Thursday, February 28, 2013

City to Tear Down Three Public Schools for Luxury Towers

The city is planning to knock down three public schools in Manhattan to make way for privately developed, luxury apartment towers — a plan that has infuriated parents and education officials. The Department of Education's Educational Construction Fund posted a request for interested developers, offering up three "prime development sites" in Manhattan, without mentioning the fact that they are presently being used to educate elementary and high school students.

The Department of Education's Educational Construction Fund posted a request for interested developers, offering up three "prime Manhattan development sites" at 210 West 61st St.  and 270 West 70th St. - home to P.S. 191 and P.S. 199, as well as the School of Technical Education at 321 East 96th St., which serves 11th and 12th-graders.

Developers can apply to buy all three school buildings or just one of them, officials said.

The formal 'Request For Expressions of Interest' lauded the coveted sites as being "located within neighborhoods exhibiting exceptionally strong residential market fundamentals" and added that, the sites "are among the few remaining chances to build large projects" on the Upper West Side and East Side of Manhattan.

Students would be relocated during construction, and the developer would have to build a new school in the base of the new towers.

PS 199 has 850 students and PS 191 has 550, and unsurprisingly, parents are not happy about the prospect of switching school buildings.

"Kicking students out of their home school is not a gentle process. There will be an immediate negative impact on learning," said Laurie Frey of the District 3 Community Education Council.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a letter that he has heard from many parents from all three schools concerned about whether "their school will be demolished," and "where the Department of Education will send the children, teachers and staff whose buildings it has torn down."

At a recent meeting, the director of the Educational Construction Fund, reassured parents that sale of the schools would be subject to review by the City Council.

That public review would begin in May, once the city has selected a developer for the project, and then construction would take about two years.

If the city decides to move forward with this plan, demolition and construction could start as soon as 2015.

The schools would be relocated, and the Request for Expressions of Interest says that developers should consider relocation sites in their proposals.

Developers are allowed to submit plans for one site or all three, and new schools would be built within the towers. Presently, twelve developers have expressed interest in purchasing the sites.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pain In The Crane: The Spike in Crane Accidents

The collapse of a 380-foot construction crane in Queens last month surprised workers below. However, the scene is depressingly familiar - just part of a recent spike in crane accidents that has plagued city jobsites. A laborer lost fingers because a crane job was not properly supervised. A worker’s leg was crushed when a crane knocked a load of concrete onto him. A worker was knocked off a beam by a swinging load, and fell 32 feet. Cranes have tipped over, smashed into buildings and dropped huge payloads. Operators have swung bundles of steel over busy city streets and picked up loads much heavier than their machines can handle. And, it is getting worse.

The night Hurricane Sandy hit, a tower crane at the One57 project flipped and dangled over West 57th Street for days.

Then a crane collapsed while picking up a huge air conditioner, landing across a busy Manhattan street. Days later, a third crane dropped an industrial chiller in the Bronx, crushing a worker.

Last week, the city accused the operator of the Long Island City crane of taking a shortcut and suspended his license, claiming he was trying to lift a load twice as heavy as the crane could handle.

Construction accidents are on the rise as oversight of job sites has dropped off dramatically. In the past few years, the number of city crane inspectors has dropped to four from 10, with the city increasingly relying on contractors to police themselves.

Sometimes, however, those 'eyes and ears' cover up accidents involving cranes. Records reveal owners are not maintaining the huge machines and many crane operators are not using them safely.

This was a particular concern on the No. 7 subway extension project, when a worker was killed in a crane collapse last year.

On April 3, a 160-foot tractor crane owned by Yonkers Contracting, which the MTA hired to work on the No. 7 subway extension, collapsed, killing one laborer and seriously injuring another.

Outraged officials immediately demanded to know how such a thing could happen.

The job site was plagued by safety problems before, during and even after that accident, with the MTA’s onsite safety manager, repeatedly accusing Yonkers of cover-ups and willfully ignoring safety rules.

Two months before the fatal accident, there were two other accidents with injuries, including one in which a worker was hit in the head by a load of plywood being lifted by a crane.

“Had the proper procedures been followed, this incident and this worker’s death could have been prevented,” said Kay Gee, an official with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “There are a multitude of factors that must be explored and investigated.”

Wakefield found the crane operator could not see what he was doing, even with a signalman, and that both victim and signalman did not have proper training per OSHA.

Last February 10, the MTA held safety training at the site, and required that all trades have proper training for signal person and emergency procedures. Yet more than a month and a half later, the company had still not hired a backup safety officer — a key requirement.

Six days later the crane collapsed, killing 30-year-old hardhat Michael Simmermeyer.

