," he said.

Team members say the plugs are cheaper than the leading alternative -- floodgates. The prototype plug cost about $400,000, and costs could go down if the plugs are manufactured in quantities. "This would be a cheap solution," said Barbero, the West Virginia professor.

Transportation security officials initially were skeptical that a fabric device would hold back flood waters  said DHS project manager Fortune. But that skepticism is fading, he said.

Developers said this week's disaster in New York will likely increase interest in the Resilient Tunnel Project. "While we don't want to ride the back of a disaster, it's certainly our hope that people will look at this technology," Holter said. "This may be the worst storm ever recorded in the last 100 years, but that's no reason that we won't have another storm that will cause as much damage."

Should DHS have expedited development of the plug? That's a hard question to answer, said terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, director of the National Transportation Security Center at the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose, California.

While officials can envision a wild spectrum of vulnerabilities, they have finite resources to address them, he said. "There are lots of solutions that become obvious following a disaster of some type," Jenkins said.

"To a certain extent, security is almost always reactive, because it's hard to justify the costs of deploying technology for things that have not occurred.

And once they do occur, it's almost impossible to resist spending the money on the technology to prevent a re-occurrence.

"That's the axiom. It's a sad one, but that's the reality."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Two New Hotels to Open Near Madison Park

The Lam Group is in talks with Starwood Hotels and Marriott Hotels for each to operate hotels in a new 40-story tower he is building on Broadway, between West 29th and West 30th streets. The new building will rise in place of four adjacent properties acquired this summer. The development, which will comprise of the hotels and 'significant' retail space, will be more than 450,000 square feet and cost around $400 million to build. Lam expects to break ground in Spring 2013.

Mr. Lam said he is close to signing deals with Starwood and Marriott. Starwood plans to open its mid-range boutique brand Aloft at the site, while Marriott plans to open a Renaissance, a high-end hotel brand.

Each hotel would occupy separate portions of the building and manage their spaces individually. The new building will rise in place of four adjacent properties, located at 1205, 1225 and 1227 Broadway, and 846 Avenue of the Americas.

The project will create about 750 hotel rooms, 400 of which fall under the Renaissance brand and the remaining 350 under Aloft.

Room rates will be roughly $500 a night at the Renaissance, and up to $400 a night at Aloft, according to Mr. Lam, whose development firm Lam Group has built several hotel properties across the city.

The hotel market has been rising in the city and interest in building and investing in hotel properties has been stroked, particularly in the neighborhood north of Madison Square Park, popularly now known as NoMad.

Mr. Lam's project is located in the area and will be just across the street from the Ace Hotel, a property that put the neighborhood on the map as a trendy destination when it opened in 2009. Since then other hip hotels, most notably the NoMad and the Gansevoort on Park Avenue South have opened.

Earlier this week, Alfa Development acquired the Hotel Grand Union at 34 E. 32nd St., between Park and Madison avenues, in the same area for nearly $30 million. Michael Namer, chief executive of Alfa, said the neighborhood was attractive because it is so centrally located in the city and appealed to both tourists and the increasing numbers of residents and workers who are flocking to the popular neighborhood.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

City To Demolish 350 Sandy-Damaged Homes

The Department of Buildings will raze around 350 homes that were damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways and Staten Island. The demolitions, which will occur in the coming weeks, are the result of inspections of more than 80,000 buildings affected by the storm. Traditionally, property owners foot the bill for the demolition. After Hurricane Katrina, more than 6,200 properties were ordered razed. FEMA paid for $30 million of the effort, but six years later, nearly 900 homes still need to be demolished.

The department's commissioner, Robert LiMandri, acknowledged the delicate task of demolishing the unsafe homes, some of which have been passed down several generations, in tight-knit, blue collar neighborhoods.

"When you walk around in these communities, people are scared and worried, and we’re trying to make every effort to be up front and share with them what they need to do," LiMandri said.

“Listen, we want public safety, and we have to move on, but you have to give some people—” Mr. LiMandri said, pausing, then adding: “I mean, look, a lot of these are people’s homes that, probably, they may have even grown up in it, and it was their father’s house. I mean, that’s the kind of communities we’re talking about.”

While the DOB is attempting to contact displaced homeowners to notify them of the fate of their homes, the agency indicated that in cases where "danger is imminent," the homes will be demolished without notification. "This is absolutely disgraceful!” State Senator Tony Avella of Queens told the Post. “For the city to be going around issuing these notices and violations while people still have trees on their houses—most people are just in shock.”

Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who represents Breezy Point and other hard-hit neighborhoods, also told the Times that he had not been notified of the DOB's plans. “My constituents have been through so much, and they are just so distraught, and if that were to happen and if they were told that the home that they grew up in or they bought has to be taken against their will, it’s just devastating news,” he said.

Traditionally, property owners foot the bill for the demolition. After Hurricane Katrina, more than 6,200 properties were ordered razed. FEMA paid for $30 million of the effort, but six years after Katrina there were nearly 900 homes that still needed to be demolished.

