Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spotlight: New Projects in Development | Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan is experiencing new development on a large scale, turning downtown into one of the fastest growing construction markets in the United States. From commercial offices and hotels to residential towers... 

Lower Manhattan has a numerous large-scale projects that are currently under construction, or will be constructed in the near future. 

Here are just a few of the projects that TheElectricWeb.com has been following:


To receive a free copy of our latest report, please use the form below. The information you request will be sent to you via email.

 


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

City College to Erect Solar-Powered House on Its Roof

This summer, City College of New York will welcome home its 2011 entry to the U.S. Solar Decathlon. The solar-panel-topped house, dubbed the Solar Roofpod, will be fully reassembled in its new home atop the Spitzer School of Architecture in time for the fall semester, flanked by rooftop gardens and an energy-generating windmill. The house - designed to demonstrate that the urban house of the future can be energy efficient and attractive - will be used as a meeting space and teaching device to show the benefits of environmentally-friendly design and materials.

Solar Roofpod was designed as a prototype structure that could easily attach to the roofs of buildings in high-density neighborhoods in cities like New York.

A team of more than 100 students at the Spitzer School of Architecture and the Grove School of Engineering designed and built the structure.

More than 100 students participated in the design and construction of the pod, which contains a cooling system run off heat, known as an exhaustive cooling system, and a glass with a reflective coating that is invisible to the human eye but is visible to birds to prevent them from crashing.

The pod has all sorts of potential applications when it comes to urban housing. Flooding from Hurricane Sandy showed how important it was to lift the mechanical elements of buildings out of the basement. Placing them on the roof using the pod design is one possibility.


The roofpod has a modular design, making it easy to assemble on the city's rooftops. It also features rainwater collection, and windows and blinds have been programmed to open and close to keep the space at an optimal temperature to save energy. Portions of the pod could be controlled from an iPhone.

More than $1 million in donated material and volunteer hours was used to construct the roofpod, which was completed in August 2011 before it was dismantled, shrink-wrapped and shipped to Washington, D.C., for the competition.  [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jul 7, 2011]

The Solar Roofpod  was built, designed and decorated by students. It was displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2011 as one of the finalists in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon, a biennial student competition to design ultra-sustainable homes. The solar roofpod had been disassembled and stored in a New Jersey warehouse following the competition.

In June, the process will begin to place the roofpod on the City College campus.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Contractors Targeted on Minority Hiring Quotas, Fraud

The city's building contractors, struggling to meet quotas, are finding themselves accused of fraud. That isn’t news to many, as prosecutors have brought a slew of high-profile cases against major city contractors in recent years, alleging fraudulent hiring of women and minority-owned subcontractors to meet mandates on public projects. The government is not asserting that minority-owned firms are not being paid, but that they are being denied the chance to mature and gain expertise by doing their own work. Prosecutors' use of the term "fraud," when there may not have been malicious intent, rubs many in the industry the wrong way. Nevertheless, the message is clear: 'We're coming after you.'

Many of those cases have come out of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch's office, but Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance recently got into the act in January, securing a $10 million settlement from Siemens Electrical, the successor to Schlesinger-Siemens Electrical Contractors, Inc.

In an agreement, Siemens Electrical (controlled by German conglomerate Siemens AG), admitted to filing false documents stating it had hired a minority contracting firm to help build the $3.2 billion Croton water-treatment plant in the Bronx. In fact, Schlesinger-Siemens Electrical provided much of the labor and equipment.

"Up until these types of investigations, there was no clear definition of what assistance a primary contractor could or could not provide to subcontractors," said Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association.

General contractors say there is a counter narrative to accusations that their industry is boxing out women and minority contractors, even as they land lucrative public projects requiring minority hiring. One overlooked fact, they note, is that in the government prosecutions, the minority contractor alleged to be a front group was on a city, state or federal government-approved list of minority or women contractors.

Qualifications questioned

Because the lists lack certain details, however, it can be difficult to tell whether these contractors are capable of the work they say they can do. If they struggle, a general contractor can be tempted to provide capital, equipment or technical assistance to a subcontractor that is supposed to be able to stand on its own.

"The bible is the certification list," said Mr. Coletti. "We believe that it is government's responsibility to ensure that those on the list can provide commercially useful functions and that it doesn't contain subcontractors that say they can do a $2 million job, but can only do a $500,000 job."

Some primary contractors also question whether the mandates in government contracts are realistic, especially in highly specialized fields that might lack qualified minority contractors. Moreover, they suspect that prosecutors zealously pursue the cases because of the potential for millions of dollars in deferred prosecution agreements. Prosecutors' use of the term "fraud," when there may not have been malicious intent, also rubs many in the industry the wrong way.

"I think what has happened is that there is an expectation on the part of prosecutors that primary contractors enter into these relationships with [subcontractors] with full knowledge of all of their circumstances," said Denise Richardson, director of the General Contractors Association of New York. "I think that in many instances that is very unfair." In other words, contractors think their minority subcontractors have more expertise or resources than proves to be the case.

Amid the controversy, city and state governments have been raising goals for minority firms. Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for 20% of all state contracts to go to firms owned by women and minorities, while the City Council passed reforms in December to increase their share of city contracts fivefold, to $2.2 billion from $433 million.

Clubby industry

The primary contracting industry did win a few concessions in the city law, which requires the Department of Small Business Services to ensure that the minority firms physically exist, and demands subcontractors submit more financial information. However, questions remain about whether the agency has the resources to vet all of them properly.

Some proponents of the quotas, meanwhile, say the underlying problem is the ingrained clubby nature of the construction industry. Only a change in attitude will solve the problem, they say.

"They've been setting up these front groups when there are minority contractors available. When there’s a will, there's a way. But there just hasn't been a will."

Large contractors reject that assertion, but acknowledge that the bevy of prosecutions is having an effect. Said Mr. Coletti, "The prime contractor community is becoming very careful when it comes to following the law."

Related Articles 
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan14, 2013]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 26, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep 05, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep 20, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jul 13, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, May 4, 2011]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Oct 26, 2012]

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sneak Peek at $8 Billion East Side Access Project

In January 1999, President Clinton’s budget included $20 million in funds for East Side Access, a project that would bring the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal. The projected cost back then was $2.2 billion. Today, with 45 percent of the work complete, MTA officials estimate the price tag at closer to $8.4 billion.  East Side Access is scheduled to open in August of 2019.

East Side Access will bring 160,000 Long Island commuters roughly 11 miles from a new station in Queens’ Sunnyside Yard to Grand Central Terminal, shaving an average 40 minutes off the trips of the majority of Long Island Railroad riders who work closer to Grand Central than to Penn Station.

A new 350,000-square-foot concourse–its design will mimic the existing main terminal’s–will include retail space as well as 51 elevators and escalators descending 160 feet below the earth to four platforms handling eight rail tracks.

MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu recently led a group of selected guests, including TheElectricWeb.com, on a guided tour of the project. Mr. Horodniceanu spoke proudly of his project as he led the crowd through a network of windy and chilly tunnels deep below midtown from 44th through 59th Streets.