In October, OSHA charged Yonkers Contracting had failed to inspect the aging crane and missed obvious evidence that the hoist wire holding up the boom was badly worn. It fined Yonkers $68,000 — an inadequate amount, given the alleged negligence which caused the worker’s death.

Problems have also surfaced at the city's most famous construction site — Ground Zero. At 4 World Trade Center, investigators found problems with tower cranes that dropped huge loads of steel — twice.

Both times crane owners had failed to notice large amounts of water had built up inside the hydraulic fluid in the cranes’ hoist machines, a Port Authority investigation found.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Solar Equipment Stolen from Brooklyn Bridge Park

A one-of-a-kind solar charging station in Dumbo is out of juice after police say $100,000 worth of equipment was stolen. 24 solar panels and 30 storage batteries were painstakingly dismantled, then hauled away from a solar station used by the city to charge park maintenance vehicles. The equipment, which stored enough energy to power multiple homes, was reported missing from Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park on February 19. 

Thieves stole more than $100,000 in solar equipment donated to power vehicles and equipment in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The green-energy company Beautiful Earth Group had donated the pilfered equipment to the 85-acre waterfront park.

The charging station was set up atop decommissioned shipping containers on Pier1, near Furman Street in Dumbo. It was used to power the park’s large fleet of electric vehicles.

Officials had planned to use it to power private vehicles and park patrons' cell phones and laptops.

With a hotel and housing complex soon set to break ground there, park officials were planning to relocate the equipment to the other side of the park on Atlantic Avenue near Pier 6.

A portable classroom that had been donated for public environmental lessons was not stolen and will be moved to Pier 6.

Police believe the burglars used a truck and ladders to pull off the heist, since the equipment taken was very large and very heavy.

Police did not find damage usually associated with a break-in. The gate the equipment was stored behind was still locked and not damaged.

Beautiful Earth Group is waiting to hear back from park officials to see if the city was insured for the donated equipment that was stolen. Eventually, they hope to operate the charging station at the park again.

The charging station had been entirely powered by 24 photovoltaic panels on the roof of the shipping containers, which caught the sun’s rays throughout the day and stored them as electricity in battery packs for 24/7, on-demand use.

With production of 10-12 kilowatts, the station stored enough energy to power two or three small homes.

“This is one of the biggest thefts in a city park in a very long time, “said a park ranger.

"People have been given a false sense of security because the city said this park is safer now that there's housing inside with a large security force.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cornell Tech Campus Plans Well Ahead of Schedule

By 2017, Cornell's New York tech campus on Roosevelt Island may have as much as 800,000 square feet of space built. That is more than twice as much as is required by the school's agreement with the city, according to campus planners. In its bid to create the new tech campus, Cornell agreed to build a minimum of 300,000 square feet by 2017, but the current plans well surpass that. Plans for phase one of construction is moving well ahead of schedule and calls for four buildings.

Current plans call for construction of four buildings: an academic building; an executive education center with a hotel; a so-called corporate co-location building; and a residential building for students, faculty and staff.

At a recent presentation hosted by Cornell, the university's real estate consultant Karen Backus said the corporate co-location building would be about 150,000 square feet.

Two thirds of it will be rented out to tech businesses in an effort to foster close relationships between those firms and the school.

"In a typical campus there are real boundaries between business and academia," Ms. Backus said, adding that Cornell hopes to do away with those boundaries.

Cornell is in the process of selecting a developer for the three non-academic buildings, and is considering using a master developer, Ms. Backus said. The academic building will be developed separately.

Meanwhile, the school is prepared to lessen any danger of flooding. Even before Superstorm Sandy, the team planning the Cornell-Technion campus on Roosevelt Island had planned to create higher ground on which to build. The school had planned to put all of the buildings at least 19 feet above sea level after studying the 100-year flood plain Mr. Whang said. After the storm, Cornell re-thought the positioning of equipment and decided to move it up from the basement level.

In addition to flooding dangers and all the other considerations the school is juggling, planners are also concerned about aesthetics. That is especially important, given that the campus will be clearly visible from both sides of the East River.

Campus Design Unveiled

The Cornell NYC Tech campus, which currently resides on the third floor of Google’s Chelsea headquarters, begins its march to a permanent home next week, with the start of the city's land use review.

The school has ambitious plans - and has not been shy about making that known.

At a briefing held at 111 Eighth Avenue, the university presented sketches designed by star architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects. Aside from meeting the school's requirements for a flexible interior space, the structures aim to use no more energy than it produces.

If it succeeds, the four-story, 150,000-square-foot main building would be the first academic building anywhere to do so, thanks to solar panels atop the structure and geo-thermal wells underneath it. The futuristic-looking building will be part of the first phase of construction, is scheduled for completion in time for the campus' opening in the summer of 2017.