The 350 homes that will be demolished in New York are in addition to the nearly 200 buildings that burned down or completely washed away by flood waters. Many of the 900 or so structures that received "red tags" from the DOB can be repaired and made safe again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Obama Approves NYC Pipeline Project

A new natural gas pipeline is coming to Brooklyn and Queens, after President Obama cleared the way for it to be built on Tuesday. The pipeline will run beneath Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways and under Jamaica Bay to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, bringing in more natural gas to serve the city's growing demand. Officials expect the project to generate nearly 300 construction jobs and $265 million in construction activity.

The project required federal legislation — and the president's signature — because it affects the parkland in the Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Floyd Bennett Field.

Officials expect the project to generate nearly 300 construction jobs and $265 million in construction activity, a key boon for the local economy following Hurricane Sandy, said U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who sponsored the legislation that made the pipeline possible.

"This is welcomed news as we seek to rebuild our local economy and our communities," Grimm said in a statement.

The pipeline will branch off from an existing line that moves natural gas from New Jersey to Long Island, and it will end in a new meter station at Floyd Bennett Field, officials said. The gas pipeline that currently serves that area was built about 50 years ago and is too small to carry all the natural gas the city needs, officials said.

Grimm and other proponents of the plan have promised that the pipeline will not infringe on populated or environmentally fragile areas, but the pipeline has attracted some opposition from local residents and environmental groups, according to reports.

Still, the pipeline's supporters include the National Park Service, the Regional Plan Association and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"Given the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this law could not come at a more critical time for New York City," Bloomberg said in a statement. "This pipeline will help us build a stable, clean-energy future for New Yorkers and will ensure the reliability of the city’s future energy needs."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Residents To Weather Storms on $2B Tech Campus

After Roosevelt Island flooded last month during Superstorm Sandy, community leaders brainstormed how to protect 14,000 residents from future natural disasters if evacuation proved impossible. Their solution: turn Cornell NYC Tech, the $2 billion technology and applied sciences campus, whose first buildings are expected to open in 2015, into a self-sustaining city—a place where residents could live for days without aid from the outside world.

"We have a high disabled population and if we need to evacuate and it's not possible, people on respirators need to go somewhere where it's safe," said Ellen Polivy, president of the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition, a group of 33 member organizations that banded together to ease the town/gown relations.

 "Someplace where there is water for three days, electricity, food. If there's a storm, we want to figure out a way we can be at the Cornell campus."

The city's Office of Emergency Management often recommends residents "shelter in place" during a disaster if evacuating is impossible. Being stranded is perhaps more likely to happen on the low-lying island than anywhere else in the city. It is accessible only by one subway line, one tram and one bridge to Queens.

Ms. Polivy said islanders want Cornell's construction to incorporate amenities that would make it the go-to "shelter in place" for the community—a safe, enclosed place to weather a storm.

Cornell officials said they were reviewing the request and also looking into expanding transportation options with ferries to and from the island.

The university is already being designed with future storms in mind. Even before Sandy, plans were underway to raise the site above the floodplain by six or seven feet with materials from the demolished Goldwater Hospital, said Andrew Winters, director of capital projects and planning for Cornell NYC Tech.

"Based on the 100-year-flood plain, storm surges, global warming, it all leads to the conclusion that the required height is about 16 feet for elevation," Mr. Winters said. "We were already going to 20 or 21 feet pre-Sandy."

The remaining question is whether the university can take on island residents in a crisis—a population that would dwarf the 2,500 students and 300 faculty members who will eventually inhabit the two-million square foot campus.

"One thing that Sandy has done for us is that it put these sorts of issues in the forefront," Mr. Winters said.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Universities Expand, Construction Industry Gets Boost

Pace University, which has been steadily growing since 1906, is cranking up its expansion as it moves to develop a distinct campus district in Downtown Manhattan. In its most recent move, Pace has signed a deal to develop a new 29-story residence hall at 33 Beekman Street in downtown Manhattan, a 129,000-square-foot project which will house approximately 600 students. The development is slated for completion in the fall of 2015.

Pace is developing additional student housing downtown and launching other projects such as a new home for its performing-arts program which includes acting, musical theater and commercial dance. "We have a very deep commitment to this part of New York," says Stephen J. Friedman, the university's president.

SL Green is working with Pace to develop a 24-story, 609-bed residence hall and retail complex at 180 Broadway, which topped out in April and will be completed by early 2013.

Both new buildings will feature amenities such as kitchens, fitness centers and recreational lounges with televisions, couches and pool tables.

While many still view Pace as a commuter school, "that is no longer the case," Mr. Friedman says. "As enrollment is steadily increasing, more students want to live on campus."

Pace's expansion is the latest sign that building by institutions is boosting New York's construction industry at a time that spending by the private sector has been flagging. Overall construction spending in New York City reached $27.4 billion in 2011, a 3.5% decline from 2010, when total spending was $28.4 billion, according to a New York Building Congress analysis of McGraw-Hill data. Construction spending as of May 2012 was down 12% from its peak year of 2007.

Other construction projects in the pipeline include Columbia University's Manhattanville expansion; New York University's development in Greenwich Village; and Cornell University's CornellNYC Tech on Roosevelt Island. In addition, the City University of New York has plans for more than $2.1 billion worth of construction over the next five years, while Fordham University is also in the early stages of its Lincoln Center campus expansion.