East Side Access Project - Photo Update (Jan 2013)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Abandoned Power Plant to Become Hotel, Convention Center

It has been nearly five decades since the Glenwood Power Plant in Yonkers closed its doors, but plastics manufacturer Ron Shemesh has plans to transform this four-building complex on the Hudson River into a hotel and convention center. Senator Charles Schumer called the plan a “very high priority.” The $250 million project to convert the century-old brick buildings could be completed as soon as 2014, creating 1,800 construction jobs and 955 permanent ones. However, the project will be costly.

Glenwood POH, LLC, the consortium of developers behind the transformation, recently bought the property for $3 million and needs to raise around $155 million for the project.

In December, the Mid-Hudson Economic Development Council gave Mr. Shemesh a small economic boost with a $1 million grant to preserve the sprawling complex.

The Glenwood Power Plant site is situated directly on the Hudson River, adjacent to the Glenwood Metro-North station, in Yonkers and consists of more than 4 acres, of which 2.1 acres are on land and over 2 acres extend into the river. The site currently includes four vacant buildings, with a footprint of approximately 62,000 square feet.

The abandoned Yonkers Power Station of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, is a massive building which was constructed between 1904 and 1906 to hold electrical generators to provide third-rail power for its Hudson and
Harlem line trains. In 1936, the plant was sold to Con Edison, from which New York Central purchased the energy, finding it cheaper than to make it for itself. The plant doubled as a source of energy for Yonkers and the surrounding area.

The Yonkers Power Station was put on standby in the 1950s, and closed in the 1960s. The turbines and boilers have all been removed along with all other major machinery, though much remains to be seen inside.

The building was sold to a private party in the late 1970s and has sat idle and vacant since.

The power station remains a local landmark and in January 2008, the power station was named to the Preservation League’s Seven to Save list, designating it as one of the most endangered  buildings in the state in need of upholding.

Originally, however, developers believed the structure could not be salvaged and planned to demolish the building, turning the lot into residential units.

However, after a study showed that much of the building could be reused, Glenwood POH has designed a project centered on keeping the structure – and its two iconic smokestacks – intact.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer toured the crumbling Glenwood Power Plant on Wednesday, calling for millions of dollars in federal tax credits to spur its rehabilitation. Schumer called the $250 million project a “very high priority.”
"With increased federal support," he said, the century-old structure “can avoid the wrecking ball and help honor the city’s legacy by spurring development and creating jobs."
Congressman Eliot Engel, who has been working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on acquiring grant money for the redevelopment project, says
“Transforming these derelict buildings into hotel, convention center, and community space will create jobs and economic development to transform the area. With this development, we will have, after 40 years of abandonment, a transformative space majestically located on the beautiful Hudson River. It’ll bring jobs to Yonkers and it’s the sort of thing that will have the ‘wow’ effect on the waterfront,” he said. “It’ll be spectacular.”
Despite the task ahead, the goal is to complete remediation in 2013, with construction expected to wrap up in May 2014, creating 1,800 construction jobs and 955 permanent ones, according to developers.

When finished, they envision a hotel and convention center that is an international destination, hosting celebrations and other entertainment.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Construction Worker Killed in Horrifying Accident in Queens

In the second construction accident to take place in Queens in as many days, a construction worker erecting an Astoria apartment building in bone-chilling 12-degree temperatures, died last Thursday, after he fell through the floor and struck his head on a steel girder. On Wednesday, a hardhat working on the new NYPD academy in College Point fell 12 feet down an elevator shaft, sustaining serious injuries.

The 42-year-old worker was braving bone-chilling 12-degree temperatures on the site at Broadway and 45th Street around 4 p.m. when he fell through the hole in the first floor, plummeting 15-feet to the basement below, officials said.

“A steel girder hit him on the head,” said one of the two surviving workers. Responding emergency crews rushed the victim to Mount Sinai Queens Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and pronounced dead.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into the accident at 45-11 Broadway, and the Department of Buildings has issued a stop-work order during the ongoing investigation at the Astoria site.

Work at the jobsite, being developed by Centex Builders, was stopped last March when neighbors complained construction was destabilizing their foundations and the excavation was causing their houses to sink.

This is the third construction accident to occur to Queens this month, and he second accident in as many days.

Crane Collapse in Long Island City

On January 9, a crane collapsed at 46th Avenue and Center Boulevard on the Long Island City, where new condominiums are being built on the waterfront. A crane operator and a contractor did not inspect equipment, failed to take proper precautions and ran the rig unsafely before it collapsed while building an apartment tower and injured seven construction workers, Buildings Department officials said. No one died in the incident. [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 10, 2013]

Crane operator Paul Geer and contractor Cross Country Construction have each been cited with five violations stemming from the collapse, which occurred as the crane tried to lift more than double its capacity. Geer and the company each face at least $64,000 in fines; the developer and a site safety manager also were cited with a violation apiece.

NYPD Police Academy

In another incident, a construction worker at the Police Academy site in Queens suffered serious injuries when he fell 12 feet down one of building’s elevator shafts. First responders were called to the construction site at College Point Blvd. and 31st Avenue around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Mar 5, 2012]

Members of the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit managed to get the injured construction worker into a rescue basket and pull him out of the shaft within a few minutes. The construction worker was taken to New York Hospital Queens for treatment. It was unclear just how the man fell into the shaft.

The new police academy is slated to open later this year.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Green Light Near for West 57 Pyramid Scheme

Plans for a giant pyramid-shaped building on Manhattan’s West Side are as ambitious as its young architect, Bjarke Ingels. What's more unusual is that giant rental project planned by Durst Fetner Residential, is just one signoff away. The project, known as West 57,  recently earned the City Planning Commission’s approval and goes before City Council next month. The striking, 870,000-square-foot edifice will rise on West 57th Street, between 11th and 12th Avenues, on a site that looks toward the Hudson River. 

The developer describes the 700-unit structure as a “court-scraper,” a fusion of a Manhattan high-rise and an enclosed courtyard.

A large, deep gash on one side of the 467-foot-tall building will create a central, light-filled public atrium.

The pyramid is expected to cost more than $500 million to build, with completion slated for 2015.

The Durst Organization expects that West 57 sustainability features, including a blackwater recycling system and a compressed-natural-gas shuttle bus to the Columbus Circle transit hub, will earn it a coveted LEED Gold-rating.

The environmental impact statement estimates that West 57 - which lies within a flood plain - will accommodates a two-foot sea-level rise, with its at-grade mechanicals and no basement on its western side.

[See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 29, 2012]

The construction team is largely in place, with Thornton Tomasetti as structural engineer, SLCE as architect of record and Starr Whitehouse as landscape architects.

Despite all its planning and engineering, the site will still be quite difficult to develop; a sloping plot land in flood evacuation Zone B, adjacent to Con Ed’s 58th Street steam plant, the Sanitation Department’s Pier 97 facility, and the West Side Highway.

City officials leaned on the developer to provide upgrades to the 59th Street highway underpass for safer pedestrian access to the waterfront.