Introducing the plans, Dan Huttenlocher, dean of Cornell NYC Tech, described the institution as a new kind of applied sciences school. Other graduate research schools, including Cornell and its academic partner in the new venture, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, have all come out of the industrial age. The Roosevelt Island campus will be born of the digital era.

"It's the first graduate research institution where somebody's trying to design it from the ground up in the information age," Mr. Huttenlocher said. In this new age, research and practical applications happen simultaneously, in contrast to the old model in which research came first and practical uses followed.

The overall campus design aims to act out those ambitions.

A "tech walk" thoroughfare will run down the center of the campus, creating a north-south pedestrian spine, onto which all the buildings will open, according to architect Colin Koop, from Skidmore Owings & Merrill, which designed the master plan.

Across the tech walk from the academic building will be a co-location building, to be built in partnership with a private developer, where companies and nonprofits will lease space for proprietary research.

Scott Lee, a senior architect at Morphosis, described the academic building as designed for "interdisciplinary" use, with "walkable" open spaces that will encourage interaction between groups. There will be only six classrooms, with a lot of flexible space for teaching and research.

Once the project gets through the seven-month approval process, Cornell will begin demolition of the Goldwater Hospital that now stands on the site in early 2014, said Andrew Winters, director of capital projects and planning for Cornell NYC Tech.

The first class at Cornell NYC Tech will commence in January 2014.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Last Chance for Commercial Lighting Deduction?

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 created the Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction to encourage investment in energy-efficient interior lighting, up to $1.80/sq ft. The deduction allowed the owner to write off the entire cost of the new installation during the first year, instead of over time. This is the last year the deduction - which makes lighting retrofit projects economically attractive - will be in effect in its present form. The industry incentive is set to expire on December 31, 2013.

At this time, the only effort to continue the tax deduction is the Commercial Buildings Modernization Act, introduced in the Senate, which would extend it through the end of 2016.

The incentive would be larger, and it would include outdoor lighting as well as indoor. However, it would be much harder for new lighting systems to qualify for the deduction, as the new system would have to achieve a higher standard of savings.

Moreover, with little support among Republicans, it is highly uncertain whether the bill will be signed into law.

The Interim Lighting Rule

The Interim Rule permits owners of commercial buildings to deduct the full cost of new interior lighting—up to $0.60/sq ft —based on achieving 25% to 40% power savings.

The exception to the sliding scale is warehouses. The interior lighting power consumption must be reduced by at least 50% to earn a CBTD deduction.

Besides achieving a 25% to 40% reduction in power consumption, the project must satisfy these conditions:.
Bi-level switching must be installed—which may be A/B, step dimming or continuous dimming in all rooms — except hotel and motel guest rooms, storerooms, restrooms, public lobbies and garages.
The project must achieve minimum calculated light levels as prescribed in the Ninth Edition of the IES Lighting Handbook.
Additionally, if more than 50 percent of the light fixtures are replaced, the lighting controls must also be replaced.
Lighting systems

All lighting fixture must be permanently installed, so portable task lighting does not contribute to qualification. The law exempts also exit signs from interior power calculations, so exit sign upgrades do not contribute either. In both cases, however, good energy savings may result, so the upgrades nonetheless should be considered.

The law requires the maximum-labeled wattage of the ballast to be used in interior lighting power calculations.

However, to avoid penalizing lower actual wattages achieved in retrofits through energy-saving lamps such as 25W and 28W T8 lamps, the standard recognizes the maximum-labeled wattage of the light fixture as an alternative value.

This would entail producing a new fixture label with the lamp-ballast information that would affix in the existing fixture, according to NEMA on its website:

“If you are using a system with a lower wattage than the maximum labeled wattage, then you will need to have a label made and installed in the luminaries indicating the actual system wattage and the appropriate replacement lamp for the project.

This will provide information to the certifier and the maintenance personnel performing maintenance on the system in the future. Remember, the complete bill of material used in a project must be supplied to the certifier so he/she can confirm that the equipment specified is installed.”

Alternately, a ballast could be specified with a custom ballast factor that tunes light output and input watts at the ballast, not the lamp.

At a minimum, lamps and ballasts must be replaced or new fixtures installed; a simple lamp retrofit (e.g., an upgrade from incandescent to screw-base compact fluorescent lamps) would not comply because the installation is not permanent and the resulting expense is considered maintenance and not a capital expense for tax purposes.