The Pace story began more than 100 years ago when brothers Homer and Charles Pace borrowed $600 to start an accounting school near City Hall. Pace steadily expanded into a full private university with bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in the liberal arts, business, law, nursing and other fields. Today it has close to 13,500 students at its three campuses in Manhattan, Pleasantville-Briarcliff and White Plains, up from 12,700 students in 2008.

Pace's first residence in downtown Manhattan opened in 1970. The school currently provides housing to 1,965 students, a figure that will grow by 1,200 when the new dorms open.

SL Green is teaming up with the Harel Group and the Naftali Group to codevelop the 33 Beekman building. Pace has signed a 30-year lease for both new buildings.

"Our relationship with Pace is somewhat different than our traditional multifamily business," explained Andrew Mathias, president of SL Green. "In this case, Pace is the long-term leasehold condo owner and they find students to occupy the space."

Last January, Pace also signed a 21-year lease for 140 William St. and is gut renovating that seven-story building to transform it into a new home for the performing arts program at Pace's Dyson College of Arts and Sciences. It will include a 100-seat theater, sound rooms, rehearsal spaces, classrooms and a television studio, and will host public performances. The renovation, which is nearing completion, is partially funded by a $1 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

For SL Green, expansion in the industry of higher education represents a growing market that the company is eagerly pursuing. The deals with Pace have opened the door into new opportunities for developing residential multifamily housing, "an exciting area of growth for us," says Mr. Mathias.

The building at 180 Broadway "was our first project built to suit for a college or university…and we are actively looking at other residential developments and other student housing type projects, given our great success with Pace," Mr. Mathias says. "There is an enormous shortage of student housing as higher learning institutions continue to grow. Being able to offer students state-of-the-art housing in great locations is a competitive advantage for the schools."

SL Green recently purchased a 20-story prewar elevator building at 1080 Amsterdam Ave., just south of Columbia University, which it will be converting into residential housing together with Stonehenge Partners. Though the project isn't directly connected to Columbia, "the units may end up being occupied by students and others people around Columbia's campus," Mr. Mathias says.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Landlord Accused of Gross Negligence in Preparing for Sandy

Another Financial District landlord was hit with a lawsuit by residents who are furious that they won't get back into their luxury apartments until March 1, 2013. In a class-action case filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, residents have accused the owners and managers of adjacent buildings at 2 Gold and 201 Pearl Street of gross negligence in preparing for the storm and dealing with the havoc it wrought.

They said the 9-year-old buildings were not prepared "not with even one sandbag,” even though they are located in a flood zone where evacuation was supposed to be mandatory.

The building's owner/manager, T.F. Cornerstone Inc., said more than 7 million gallons of salt water from the East River gushed into both basements so fast that it rose 39 feet high, knocking over a 30,000 gallon tank of diesel fuel.

In a letter to residents, Cornerstone said the buildings were designed to withstand a 100-year storm but the "1,000 year storm" was beyond their control, destroying the two 59-story buildings' electrical and ventilation systems, its elevators, sprinklers and heating and hot water systems.

Rents range from $8,000 to $10,000/month for a one-bedroom apartment. The residents said the oil fumes permeated both structures, forcing the superintendent to wear a gas mask when he walked through the buildings right after the storm. Although Cornerstone said the vapors are dissipating, the lawsuit said the smell permeates clothes and furnishings and will make the 849 apartments uninhabitable even after services are restored early next year.

They also said some residents who returned to their apartments found they had been burglarized. The units are located south of the Brooklyn Bridge between Wall Street and the South Street Seaport museum.

Another Financial District resident, Jonathan Stark, has sued his condominium board and the company that manages his 458-unit building, charging fraud and gross negligence. In the first Sandy-related residential lawsuit to hit Manhattan Supreme Court, Stark is demanding $35 million in damages for himself and other condo owners in the 37-story Greenwich St. building. He claims the directors of Greenwich Club Residences and Cooper Square Realty have refused to pursue insurance claims on behalf of the owners for damages to the building's common areas.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Plan to Tear Down and Rebuild 425 Park Ave

Who needs Midtown East rezoning when you have developers like David Levinson, who has a daring plan to tear down 75 percent of 425 Park Avenue and replace it with an ultra-modern office tower. The project poses an unusual challenge because the existing 32-story building is larger than current zoning allows. If the entire building was demolished, he would be forced to replace it with a smaller one. By retaining the base of the building and constructing a replacement up from there, zoning wizardry will allow 650,000 square feet.

The new building as currently conceived will reach 687 feet, considerably taller than the 370-foot structure it will be replacing. The design by Foster + Partners is interesting in part because it looks somewhat like a midcentury office tower, except that it has been judo-chopped in two spots and is now held up by giant trusses.

This not only breaks up the scale of what would likely be a massive building but also creates two terraces, an increasingly popular amenity in office towers. On the street, a rendering shows a vast plaza, providing much-needed open space - even if there is a building overhanging it - in the heart of Midtown.

Should the Midtown East Rezoning be approved, it would allow Mr. Levinson to potentially build a tower 50 percent bigger than what he already can do, but he would have to wait until 2018 to do so, because of a special provision in the rezoning to protect the development of projects at Hudson Yards and the World Trade Center, where millions more square feet of office space is already poised to come online.