The City Council’s Zoning and Franchises committee held its first public hearing on January 17, and the City Council will vote in early February to approve, modify, or block the project.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Probe Snags LIRR ‘Copper Crooks’ in Huge Theft Ring

Nassau County prosecutors will be calling 15 Long Island Rail Road communication workers “Copper Crooks” once an indictment is unsealed on Friday. The linemen who specialize in the installation of fiber optics and telephone systems will be criminally charged with the theft of more than $250,000 dollars in scrap copper metal since 2010. The communications workers stole new and used copper wiring from LIRR job sites and facilities across the area, with the Babylon Yard in West Islip, and the Morris Park maintenance facility in Jamaica, Queens, as the primary targets.

The copper wire would be taken and stripped, and then sold to a Long Island scrap yard for cash, after which, the proceeds were split amongst the participants in the scheme.

They took anything they could get their hands on,” said a source close to the investigation.

On Friday, the union first received word of the more than two-year investigation by the Nassau County district attorney, the MTA inspector general’s office and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department.

The fifteen linemen — who have been on the job from between 5 and 25 years — were taken out of their rotations upon arrival at work Tuesday morning. The LIRR has suspended the workers with pay and will suspend them without pay once they are charged.



The workers are set to turn themselves in at 7 a.m. Friday in Mineola, where they will be hit with felony grand larceny, possession of stolen property, conspiracy and other charges.

The alleged thefts by the workers date back to 2010, with some sources estimating the amount stolen was “well over” $400,000.

The theft of copper is a booming black-market industry because of increased worldwide demand. Copper is now selling for $3.70 a pound — up from $1.48 just four years ago. [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 11, 2013]

The National Insurance Crime Bureau,has estimated that metal theft costs American businesses around $1 billion a year.

 “Thieves have been willing to go to almost any length to obtain the metal,” according to the report.

“They have stripped sheets of metal from building rooftops, stolen memorial decorations from cemeteries, ripped apart air conditioners for the copper coils within, and stripped homes and buildings of wiring and piping.”  [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep 14, 2012]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

LED’s Emerge as Popular ‘Green’ Lighting

The lighting industry has finally come up with an energy-efficient replacement for the standard incandescent bulb that people actually seem to like: the LED bulb. Although priced at around 20 times more than incandescent bulbs, LED’s last much longer and use far less electricity, a saving that owners are beginning to recognize. Prices for the bulbs are falling steadily as retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s sell them aggressively, and manufacturers improve the technology.

Moreover, because the light in LED bulbs comes from chips, companies have been able to develop software applications that let users control the bulbs, even change the color of the light, with tablets and smart phones. Apple sells a three-pack of such bulbs, with the hardware to operate them for about $200.

“You’re seeing all of your growth in the LED category,” said Brad Paulsen, a Home Depot merchant. “We absolutely expect LED technology in four or five years to be the most popular lighting technology that’s out there.”

Last year, LED sales, though small at about 3 percent of the residential market by some estimates, grew faster than those of any other lighting technology, according to retailers and analysts.

Among A-type bulbs, the most common, LEDs will outsell incandescent lamps in North America in 2014, according to projections by IMS Research, an electronics research firm. And LEDs will become the most popular A-type technology by 2016, with North American shipments reaching almost 370 million, a more than tenfold increase from the roughly 33 million shipped last year, the firm estimates.

LEDs were responsible for 20 percent of lighting sales last year, according one manufacturer.

Incandescent bulbs, while cheap, are very inefficient, wasting most of their energy as heat as they pump electricity into filaments to make them glow. The government has been pushing consumers to other technologies for several years, in part by phasing out the manufacture or import of the least efficient bulbs.

The first big alternative to emerge, compact fluorescent bulbs, has left many consumers dissatisfied. The light quality is seen as harsher, the bulbs can be slow to warm up and difficult to dim, and they contain toxic materials.

LEDs are more expensive, but offer better light quality and more flexibility. And thanks to heavy marketing by retailers, customers are beginning to discover their appeal.

“The LED you buy, even though you pay even $25 or $30, it’ll last like nine or 10 years,” said an electrical utility worker who was eyeing LEDs at the Home Depot. “And environmentally, they’re safer, too.”

Lamp manufacturers are rushing into the market, sending prices falling. Home Depot sells some 40-watt-equivalent bulbs for about $10.

“Most of the manufacturers are moving toward new designs in solid state lighting, as are we,” said one manufacturer.

Although his company still sells more compact fluorescent lamps, growth in that business has slowed, while demand for LEDs is skyrocketing. “In the long run, solid-state lighting is going to make a whole lot of sense for almost every lighting application.”

For the manufacturers, LEDs pose a new challenge. They offer higher profit margins, but because they can last for decades, people will be buying fewer bulbs — of any sort.

The Energy Information Administration estimates that total light bulb sales will fall by almost 40 percent by 2015, to just under a billion from 1.52 billion bulbs, and continue their decline to about 530 million by 2035, with LEDs making up a steadily increasing portion of the market.

As a result, many companies are competing to establish themselves as popular brands.

“The company that can dominate will make a lot of money,” said Philip Smallwood, senior lighting market analyst at IMS Research. “So it’s a big push to get into it early.”

With demand growing for LEDs in other uses — like backlit phone and computer screens, automotive lights and street lamps — manufacturers have been able to develop their technologies and benefit from economies of scale to help bring the price down, said one industry analyst.

In the commercial and industrial sector, use of LEDs is more common than in homes, analysts say, because companies are more likely to do the long-term cost-benefit analysis of buying lighting than homeowners, who are still largely driven by the upfront price.

Goldman Sachs estimates that in the residential sector, penetration of LEDs will rise from 3 percent last year to 16 percent in 2015, still lagging the commercial and industrial sector as well as outdoor applications like parking lots and billboards.

But as the cost of an LED approaches $10 — a tipping point that would speed mass adoption, according to Mr. Smallwood — retailers have been stepping up their efforts to market the lights, often with proprietary brands like Home Depot’s EcoSmart (manufactured by Lighting Science Group) jostling for shelf space with long established brand names.

“One day I randomly walked into a Home Depot and thought, LED — when did that happen?” Said Clayton Morris, a host of TV’s “Fox & Friends,” who was buying bulbs as part of a project to replace the incandescent lamps in his home. “It’s a hefty investment upfront,” he said, “but it just seemed like a great savings.”

At the same time, in an effort to transform light bulbs from a cheap, disposable product into something that consumers might show off to their friends, manufacturers have been adding functions that could ultimately fit into a larger home automation system. Often Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-enabled, a new generation of LED bulbs offers all manner of new remote controls and automatic responses.

Some can change colors along a broad spectrum and offers settings that can mimic sunrise in the morning or use a special “light recipe” intended to raise energy levels. Such bulbs have been a big hit, analysts say, attracting a host of software developers who have created free apps for new features, like making it respond to voices or music.

Excerpted from the article: LEDs Emerge as a Popular ‘Green’ Lighting 
by Karsten Moran, as published in The New York Times, January 22, 2013.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Massive City Point Development to Use Nonunion Workers

As developers plan to break ground this week on the second phase of the City Point development in downtown Brooklyn, the long-anticipated project has become a flashpoint in a simmering battle over the use of nonunion construction labor. Developers said construction work on City's Point's 670,000 square feet of retail space will be partially nonunion, and at least some of the 700 apartment units likely will be as well. The 1.8 million square-foot project is being built with affordable-housing subsidies on city-owned land and is among the largest developments in Brooklyn since the recession.

The three-part project's first phase was also nonunion and was the site of periodic protests, but the labor situation for the larger second phase underscores how the city's powerful construction unions are losing their grip on development projects.

The hard-hatted construction worker once symbolized the strength of the city's labor movement, but now only about half of the industry's jobs are unionized.

Just 15 years ago, 80% to 90% of construction work in the city was union. A 2011 report by the Regional Planning Association said union labor has declined to 60% from 85% in the 1970s.

Paul Travis, of Washington Square Partners, which is developing City Point's retail portion, said City Point's retail component would use a mix of union and nonunion labor to cut costs, get the project built faster and use more minority workers. The second phase will create about 3,780 construction jobs. "We're beginning to really have a good group of highly qualified competitive minority contractors," said Mr. Travis. "If you looked at a job like this 10 years ago, the world has really changed."

Construction of the second phase will begin with a huge retail space that will include Century 21 and a 'market hall,' which will include local food vendors. The second phase also includes about 565 units of market-rate housing and 125 units of affordable housing.

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 16, 2013]

The developers will use nonunion labor in part because it allows them to hire more local, minority and female laborers, Mr. Travis said, noting that on the first phase, 41% of more than 180 construction workers were local and 82% were minorities. "We're pretty confident that in the next phase, we'll be able to continue the hiring record that we have so we will become one of the largest employers of local workers in the neighborhood."

However, union leaders have fired back that paying lower wages hurts local workers and could potentially lower the quality of construction. "I don't know why the city, the Economic Development Corporation and Washington Square Partners, think that this is fair, after all the taxpayer money that they have received," said one union leader.

Some large developers in the city regularly use nonunion labor, including Equity Residential and Toll Brothers.

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, May 26, 2012]

Industry experts say developers are turning away from union labor because construction costs are rising more quickly than rents and condominium prices, and because nonunion workers are able to finish jobs more quickly than unionized workers. They said the successful completion of some jobs with nonunion labor has helped increase developers' confidence in building projects in the city. More importantly, nonunionized labor costs more than 30% less, and nonunion workers have become more and more skilled.

City labor leaders said most of the big projects in New York remain union jobs. "They're almost all being built union, like Hudson Yards, Hunters Point South in Queens, the B2 Brooklyn project that Forest City Ratner is building near Barclays Center," said Paul Fernandes of the Building & Construction Trades Council.

To help hold on to these large jobs, unions have become more willing to compromise in the form of "project labor agreements," which include concessions on wages and benefits. "The unions are making changes as they proceed, because they're seeing a tremendous erosion of their membership," Mr. Lambeck said.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NYC 'Micro-Apartments' to Be Built With Modular Blocks

New York City’s first “micro-unit” building will have apartments as small as 250 square feet with pantries that pull out from the wall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this week. The “My Micro NY” building, a conversion of a city-owned property at 335 East 27th Street, will be the first multi-unit building in Manhattan developed using modular construction, with the modules prefabricated locally by Capsys at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

Monadnock Development, the project’s developer, won the adAPT NYC competition, which sought proposals for space-optimizing units.

“The growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced.

The 55 apartments in the building will have ceilings 9 feet to 10 feet high with balconies and loft space overhead, according to the mayor. The building’s apartments will range in size from 250 square feet to 370 square feet, with 40 percent of them designated affordable units renting for below-market rates.

Each unit’s kitchen will include a full-height refrigerator, range and space for a convection microwave oven. The building, in the Kips Bay neighborhood, is designed with public spaces, such as a rooftop garden, porch with picnic tables and a lounge that can seat 20 for dinner or accommodate 40 for standing-room events, according to Bloomberg’s statement.

Construction Cost

The developer paid the city $500,000 for the land, and the cost of construction will be about $15 million, according to Nicholas Lembo, president of Monadnock Development.

Skilled workers will prefabricate the building modules at Capsys’s indoor facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Capsys is the first NYC-approved manufacturer of prefabricated modules. After site work, foundations, utilities, and the construction of the ground floor is completed using traditional methods, the modules would arrive on the site with fixtures and finishes already installed. The modules would be hoisted into place in approximately two weeks and the brick facades would be built onsite. Residents are expected to move in by September 2015.

Of the 55 units, 22 will be rent-restricted depending on tenants’ incomes, and 33 will rent at market rates. The restricted rents would range from $939 a month for those who earn less than $55,000 annually for a couple, to $1,873 for those earning less than $106,640 for a couple, according to the mayor’s office.

The city’s housing codes do not currently allow for an entire building of micro-units. Under the pilot program, the city will waive zoning regulations at 335 East 27th Street to test the market for micro-units.

Appealing Idea

Micro-units may be an appealing idea for developers, who prefer building studios and one-bedrooms and find doing so a challenge because they need larger apartments to cover the cost of construction in the city.

“I believe there’s a market for this, but at what rent? What will it cost to build and to carry the units, and will the market rent that can attract people cover the costs? That’s the real question,” said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York.

Manhattan rental prices have climbed in the past year across all apartment sizes, as demand has escalated.

The average monthly rent for a studio increased to $3,012, up 3.2 percent from a year earlier, while rates for one-bedroom units rose 5.1 percent to $3,794, according to reports.

A two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan commanded an average of $4,909 a month, up 4.8 percent.

The city’s request for proposals for the pilot project resulted in 33 submissions - the largest response ever to a request by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Renovation of Loews Regency Benefits Sandy Victims

The Loews Regency Hotel, which closed for renovations at the beginning of January and is scheduled to reopen by fall of 2013, had planned to sell all of the hotel's furnishings to a liquidator. However, after Superstorm Sandy devastated the area, Loews Hotels & Resorts decided to donate more than 3,600 pieces of furniture to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City.

A Coney Island senior center badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy on recently received a truckload of refrigerators, rugs, conference tables and televisions that, until recently, serviced the Loews Regency Hotel.
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Nov 12, 2012]

"A week after the storm, we realized that there was going to be a tremendous need to help people rebuild their homes and community centers," explained Jonathan Tisch, company chairman.

"We made a decision to work with the Mayor's Fund and give them access to the entire building. "

Some of the donated items will be used in temporary housing, while others will be donated to nonprofit organizations that were affected.

"A significant part of the city's rebuilding effort is focused on providing the necessary support to nonprofits and service providers in the most storm-impacted communities," said Mayor's Fund president Megan Sheekey.

This week, some of those furnishings went to the Surfside Senior Center in Coney Island, which was flooded with more than two feet of water when the storm hit and has not yet reopened. .

All of the hotel's furnishings are less than 10 years old, and as four-star hotel, are in excellent shape,

"As we started to see the pain and dislocation that Superstorm Sandy was causing, we immediately knew that we needed to donate as much as we could of the pieces that were coming out of the hotel."