Foster + Partners is best known for projects such as the  HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong and London’s Stansted airport, and their pioneering work on what is now called 'high modern architecture'. In New York,  Foster + Partners has built the new Hearst Building and the Sperrone Westwater Gallery on the Bowery as well as designing 2 World Trade Center, the second tallest building on the site.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Construction Exploding in Long Island City

Long Island City is on the rise — one tower at a time. Thanks to a host of new developments defying the bleak real estate market, another 1,250 condos and rental apartments are slated to hit the market next year. 

And that's just the beginning of what is planned. Over the next few years, the once predominantly industrial area will receive more waterfront parkland, a new library and a completely transformed Queens Plaza.

Long Island City is an ever-evolving neighborhood, and due to an industrial-to-residential zoning change, the area is no longer architecturally limited.
  • TF Cornerstone is halfway done erecting seven condominium and rental apartment towers that will make up its East Coast development, which stands on 21-acres of prime waterfront property. 
  • Rockrose Development is topping out its 42-story tower at 4300 Crescent Street, which is slated to open in 2013. Linc LIC will feature more than 700 rental units. 
  • Vantage Partners is also in the middle or planning stages of construction on three condominium buildings throughout the neighborhood.

This is all in addition to the roughly 5,000-unit Hunter’s Point South project, which includes an intermediate and high school, five acres of waterfront parkland and retail space. At least 60% of the units will be reserved for low- and middle-income residents, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The first phase of the project, which includes two residential towers and the school, is expected to be completed in 2014. A new Hunter’s Point library is also open around the same time.

Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corp., said more Manhattanites will cross the river when they realize they can score luxury waterfront housing without the Manhattan price tags. “Long Island City has been a focus of development for the last 20 years,” he said. “It’s five minutes from midtown Manhattan and has great transportation.”

Wednesday, November 14, 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.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Council Approves Giant Lower East Side Project

Almost five decades in the marking, plans for the massive Seward Park mixed-use development has finally won City Council approval. The giant 1.8 million-square-foot project south of Delancey Street now moves to the mayor's office for final sign off. The Seward Park project will be largest redevelopment of underutilized city-owned land south of 96th Street in Manhattan in more than forty years. A formal request for proposal to find a developer could happen as soon as early next year.

Plans for the massive Seward Park mixed-use development finally won City Council approval Thursday afternoon. The redevelopment of the seven-acre Lower East Side site has been more than 50 years in the making.

[ElectricWeb | Blogger, June 6, 2012]

The City Council voted unanimously in favor of the modified version of the plan that was approved by two City Council subcommittees last week.

The revised strategy involves transforming city-owned parking lots south of Delancey Street, near the Williamsburg Bridge, into a mixed-use development boasting nearly 2 million square feet. The site has become known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.

The Seward Park project, the largest redevelopment of underutilized city owned land south of 96th Street in Manhattan in years, will now move to the mayor's office for final sign off, which is expected later this month.

"Today's vote to approve development on the Seward Park site is truly history in the making. This is a significant step toward alleviating the chronic problem of overcrowding in our community," said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the area, worked with the community and negotiated with the city on some tweaks to the project. "This is not only a momentous vote, but an example of what we can accomplish when the city and our partners in the community work together."

The redevelopment of the lots, formerly home to tenements that were demolished by the city in the late 1960s, has been controversial for years. Prior to this latest project, there were several proposals for the site. All of them failed because the city and community could not agree on the details of the redevelopment. Affordable housing was a big roadblock for the project, one earlier proposal called for all low-income housing. Many in the community wanted the project to be 100% affordable, but they eventually conceded it would not be financially feasible without enough market-rate apartments.

The entire 1.78 million-square-foot, mixed-use development would be 40% commercial and 60% residential. Originally, the plan called for half of the 900 proposed residential units to be affordable. Under the revised plan, there will be 1,000 units, 500 of them affordable.

Most eventually accepted that market-rate apartments were necessary to make the project financially feasible. Additionally, as part of the plan the city has promised to build another affordable housing complex offsite at an underutilized site at 21 Spring St. to meet the needs of the community.

Affordable housing had been a major issue for the project in the past and many in the community had wanted 100% of the residential units planned for the site to be affordable. Most eventually accepted that market-rate apartments were necessary to make the project financially feasible.

While concerns over affordable housing have dwindled, new issues have emerged. Community Board 3, which was instrumental in getting the latest plan through the city public review process, wants to remain actively involved in the redevelopment. Some in the community would like to see a school included in the project. Others want to make sure that a big-box retailer does not occupy the space.

Adjustments to the original plan include the city reserving 15,000 square feet of space at the site until 2023 for a potential public school in case it is determined there is a need for it. Also, the city will establish a community task force that will be involved in shaping the project and will play an instrumental role in drafting the formal request for proposals seeking a developer to build on the site as well as the selecting the winner of the request for proposals.

Other assurances to the community include if a new Essex Street Market is built, it will remain a public market and vendors at the existing building will have first dibs at comparable space at the new facility and hiring preferences for jobs created from the project for local residents.

"We are hopeful about the move and expansion of the Essex Street Public Market and the accommodation of existing merchants with moving costs and comparable rents and spaces," said Ms. Chin.

Monday, November 12, 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.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Huge Lot on Queens Waterfront to be Developed

A Queens developer has taken ownership of one of the largest vacant waterfront properties in New York City, with plans to build 52 single-family Whitestone homes. Originally zoned for manufacturing, the 13-acre industrial property has been rezoned for residential use; the property also includes 8 acres of water rights and will feature a publicly accessible waterfront park. Groundbreaking is expected by the middle of next year.