TheElectricWeb.com applauds the decision by Loews Hotels & Resorts to put people ahead of profits.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New York City CANstruction Competiton and Exhibition

The 20th Annual New York City CANstruction® Competition and Exhibition returns and will be on view at locations throughout the World Financial Center from February 1 -11, 2013! The competition highlights the creativity and compassion of the area's top architectural and construction firms to design and build giant structures made entirely from cans of food.

These astounding structures are helping to change the world – by lifting the spirits of those in need, by raising public awareness, and most importantly, by collecting millions of pounds of food for local food banks.

At the close of the competition all of the food from the New York City competition will be donated to City Harvest.

This year's event had been rescheduled after being put on hold due to the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy

The New York City CANstruction® Competition has begun its 20th year thanks to the hundreds of volunteers, contributors and participants who dedicate their time and talent. 

This year the structures will provide enough food to feed nearly 60,000 hungry New Yorkers and we hope to double that amount through contributions from the public.

The exhibition will be housed in several locations within the World Financial Center Complex at 220 Vesey Street.

The exhibit will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Come and visit and bring a can to donate to City Harvest while your at it.

Major Projects in Development - BROOKLYN

Brooklyn, with its proximity to Manhattan, is experiencing private development on a large scale, and turning it into one of the fastest growing construction markets in the United States. There are a number of large-scale projects which are currently under construction or will be constructed in the near future. 

From residential to commercial; from retail to hotels and institutions... Brooklyn has a number of large-scale projects that are currently under construction, or will be constructed, in the near future. Here are just a few of the projects that TheElectricWeb.com has been following:
___________________________________________________
    
Residential Development
    
Atlantic Yards:   
A 32-story modular tower will rise at the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue. It will be the first residential building in the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project anchored by the new Barclay's Center. 11 more modular buildings with retail space and some 2,250 affordable apartment units will follow the tower.
   [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Dec 24, 2012

Greenpoint's 10-Tower Complex
   [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Dec 28, 2012

Domino Sugar Plant Redevelopment:
Two Trees Development recently purchased the stalled Domino project with plans to erect 2,200 residential units.
   [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jun 9, 2012

The Hub:
A new $350 million, 52-story apartment tower, to be built at the corner of Flatbush and Schermherhorn Avenues.
   [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Feb 28, 2012

Giant Gowanus Apartment Project:
   [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Nov 27, 2012]
___________________________________________________
    
Hotels
There are many new hotels currently in development, ranging from mid-priced chains to full service boutiques.

Hotel Indigo:
   a 184-room hotel is in development at Duffield and Willoughby Streets.

Aloft Hotel:
   a 180-room hotel by Starwood Hotels on Duffield St and Fulton Mall is in development

Holiday Inn:
   plans are underway for construction of a 250-room Holiday Inn on Schermherhorn Street.
___________________________________________________
      
Retail
More than 3.4 million square feet of retail is planned, or under construction in Downtown Brooklyn.

Outlet Mall for Brooklyn Waterfront:
   [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep 29, 2012]
  
A Mall Grows in Bushwick:
A nascent 80,000-square-foot retail and nightlife complex at 82 Bogart Street threatens to cement the neighborhood’s imminent transformation from underground hipness to mainstream retail success.

North Development Corp. acquired the 200-by-400-foot behemoth across the street from the Morgan L train stop in August for $12.15 million, and the developer plans to turn the building, which takes up an entire block, into a sprawling nightlife, retail and artist gallery complex on an otherwise underwhelming stretch in Bushwick.

Zoning on the property also permits the owner to build an additional upper floor, which would double the floor space to 260,000 square feet.
___________________________________________________
       
Mixed-Use

City Point:
A mixed-use development in Downtown Brooklyn encompassing 1.9 million-square-feet of retail and commercial space, and affordable and market rate housing.
   [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 16, 2013]

New Housing Going up in Crown Heights:
A huge affordable housing and commercial development is in the works for Crown Heights. The project is 250 Utica Avenue, on the corner of Lincoln Place, and it will consist of twelve stories of residential and four stories of commercial space.

L&M Development - builders of the Navy Green development - are building it out, and last week they presented their plans to the CB8 housing committee. The plan consists of (26) studios, (47) one-bedroom, (16) two-bedroom and (8) three-bedroom units.

The commercial space will include a day care center on the first floor, a discount market on the second floor, and a discount gym on the third floor. The commercial space will be LEED certified and the residential portion will be energy efficient, complete with a landscaped roof.

The development will also include 18 ground-level parking spaces for residents and an underground lot with 87 spaces. L&M has already started site excavation and expects the commercial space will be finished in about 18 months. The time frame for completing the residential portion is about 20 to 22 months.
___________________________________________________
       
Institutional
The second phase of the BAM Cultural District Plan consists of the redevelopment of two large sites - North and South - that will create a number of important arts and cultural resources for established and emerging artists. The district will also see a new streetscape and public space design by the famed architect, Ken Smith. The following are development projects in the pipeline:

Theatre for a New Audience:
is building a new facility that includes a 299-seat theatre and rehearsal space. The new building will be located on Ashland Avenue between Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue. It will serve as a home for the production of Shakespeare and classical works of theater, as well as affordable rehearsal and performance space for rent to the local community.  Construction of the new 50,000 square foot facility began in 2012 and will be completed later this year.

The Strand Theater:
On October 13, the City broke ground on a new home for BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn and UrbanGlass.The City and the two arts organizations are working with Leeser Architecture, an international firm known for its work with cultural institutions, on this publicly-funded renovation. Completion is expected in 2013.

Streetscape and Public Space:
Request for Proposals have been issued to design the major public spaces and streetscapes in the BAM Cultural District.

The Arts Plaza:
Is a public outdoor space on the North Site off Ashland Place that will link the cultural buildings on the site and provide a place for ongoing visual arts programming.

110 Livingston St:
In conjunction with the development of a 300-unit condominium at the former Board of Education headquarters, developer Two Trees Management selected an arts organization to transform a 6,000 square foot space on the building's ground floor into an active performance facility.
   

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

City Point Moving Forward in Downtown Brooklyn

According to city officials, City Point will be a mixed-use development, which will support the growth of Downtown Brooklyn and enhance the community with expanded retail and housing options. When complete, the project will encompass 1.9 million-square-feet, including local and national retail and affordable and market rate housing. The first phase of 50,000 square feet of retail space, One DeKalb Plaza, was recently completed. The LEED-silver project is being developed by Albee Development, and was designed by Cook + Fox architects.

In 2004, the City adopted the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, which supports and guides the growth and development of the neighborhood through a series of zoning changes and public improvements.

The City Point project is an integral part of the City’s vision to enhance Downtown Brooklyn’s vibrant commercial, retail, and residential mix. Sitting on city-owned property, its highly visible location along Flatbush Avenue will serve as a gateway to the Downtown area.

Bordered by Flatbush Avenue, Gold Street, and DeKalb Avenue, the location was previously the site of Albee Square Mall. The site is adjacent to the Fulton Mall shopping corridor and the historic Dime Savings Bank building.

To spur redevelopment, NYCEDC entered into a lease agreement with Albee Development LLC in 2007 to develop 1.9 million square feet of mixed-use space at the underutilized site.  The resulting project is City Point.

[See ElectricWeb | Blogger, May 26, 2012]

The first phase, a 50,000 square feet retail building, has recently been completed. NYCEDC and the New York City Capital Resource Corporation catalyzed the construction of this retail building by allocating $20 million in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, which were tax-exempt bonds authorized under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Moving Forward

The project's next phase is scheduled to begin this spring, and will include approximately 600,000 square feet of additional retail space, anchored by Century 21 and two residential towers to be constructed above the retail complex.
Tower 1: will be developed by BFC Partners and financed by the New York City Housing Development Corporation. The 19-story building will contain 250 units, half of which will be affordable housing..
Tower 2: will be developed by The Brodsky Organization and rise 30-stories above Flatbush Avenue. The rental building will contain 440 market rate apartments.
The remaining phases of the project will be constructed by early 2016, resulting in new retail choices, affordable and market rate living spaces, office space, and job opportunities for the residents and workers of Downtown Brooklyn.

Construction of the apartment towers are on schedule and expected to be completed in 2014 and 2015, according to a representative from Albee Development.
 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Manhattan West Breaks Ground on 60-Story Twin Towers

For the second time in two months, Mayor Michael Bloomberg trekked out to the Far West Side for a groundbreaking on a major new development built over a set of railroad tracks. While Manhattan West is not quite as big as the Hudson Yards project, in its size and scale the project measures up pound for pound.  More than 5.5 million square feet of offices and housing and shopping will be constructed on barely more than one city block. The platform over the rail yards will be finished by the end of next year, followed by two 60-story towers in 2016.

Brookfield Properties has kicked off construction of its $4.5 billion, 5.5-million-square-foot Manhattan West project. Work has begun on a 120,000-square-foot platform over the tracks leading into Penn Station that will eventually link three gigantic mixed-use towers.

The platform, which will create a pedestrian link between the towers, is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014.

The entire Manhattan West, totaling 5 million square feet, will include two, 2-million-square-foot office towers, and a residential tower, as well as retail space and 1.5 acres of public space. The office towers will be open for tenants in 2016.

[See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Nov 30, 2011]

The site, bounded by Ninth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets and Dyer Avenue, is just east of Related Cos. even larger Hudson Yards development site, where work was just begun late last year.

“With today’s groundbreaking, we’re taking a major step forward in the transformation and rebirth of the Far West Side of Manhattan,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said from the podium at the corner of 33rd Street and Ninth Avenue.

Behind him stood the Farley Post Office, some day to become a grand new entrance for Penn Station. In front of him, earthmovers had already begun tearing up this former parking lot, making way for one of the project’s two 60-story office towers.

Directly across the tracks below, on 31st Street, construction workers had not even stopped for the groundbreaking ceremony as they prepped the southwest corner for a residential tower that will rise there.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is designing all three towers and a large retail building on the northwest corner.

Rick Clark, CEO of Brookfield Properties, told guests at the cold morning ceremony, that the project had been ready to move forward since early last year, but the market felt better now, particularly for the inclusion of apartments. "We weren’t sure if we would be building one tower at first, or two, but as things progressed, it just made more sense, in terms of economic and market conditions. Now, it is finally the right time.”

Brookfield Properties has controlled most of the parcel since the mid-1980s, but it took until 2005, before it acquired the northeast corner of the site.

This unlocked the next important piece of the project, which was determining to build to construct any buildings along the edges of the site.

That way, the foundations and cores could be built over firm ground, with only a small section of each building cantilevering out over the train yard below.

In 2009, Brookfield hit upon using a concrete bridging technology that would allow it to deck over the tracks without having to build a huge steel structure reaching down to the yard, holding up what will eventually become the 1.5-acre public plaza at the development’s core. Instead, this bridge will be suspended across the 5-acre site.

The whole project will cost $4.5 billion, while the platform itself cost $680 million. Funding for the project has already been secured - half of which is being financed with Brookfield's own capital.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Investigation Uncovers Massive Fraud at Bronx Water Plant

Investigators looking into work performed on the troubled $3.2 billion Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx, one of the city’s largest public works projects, have uncovered massive fraud and other crimes that are expected to lead to criminal charges against three men, a former owner, a company executive and a superintendent at an electrical contracting firm. The investigation found two fraud schemes involving Schlesinger-Siemens Electrical, a company controlled by the German conglomerate Siemens AG.

In one, the company essentially used smaller minority-owned subcontractors as fronts to make it look as if they had provided roughly $10 million in labor and equipment, when it was really provided by Schlesinger-Siemens or other companies.

By doing so, the company evaded city contract requirements that it hire a certain percentage of contractors owned by minorities or women, or certified by the government as disadvantaged.

The second arrangement, involved fraudulent filings with city agencies that made it look as if the company, as required for bidding and the contract, had a licensed master electrician on site overseeing the work: installing the systems that will run the huge plant.

The company had no such electrician for several years as it won its contracts and did much of the work, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the charges have not been announced.

This first phase of the inquiry, which also focused on current and former officials at Schlesinger-Siemens Electrical and at other companies controlled by Siemens AG, has been winding down; charges could be announced as early as this week.

The investigation was expected to result in a prosecution agreement under which Siemens Electrical, the successor to Schlesinger-Siemens, would, to resolve the matter, pay about $10 million and agree to reforms.

Criminal charges stemming from the same matters were also expected against three men, a former owner of Schlesinger-Siemens, a former company executive and a former superintendent.

The water filtration plant, one of the city’s largest public works projects in decades, in part, because it is being built underground — 10 stories beneath the golf course in Van Cortlandt Park — is nearly $2 billion over budget and years behind schedule.

It has been plagued by problems since before work began in 2007. There was intense community criticism, charges of mismanagement and a primary contractor’s 2010 admission that it had committed wire fraud in a similar minority-contracting scheme.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said, “This suggests that what many of us believed for years: Namely that this ill-advised project is plagued both with incompetence and corruption.”

In recent months, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and lawyers for Siemens Electrical have been negotiating the prosecution agreement, which would allow the company to resolve the investigation without charges that could have made it difficult for it and related Siemens companies to win future public contracts in the United States.

The city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which has overseen the project, awarded two contracts to Schlesinger-Siemens Electrical. The contracts are valued at over $200 million. In 2010, Siemens AG indicated that it had already lost more than $250 million on the plant contracts.

During the inquiry by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and two other agencies, allegations of shoddy work by Schlesinger-Siemens have also arisen.

Law enforcement officials have said they sought to determine whether it used inferior Chinese couplings — banned by city rules — to link the piping through which much of the wiring at the plant passes.

It was unclear if investigators were able to determine whether inferior couplings — many of which would now be beneath poured concrete — were used, but no related charges are planned. The environmental agency has defended its management of the project and has said all the work was up to code.

The agency acknowledged the company’s lack of a master electrician, but added that it had tightened scrutiny on electrical and plumbing licensing and hired an outside monitor. It said that there was nonetheless sufficient oversight of the work.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has fined the city $5 million for delays on the project, which was mandated by law.