A group of investors involved with Barone Management, a firm that has both construction and development arms and is based in Whitestone, have paid a deposit on the 13-acre property, at 151-45 6th Road, and will likely take full possession of the property later this month, according to Scott Barone, whose family owns the firm.

The property also includes 8 acres of water rights and will feature a publicly accessible waterfront park, as is required by city regulations. “In a perfect world, development will begin in the middle of next year,” he said.

It was originally zoned for manufacturing until about 2005, when a development firm called Bayrock Group bought the site and sought to rezone it for residential use. State inspectors have been inspecting the site to check for evidence of any contaminated soil dumped there.

The city modified the zoning to specifically allow for the development of 52 single-family homes, according to area lawmakers, but Bayrock went bust and the property descended into foreclosure.

Barone said the development would be a boon for the area, setting a precedent on converting old manufacturing sites into residential tracts in character with the rest of the sleepy neighborhood.

Nevertheless, changing industrial sites to residential properties often involves environmental remediation, and the Whitestone lot was no exception. The soil at the site was contaminated and needed to be entirely replaced before a shovel could hit the ground. It was entered into the state’s Brownfield Cleanup program, which works with developers to clean toxic sites and prep them for development.

The court-appointed receiver for the property hired the construction arm of Barone to perform complete remediation at the site, which concluded in the fall of 2011.

State Senator Tony Avella has asked the state Department of Environmental Protection to look into the replacement soil to ensure it is not itself contaminated. Avella had previously sent a letter to the DEC, urging them to investigate the site for dumping of contaminated material, a prospect Barone found insulting.

The developer contends he has logs to show where each ounce of soil came, proving it is clean, and inspections undertaken by DEC and 24-hour security have made it impossible to sneak any unauthorized material onto the property.

Saturday, November 10, 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.

Friday, November 9, 2012

South Street Seaport Tries to Dry Out

Cultural organizations typically seek contributions with cocktail parties for donors and dinners for prospective trustees. There is no time for such niceties these days at the South Street Seaport Museum, which was deluged by the storm that upended much of New York. The water surged to nine feet, wiping out the building’s electrical systems and destroying its cafe, admission desk, computer system and gift shop. The surrounding seaport, a tourist hub of restaurants and retail stores, is also a mess, with silt wedged between the cobblestones and many storefronts boarded up.

“Hurricane Sandy has dealt us a body blow,” Susan Henshaw Jones, the museum’s president, said in a letter to supporters just days after the storm. “Please send whatever you can!”

The water surged to nine feet at the lobby entrance, wiping out the building’s electrical systems and destroying its cafe, admission desk, computer system and gift shop.

“South Street itself was running like a river,” said the museum’s waterfront director, Capt. Jonathan Boulware who stayed in the museum’s Fulton Street building on the night of the storm as it carried “debris and signs and barricades and pieces of timber and in some cases vehicles along.”

South Street Seaport is hardly alone as an arts organization that is reeling from the hurricane; 3LD Art & Technology Center, an art and performance space on Greenwich Street in Lower Manhattan was flooded, for example, along with art studios in Red Hook and art galleries in Dumbo, in Brooklyn.

The damage suffered by 57 nonprofit theaters added up to more than $800,000, according to a survey by the Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York.

A gallery run by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition in Red Hook saw its 8,500-square-foot main floor decimated. "We did not expect five feet of water to wash through the whole gallery," said John Strohbeen, the coalition’s president. "It had taken us years to build it up. Now we’re trying to put it all back together again."

But the timing was especially rough for the seaport museum. Having been rescued last year by the Museum of the City of New York after a decade of economic struggle, the institution was just beginning to get back on its feet.

Last January the museum reopened after being closed for almost a year for the expansion and updating of its galleries. The number of visitors has reached 100,000 since January.

But the clock is running. A $2 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation gave City Museum up to 18 months to see if it could make a go of the seaport museum. Counting a six-month extension, that interim period expires in April.

The storm would seem like a good excuse as any for the City Museum to wash its hands of the project, whose financial challenges include a decade of back rent and utilities payments owed to the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the cost of maintaining a fleet of 11 antique vessels.

The ships, it turned out, did surprisingly well in the storm, officials said, as the museum prepared by lengthening mooring lines so that the vessels could rise and fall with the surge.

Still, the damage elsewhere is substantial. Ms. Jones said she couldn’t yet estimate the total cost, except to say that replacing the electrical system will run in the millions of dollars. The system, which includes the museum’s escalator, elevators, heating and air conditioning, must not only be replaced but also be relocated to a higher floor to avoid damage in another flood.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Captain Boulware, one of three staff members who stayed overnight in the storm. “The speed with which the water came — we could watch the water rising on the pilings, on the railings. There were breaking waves running across the pier.”

The repair work is likely to take months, but Ms. Jones said she hoped to reopen around Thanksgiving and run the museum on generators.

Unclear is how quickly the museum’s rental tenants, which include the Josh Bach men’s clothing store on Fulton Street and Skipper’s outdoor restaurant on Pier 16, will be able to reopen after extensive damage, Ms. Jones said.