Siemens Electrical has taken over Schlesinger-Siemens’s contracts, including those at the water treatment plant. It is expected to sign a prosecution agreement with the Manhattan district attorney’s office this week.

A representative from Siemens Electrical would not discuss the investigation and said that the company “would comment at an appropriate time.”

Siemens AG pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2008 and paid $1.6 billion to the US government to settle charges it used bribes and slush funds to secure public works contracts around the United States. Federal officials later called the cooperation of Siemens AG “outstanding,” and the company has said it has changed its culture.

The inquiry is to focus on current and former employees of Siemens subsidiaries after the current charges are announced later this week.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cosmos Plan $400M Soccer Stadium at Belmont Park

The New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League is placing a $400 million wager of sorts in the hope to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium at the Belmont Park development site. A proposal for the privately funded project was presented to the Empire State Development Corp. last week — is completely independent of MLS, and separate from that league’s plans to construct a stadium in Flushing, Queens. If the plan is approved, construction would begin in 2014, and the Cosmos would move there for the 2016 season

Plans for the $400 million project were submitted last week to New York's Empire State Development Corp., which will decide later this year on how to develop the 400-acre racetrack property in Elmont, just east of New York City.

The New York Racing Authority no longer owns the land at Belmont. It is the property of the state, and operated by the Empire State Development Corp.

“We plan to develop an iconic project for the region and build a state-of-the-art stadium that will make Nassau County and the entire region proud,” said Seamus O’Brien, chairman and CEO of the New York Cosmos. "Belmont Park is an ideal location and a win-win for everyone involved.”

A new soccer stadium could be an economic boon for struggling Nassau County following last year's announcement that the National Hockey League's New York Islanders were relocating to Brooklyn in 2015.

The Belmont proposal is completely independent of Major League Soccer's plans to construct a stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, near CitiField.
[See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jun 25, 2012]

The Cosmos believe that Belmont Park could be easily transformed into an entertainment complex, and its proposal, called Elmont Crossings, includes plans for nine new restaurants, retail space, a 175-room hotel and a 4.3-acre public park. Team officials say it would create more than 500 construction jobs and over 3,000 full-time permanent jobs.

If approved, the team expects to break ground in 2014. Retail sites would open in 2015 and the team could begin play in the spring of 2016.

The Cosmos have undergone several ownership changes since their dynasty days in the late 1970's as part of the defunct North American Soccer League. After talks broke off with Major League Soccer in July, the team aligned itself with the revived minor-league NASL.

The club will play home games at Hofstra University's former football stadium in Hempstead, beginning this fall.

If MLS is unable to build a stadium in Queens, and if the Cosmos draw large crowds for their own NASL games and for international matches at Belmont, the franchise likely would become an attractive expansion option for Major League Soccer. It has been widely reported that the team’s ultimate goal is join the MLS in 2016.

However, not just yet, though.

“Major League Soccer continues to work with the city of New York and local elected officials on our quest to build a soccer stadium in Queens and are making progress with the project,” an MLS spokesperson said.

[See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Oct 9, 2012]

In the 1970s, the Cosmos played in the North American Soccer League, and attracted worldwide attention by signing some of the greatest players of the day including the legendary Brazilian star Pele, Italy's Georgio Chinaglia and West German star Franz Beckenbauer. The NASL disbanded in 1984, but the Cosmos played one more season in 1985 as an independent team before folding.

Pele still remains affiliated with the franchise, and he had hoped to come to New York to present the plan. He recently suffered a hip injury, however, and was unable to attend.
   

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Subway Station-Turned-Fish-Tank Poses $600 Million Dilemma

In March 2009, the head of the MTA addressed a crowd outside the city's newest subway station - the $527 million South Ferry terminal - and hailed it as the first major transit project to open downtown since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Three-and-a-half years later, the station lies in ruins. A tidal surge from Hurricane Sandy turned it into what the current MTA Chairman calls a “large fish tank.” The agency pegs the rebuilding cost at $600 million. At eight stories underground and only 400 feet from the river, many question if the MTA should rebuild at all.

“This artistically beautiful and highly functional station is a tangible reminder that when the MTA is provided with adequate capital funding, we build monumental works that will benefit generations of New Yorkers for many decades to come,” proclaimed the MTA Chairman that day.

However, a tidal surge from Hurricane Sandy on October 29 turned it into what current MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota called a “large fish tank.”

Dispatch equipment was destroyed, tiles ripped from the wall and surfaces coated with East River muck. The state agency pegs the rebuilding cost at $600 million, making it one of the most expensive items on its $5 billion damage list. The price tag does not include fortifying against future flooding.

What to do about South Ferry, 8 stories underground and only 400 feet from the river is at the center of a debate over the prudence of rebuilding in a flood zone. For some mass-transit advocates, the destruction shows the importance of investing in new flood protection now in order to save money down the road. Others question if the MTA, the biggest U.S. transit agency, should rebuild at all.

‘Nowhere Near’

The $527 million South Ferry redevelopment project, 80 percent of which was financed by federal funds after the 2001 attacks, was praised as a “true intermodal” center linking boats to Staten Island with subway and bus lines.

It had more exits and longer platforms, and connected the Whitehall Street stop on the R train to Brooklyn with the terminus of the No. 1 line from the Bronx.

On the night of the storm, four feet of water flooded Lower Manhattan streets, breaching sheets of plywood covered with sandbags that were placed at station entrances. Steps installed at the entrances to keep water out were useless. It will be weeks before an assessment of the shuttered station is finished, and the agency is “nowhere near” ready to talk about what it would take to fortify it, according to Lhota. Not rebuilding is not an option, he says.

South Ferry has “critical importance” because of its proximity to the Staten Island Ferry terminal, its location on Manhattan’s southern tip and its historical importance as one of the oldest stations in the system, he said.

‘Real Loss’

Failure to rebuild would be a “real loss,” said Richard Barone, director of transportation programs at the Regional Plan Association, which prepares long-range development strategies for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region. Closing the station would add hours to commuting times over the course of a year if it were no longer possible for passengers to connect conveniently with the ferry or Select Bus Service on the East Side, he said.


“We should rebuild the South Ferry/Whitehall complex, but it’s important to do so in a way that mitigates the possibility of flooding in the future,” Barone said. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Washington to request federal aid to do just that -- $33 billion for clean- up and repairs and $9 billion for flood protection. Still, Congress may not grant the full request. Meanwhile, the MTA said it may issue as much as $4.8 billion in debt to pay for damages before federal reimbursements and insurance payments arrive.

Six-Minute Walk

One of the lowest-lying stations on the No. 1 line, South Ferry is susceptible to flooding even in a storm weaker than Sandy, said George Deodatis, a civil-engineering professor at Columbia University in New York. He recommends investing in sealable doors and removable covers for street grates, both of which could be deployed before storms to keep water out. “This is an excellent example of demonstrating that funds provided by Congress for mitigation infrastructure will have a major immediate effect, meaning that the mitigation measures can be implemented in less than a year and provide protection for the long term,” he said.

Not reopening South Ferry would add only about a six-minute walk for riders, said Josh Barro, a spokesperson at the Institute for Policy Research.

If the station didn’t exist, “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, I hope we’d say ‘no,’” he wrote last week in a Bloomberg View column. “Especially because, as sea levels rise, the station will face greater risk of similar flood damage in future storms.”

Poor Debut

The $600 million price tag is high, though it should not be a reason to forgo the project, said Nicole Gelinas, an infrastructure specialist at the Manhattan Institute, which advocates less government spending. Modifying prevailing-wage laws, union rules and building codes could cut costs by 20 percent, she said.

South Ferry faced challenges even before Sandy’s arrival, opening 10 months late and over budget. Widespread water leaks were discovered after contractors completed the majority of concrete work, and workers flubbed track installation, according to a 2008 report by the U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

A 2009 performance review from the MTA Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, a watchdog body created by the state legislature, found “no accountability for the design errors, poor construction and inadequate oversight that delayed the completion and impacted the quality of the project.”

Columbia’s Deodatis also warned the MTA about a year ago that stations such as South Ferry were vulnerable to flooding. “It was an issue of essentially getting the funding to do upgrades,” he said. “The people at the MTA said, ‘This makes sense, we don’t have any objections to your system.’ Since then, I haven’t heard back.”
 

Friday, January 11, 2013

As Copper Prices Near $4 Dollars, Metal Theft Rising

Stolen wire, an electrocution death, and fires at area buildings all have one connection that inspectors know all too well - metal theft. Metal recyclers have taken precautions to avoid buying stolen scrap, but the issue has drawn the attention of legislators across the country. "There's only so much stolen material you can knowingly buy," says one recycler. "You'd be a fool to think you're going to get away with it."

Police are investigating the theft of $300,000 worth of copper wire from the Anchorman 2 movie set in Atlanta, which was stolen last week.

Paramount Productions was renting building space in northwest Atlanta during production of the movie.

According to police, the owner of the building discovered that more than $300,000 in copper wiring was stolen along with four Apple computers.

The owner of the building said he believes the thieves entered through a rear garage door. A sign offering a reward of $5,000 was posted at the building

In September, more than 250,000 pounds of copper were recycled in the NYC metropolitan area. One legislator believes that scrap metal thieves see it as an easy buck. "I think people think there's a lot of money in scrap, but it's a lot of work for the amount that you're stealing,” he said. "It's really not worth it."

However, copper is bought for a far higher price than steel or other metals, he said. Copper prices can fetch close to $4 for one pound.

Metal recyclers have begun taking inbound and outbound photos of loads, are capturing the license plate of each vehicle coming in, and are holding loads for a week - just to be sure none of the metal has been reported stolen - in anticipation of new state regulations.

Most buyers of scrap metal, particularly those that deal in cash, will likely encounter stolen scrap. "Metal theft has become a major problem because stolen metal can easily be recycled for cash. You ask questions about where it's coming from just to make sure," he said of dealing with sellers. "You can catch a liar really quickly."

A recent study showed a relationship between the price of copper and the number of scrap metal crimes. As the price went up, incidents of copper theft also went up.

[See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep14, 2012]

"Economic hardship, in most instances, may drive an individual to uncharacteristic behavior,” one researcher said. "Economic desperation might provide sufficient justification to break the law."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hardhats Flee as Crane Tumbles at Queens Construction Site

Seven construction workers were hurt after a 380-foot mobile crane collapsed onto a Long Island City jobsite Wednesday afternoon. Ambulances hurried to the giant Eastcoast project under construction by TF Cornerstone, along 46th Avenue and Center Boulevard, to assist the injured. The crane belongs to New York Crane, whose owner, James Lomma, was acquitted of criminally negligent homicide charges stemming from a 2008 crane collapse on the Upper East Side that killed two workers. The accident happened directly behind the famous Pepsi-Cola sign on the shore of the East River just south of the Queensboro Bridge.

The construction crane, owned by a firm with a checkered past, collapsed onto the waterfront jobsite pinning three workers and injuring four others. The crane toppled at the site of the luxury Eastcoast development at 46th Avenue and Center Boulevard, part of the Queens West mega-project in Long Island City about 2:20 p.m., authorities said.

Three workers were trapped under the heavy metal apparatus, but there were no life-threatening injuries, Deputy Fire Chief Mark Ferran said. “Seven people have been injured. Four suffered minor injuries, while three were seriously hurt."

Workers said they heard cables snap and watched the 380-foot red crane buckle high in the air. “It came down fast,” said laborer Russell Roberson, 32. “I heard guys yelling, ‘Run!’ You didn’t know what the f--- was going to happen.” “You didn’t know which way the thing was going to go.

"I was this close to death,” said Preston White, a carpenter who narrowly escaped harm. “Everybody was scrambling.”

Workers said the crane was erected just four days previously. It crashed into scaffolding and plywood at the site directly behind the iconic Pepsi sign on the shore of the East River. The building under construction will be the last of several luxury towers to rise at the Queens West site.

“The crane cut through it like a hot knife through butter,” White said. Investigators were trying to determine Wednesday what caused the collapse, authorities said.

A truck driver said workers were loading the crane with wood planks when the accident occurred. The machine was stationed at ground level, not lashed to a building. Following the collapse, workers went looking for their pals. “We were searching to searching to see who was around,” Roberson said, adding that about 70 people were at the site. “We were calling out names. If you didn’t hear the guy’s name you searched for them — it was terrifying.”

Two of the injured workers were taken to New York-Presbyterian Cornell Hospital and five to Elmhurst Hospital Center. The five workers at Elmhurst, men ages 23 to 55, were expected to leave the hospital Wednesday, a hospital spokesperson said.

Subcontractor Cross Country Construction was carrying out the work. However, the crane belongs to New York Crane, whose owner, James Lomma, was acquitted of criminally negligent homicide charges stemming from a 2008 crane collapse on the Upper East Side that killed two workers.

New York Crane is one of the largest crane operators in the city, and the Manitowoc 4100W tractor crane that collapsed Wednesday was last approved for use by the city last in October. Built in 1992, the crane has a 380-foot boom and jib and is the same make and model as a crane that collapsed last April at the No. 7 subway extension jobsite, killing a worker.

Federal investigators alleged that the hoist wire on that crane snapped during operation because it was worn out. An employee at New York Crane said, declined to answer questions, saying, “We’re very busy right now.”

The FDNY searched the site and said everyone is accounted for. One worker said that he saw a man try to jump out of the way of the falling crane, but became trapped. A co-worker said the victim was "not looking good."

Video at taken immediately after the collapse shows the fallen boom lying across the length of a building under construction. Department of Buildings officials issued a stop-worker order at the site while engineers and inspectors investigate what happened.

Neighboring buildings are already completed and occupied. Property developer TF Cornerstone is cooperating with authorities, it said in a statement.

An inside source said TF Cornerstone was unaware that Cross Country had leased the equipment from New York Crane. “We’re aware of the situation,” Cross Country said Wednesday, declining to comment further.
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