At Bowne & Company Stationers (founded 1775), a printing shop that is part of the museum, more than 200 drawers of antique wood and metal type were drenched. The drying efforts of volunteers were slowed by the lack of power in this stretch of downtown, which was just restored at the end of last week.

School groups, a typically solid source of income, will be slow to return, given the classroom time lost because of the storm.

Kate D. Levin, the New York City cultural affairs commissioner, said that before the storm the museum’s progress had been impressive. She mentioned in particular what had been the museum’s current exhibition organized by the American Folk Art Museum, which explores Lower Manhattan’s history as a seaport and mercantile center; none of the objects on display were damaged in the storm. Now the job is to get back on track, she said.

“Everybody wants to try and keep going on the commitment we’ve made to a vibrant museum there,” Ms. Levin said.

Ms. Jones has been running both institutions simultaneously — an effort complicated by the storm. Each day she heads downtown to Fulton Street from the City Museum on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. “It was a hard balancing act,” she said, “but it got tougher.”

Under Ms. Jones the Seaport Museum has balanced its $4.5 million operating budget, mended some of its ships and raised its visibility. Two fund-raisers over the last year exceeded projections. The first, on the occasion of the museum’s 45th anniversary in May, brought in $250,000, the second, a celebration of “Moby-Dick” in October, $90,000.

During a tour of the museum last week Ms. Jones pointed out how high the water, laced with oil, had reached on the wall of the museum’s lobby. She acknowledged that the way back is expensive: the temporary kerosene heaters alone are costing $7,500 a month. And tourists who do make it to the seaport area these days are coming to see the damage, not an exhibition on New York’s maritime history.

But the museum recently received a temporary generator from the Port Authority. And Ms. Jones’s plea for financial help has so far raised $25,000, with donations ranging between $20 and $2,000.

“We are not in the slightest bit discouraged,” Ms. Jones said, an optimism buoyed she said by the tenacity of her staff and many volunteers. “We want to get back on our feet as fast as we possibly can.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bloomberg Waives Permit Fees for Reconstruction Work

Mayor Bloomberg has signed an emergency order to waive all Department of Buildings application and permit fees for repair work to buildings damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Buildings with damage in need of demolition or reconstruction will have all their repair work fees waived, and all fees for electrical and plumbing repair work will be waived for any building damaged by the storm until further notice. 

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today signed an emergency order to waive all Department of Buildings application and permit fees for repair work to buildings damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

To help New Yorkers affected by the storm, buildings with significant structural damage in need of demolition, alterations or reconstruction will have all their repair work fees waived and all fees for electrical and plumbing repair work will be waived for any building damaged by the storm until further notice.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Buildings has been performing rapid assessment inspections of buildings damaged by the storm. Under this process, the agency has inspected approximately 80,000 buildings citywide and these inspected buildings and blocks have been tagged with green, yellow and red placards based on their condition.

"As the City continues its recovery and assistance operations to help New Yorkers affected by Hurricane Sandy, we are waiving application and permit fees for repairs to buildings that were damaged," said Mayor Bloomberg. "It will ensure that New Yorkers fixing their homes will not have to incur additional expenses, and we are going to do everything we can to help those displaced by Hurricane Sandy rebuild and recover as quickly as possible."

"In the wake of this devastating storm, it is our responsibility to help New Yorkers get back on their feet as quickly as possible," said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. "Our goal in waiving these fees is to make it easier for New Yorkers to rebuild their lives and their homes, removing a big burden off their shoulders. We are committed to assisting the City in its unprecedented recovery efforts, and we will continue to identify ways to help New Yorkers."

Application and permit fees for Hurricane Sandy repair work will be waived as part of the Department of Buildings' continued efforts to assist New Yorkers after the storm. Buildings that qualify as severely structurally damaged are all buildings tagged with red placards as well as those that were issued an immediate emergency declaration, emergency declaration or commissioner's order. Fee waivers for these building apply to all demolition applications and permits; alteration 1, 2 and 3 applications and permits to renovate and repair damaged structures; as well as new building applications and permits to rebuild structures that were completely destroyed. Owners of these buildings can take advantage of the fee waiver. In addition, all buildings damaged by the storm will also have their application and permit fees for plumbing and electrical repair work waived until further notice.

The Department of Buildings is encouraging all licensed professionals performing repair work to damaged buildings to use the Department's Hub Self-Service program and electronic filing system to submit repair work applications when applicable. Launched last month to further streamline and accelerate the construction approval process, Hub Self-Service expanded the NYC Development Hub's services to allow New York State-licensed professionals to submit plans, pay fees and obtain permits online for professionally-certified alteration 2 and 3 applications - which are small construction projects such as home renovations. As part of the expansion, all electronic filings, including Electrical Applications and Limited Alteration Applications, are now being coordinated through the Development Hub as well, making it easier and quicker for contractors to begin work.

To electronically file a fee-exempt application, applicants must prepare the application normally and check the fee exempt box after entering the work cost information to waive the application and permit fees. Based on the application type, the damage checkbox will be located in different sections as indicated below:
Plan Work Form (PW1): The fee exempt box for demolitions, alterations and new buildings is located in the Work Types section under the subsection Cost Information under the question 'What Types of Fees Apply to this Application.'
Limited Alteration Applications (LAA): The fee exempt box for minor plumbing work and limited alterations is located in the Additional Information section.
Electrical Applications: The fee exempt box for electrical applications is located in the Category Work Section. In this section, applicants should check the Hurricane Sandy Damage box.
Since Hurricane Sandy's arrival last week, teams of Department inspectors, engineers and architects have canvassed the City and performed rapid assessment inspections of approximately 80,000 buildings damaged by the storm. All inspected buildings and blocks have been tagged with green, yellow and red placards based on their condition. This is part of the Department's rapid assessment process to conduct as many initial inspections as quickly as possible and provide New Yorkers with information on the status of their buildings. The different colored placards mean:
Green: There are no restrictions. No apparent structural hazards were found, but other issues such as flooding may exist.
Yellow: There are restrictions. The property is damaged; entry limitations are specified on each posting.
Red: The building is unsafe. Property is seriously damaged and is unsafe to enter or occupy. A red placard is not an order to demolish.
To further help owners whose buildings were damaged by the storm, the Department of Buildings has created a series of guides and handouts on how homeowners can get back into their homes and helpful information for licensed professionals performing storm repair work. These guides and handouts along with more information on the fee waiver for damaged buildings can be found online at

The City has also launched NYC Rapid Repairs, a new program to send teams of contractors and City inspectors into neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Sandy and quickly and efficiently make necessary repairs to damaged homes. Under the typical FEMA process, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to arrange for and carry out the repair work, but this new system will allow repairs to happen more quickly and efficiently.

Homeowners can sign up for NYC Rapid Repairs on or by calling 311. Homeowners will need a FEMA ID number, which can be obtained by registering at or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Manhattan Buildings Declared Unsafe by DOB

Before residents can return to the evacuated buildings of Manhattan's Zone A, the Department of Buildings must inspect each property to make sure it is safe for occupancy. While some buildings have received green stickers and have only some cleanup to do before people can move back in, others received "Unsafe" or "Restricted Use" placards, indicating a need for repairs and further inspection and delaying residents' returns. 

There is no official list of these buildings, so we've compiled one (as of Nov 7, 2012):

2 Gold Street Apartments
Following the posting of an unsafe placard on the door of this building, management has announced that residents can break their leases if they choose to relocate rather than waiting for the building to be ready for occupancy again. It will probably be at least two weeks before residents are allowed to return.

100 Maiden Lane
This building was originally declared unsafe, but that rating was downgraded last night to restricted use due to "major flooding."

Downtown Club Condominium - 20 West Street
Building management estimates (according to an e-mail sent to residents) that it will be "several weeks" before the building is habitable. Residents are allowed to pick up their belongings between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and should bring a working flashlight.

Greenwich Club Residences - 88 Greenwich Street
This 452-unit building was declared "Unsafe" and "Uninhabitable", according to a building management memo. It could be "a few weeks to more than a month" before residents are allowed to return. During the storm, a fuel oil storage tank filled with salt water, and the mixture of oil and salt-water wreaked havoc on the building's lower levels. .

1 West Street
1 West Street was initially given an "Unsafe" notice, which was changed to "Limited Use" as of 2:30 yesterday afternoon. The Department of Buildings placard does not indicate specific restrictions to building access.

3 Hanover Square
The building received a "Restricted Use" yellow card from the Department of Buildings due to flooding in the basement and mechanical rooms, according to a tipster. Building management has "made sufficient improvement to warrant re-inspection," according to a memo from management, and is awaiting another inspection from the Department of Buildings.

21 West Street
The rental building, which does not even have a basement, had 17,000 gallons of water pumped out and hopes to reopen by next week. It still needs to pass a full electrical inspection and one more from the Department of Buildings.

90 Washington Street
Building management said that the water had been pumped out of the building but that equipment had not yet been assessed for damage. Management estimates that it may be 6 to 8 weeks before residents are allowed to return.

217 Front Street
A manager at 217 Front Street in the Fulton Seaport says that the entire first floor has been gutted and the building has a yellow "Restricted Entry" sign on the door. Residents can get in to get their stuff, but cannot stay.

116 John Street Apartments
Residents were evacuated last week, and later received the following email: "Following an inspection at the building site yesterday, we were regrettably informed that our Life Safety Systems were damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy. While the building remains structurally sound, unfortunately, among the Systems affected is our Fire Safety System. Without such systems in place, we cannot operate or inhabit the building."

95 Wall Luxury Apartments
95 Wall has a yellow "restricted access" sign. A team of engineers is supposed to give building management a "full assessment" of the building systems this weekend, which will allow management to give residents a timeline for returning home.

103 Washington Street
The seven-unit building 103 Washington Street received an "Unsafe" placard and will have to be demolished, according to the Department of Buildings.

10 Hanover Square Apartments
"According to the Department of Buildings, 10 Hanover is not habitable at this time," said an e-mail from building management. ConEd has not given the building a timeline yet for the restoration of power, but once power is back, the building will need 24 to 48 hours to evaluate its systems.

200 Water Street
This building has received a "Restricted Use" tag from the Department of Buildings. Residents were told yesterday that it could be "at least two weeks, possibly much longer" before the building is habitable again

Rivergate Apartments - 401 East 34 Street
The Department of Buildings has judged Rivergate "Uninhabitable", according to an e-mail from building management. "ConEdison is on site draining their vaults of more than 80,000 gallons of seawater and will not be able to restore power to the building until "at least Thanksgiving", according to a memo from management.

111 John Street
A representative at 111 John Street tells reported that the building received a "Restricted Use" tag. The basement is completely flooded and it could be two weeks before people could return to their offices.

River Lofts - 416 Washington St
The Department of Buildings reports that 416 Washington Street has been declared "Uninhabitable".

160 Front Street
The building received a yellow placard due to a flooded mechanical room. A crew is in the process of pumping the water out.

79 Laight Street
Department of Buildings has upgraded 79 Laight Street with a "Restricted Use" placard. Originally, the building had been declared "Uninhabitable".

Truffles Tribeca - 34 Desbrosses Street
A resident reports that Truffles Tribeca has also received a Restricted Use tag from the Department of Buildings.

184 Kent Ave - Brooklyn
A resident reports that the Department of Buildings has placed a "Restricted Access" tag on the building after initially declaring it "Uninhabitable". According to building management, the building suffered no structural damage in the storm.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rescuing the Crippled Crane

As hurricane Sandy began to roar through the streets of New York City, a construction crane atop the $1.5 billion luxury high-rise One57 in midtown Manhattan collapsed in high winds Monday and dangled precariously above 57th Street. The boom of the 1,000 foot-high tower crane being used to construct the luxury residential tower collapsed in a back flip nearly 80 stories above storm-ravaged Manhattan, prompting engineers and inspectors to climb to the top to examine it as the huge storm bore down on the city. 

For the first time since the storm, the developers, construction crew and city officials involved in the Midtown crane collapse shared panic-stricken moments from the effort to secure the machinery.

Some buildings, including 900 guests at the Parker Meridien hotel, were evacuated as a precaution and the streets below were cleared, but there were no immediate reports of injuries. City officials did not have a number on how many people were told to leave.

Authorities received a call about the collapse at around 2 p.m. as conditions worsened from the approaching Hurricane Sandy. Meteorologists said winds atop the 74-story building could have been close to 95 mph at the time.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Many Flooded Manhattan Buildings Stay Closed

New York City’s buildings commissioner said that scores of the 445 Lower Manhattan buildings his inspectors had labeled contaminated or otherwise temporarily uninhabitable, including some that house huge financial services companies and other large businesses, could remain so for weeks or possibly months. Nine buildings received red stickers, marking them as too dangerous to enter and may have to be demolished.

The commissioner, Robert D. LiMandri, said in aa interview that since Hurricane Sandy struck, his department had inspected 853 buildings, in an area bounded by the Hudson and East Rivers below Delancey Street on the East Side and Canal Street to the west. Most were in the evacuation zone and hit hard by the storm surge.

Mr. LiMandri said 393 were found to be habitable and were marked with green stickers identifying them as such. Nine buildings received red stickers, marking them as too dangerous to enter, along with six others that were scheduled for reinspection this weekend.

But of the 445 that received yellow tags, he acknowledged, scores could be out of commission for weeks or months.

Mr. LiMandri said some of these buildings were large structures with thousands of workers that produced “a lot of economic activity for the neighborhood” and were subject to closing because of the flooding and fuel oil contamination that damaged their electrical, heating and other systems.

He said most of those buildings were operated by large corporations, with resources and personnel that could in some instances provide the means to temporarily solve the building’s problems and allow it to reopen.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sandy's Public Hospital Toll Over $300M

The city announced it would allocate $300 million to public hospitals to help repair the damage. However, that job means rebuilding to a standard that could withstand another Sandy. Cost of rebuilding flooded Bellevue, Coney Island and other public hospitals in city damaged by the superstorm will likely be higher than city's initial tally. The final price tag is likely to be 'north of $300 million', according to the city's Health and Hospitals Corp.

It could take far more to repair Superstorm Sandy's damages to New York's public hospital system than the $300 million the city has said it will spend, says Alan Aviles, president of the city's Health and Hospitals Corp. Mr. Aviles spoke Tuesday about some of the lessons his organization is taking away from the storm–and how Health and Hospitals will rebuild going forward.

The city announced this week it would allocate $300 million to public hospitals to help repair the damage. But that job means rebuilding to a standard that could withstand another Sandy. The price tag for this is likely to be "north of $300 million," Mr. Aviles said.

The two hardest-hit public hospitals in the city were Bellevue and Coney Island hospital, both of which flooded during the storm and had to be evacuated. Mr. Aviles was at Coney Island Hospital while it was flooding during the storm's peak on Oct. 29.

At one point, a raft bearing emergency workers and evacuees floated into the hospital lobby. At Bellevue, a flood in the basement eventually caused the hospital to lose its backup generator.

Mr. Aviles said it would take two months to fully restore the Coney Island site and three months for Bellevue, though certain services will be available sooner. Mr. Aviles said it would be hard to tell at this point how much it will cost to rebuild, since the organization is focused on getting the hospitals back to full capacity as quickly as possible.

"We are completely focused on getting these hospitals up and running," Mr. Aviles said, adding that the task means having to reposition the hospitals to be able to handle future storms like Sandy.

"We're going to go forward assuming this kind of storm can happen next year."