Project certification

For a building owner to claim the deduction, a qualified contractor or engineer must certify the project. The individual must demonstrate in writing to the owner that he or she has the qualifications to do the certification. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has published a series of sample certification letters on its CBTD website:

The qualified individual must document the reduction in lighting power density, with the certification including:
Contact information for the qualified individual performing the certification;
Address of the building to which the certification applies; and3
A statement by the qualified individual that the interior lighting systems have been, or are planned to be, incorporated into the building that meet all of the requirements of the Interim 

Lighting Rule

The certification must also include a statement by the qualified individual that:
Field inspections were performed by a qualified individual after the lighting was placed in service;
Inspections must confirm that the building is meeting the specified reduction in lighting power density.
The qualified individual must also provide a:
List showing the energy-efficient lighting components and features of the building and projected power density;
A statement that the building owner has received an explanation of the energy efficiency features of the building and projected power density; and
This declaration: “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this certification, including accompanying documents, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, the facts presented in support of this certification are true, correct and complete.”
The certification must include a spreadsheet used to calculate energy and power consumption and costs.The building owner should keep a copy of the certification in their tax records.

Last chance

This is the last year the Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction will be in effect in its current form, offering a potentially valuable tool to help make lighting retrofit projects more economically attractive.

If the Commercial Buildings Modernization Act introduced in the Senate is passed as written today, the maximum deduction would increase and exterior lighting would be covered, but the standard would tougher to beat. Again, given the current state of Congress, there is a great deal of uncertainty about whether it will become law.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

NYU Applied-Sciences Institute Begins Work in Brooklyn

New York University and the city have struck a deal to create a new applied-sciences institute in downtown Brooklyn that will focus on technology to help cities. The NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress is part of a broader initiative to make the city more competitive as a technology hub. NYU will soon commence a 5-year renovation of the 460,000-square-foot building. at 370 Jay Street, which for many years served as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. While the renovation is under way, the school will lease space elsewhere Brooklyn and accept its first class this fall.

The Center for Urban Science and Progress Building (CUSP) at 370 Jay Street will be a striking new emblem for Downtown Brooklyn’s emergence as a center for innovation, and part of the borough’s “Technology Triangle.”

The institute will research and create technology to address issues including infrastructure, energy efficiency and traffic congestion. It will grant academic degrees in engineering and sciences.

NYU is teaming up with the City University of New York, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Toronto, University of Warwick and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. Corporate partners in the institute include IBM, Cisco Systems, Siemens AG, Consolidated Edison and Xerox.

The campus, which would be in the shadows of Polytechnic Institute of New York, would initially include about 600 masters and up to 100 Ph.D. students, about 60 faculty and 30 visiting scientists from the industry partners. Students would be admitted for the fall 2013 semester and will expand in future phases via the use of air rights that NYU has in the area. Students at the new campus will use Polytech’s science and engineering labs.

NYU will receive $15 million of city benefits in the form of tax breaks and energy savings, while contributing $50 million toward the cost of relocating MTA equipment. NYU paid an additional $10 million to move the New York Police Department, which had also occupied a portion of the building. The MTA and NYPD began moving out of the last fall.

"Over the next five years, 370 Jay Street will be transformed into a cutting-edge center for research and science that will give another huge boost to our city's economy,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. NYU will spend up to $750 per square foot on the renovation, and expects to complete construction by early 2017.

The deal with NYU represents a largely expected bonus to the mayor's ballyhooed tech-campus competition. After the city chose Cornell last year as the big winner to receive over $100 million in cash and prime land to build an applied sciences graduate school on Roosevelt Island, officials quickly turned their focus to NYU.

Its proposal for a campus in downtown Brooklyn fit nicely with visions by the city and borough boosters to create a thriving tech hub in the area. In the meantime, the university will lease up to 60,000 square feet of space elsewhere in downtown Brooklyn and in September 2013 will accept its first class at the new center, which it calls CUSP for short.

The school is a partnership between NYU and NYU-Poly and some of the world's leading academic institutions and private companies. It will focus on research and development of technology to address challenges facing cities, including infrastructure, tech integration, energy efficiency, traffic and public health.

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[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Aug 13, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 23, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Oct 8, 2011]

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New York Contractors Reeling From Huge Insurance Hikes

A huge upward spike in the cost of insuring construction projects against claims by injured workers is pushing up the cost of development, and at the same time eating into profits for an industry still struggling to bounce back from the recession. Construction companies and their subcontractors, which work under state labor law that puts absolute liability on the employer for injuries sustained on high-rise projects, say that their premiums have as much as tripled in the past year. 

Insurance companies, squeezed by low asset yields on one side, and big payouts for catastrophic events and soaring medical costs on the other, were hiking premiums even before Superstorm Sandy blew into the area.

Premium hikes are also being driven by a growing number of multimillion-dollar settlements for crane accidents and other lawsuits.

"In our New York City, the average claim involving New York Labor Law is approaching $4 million per lawsuit,” said Tom Grandmaison, executive vice president at AIG Property Casualty.

Traditionally, the cost of insuring a New York project for workers' compensation, general liability and excess liability is "3% to 4% of the value of the construction," he said. "Today, that number is 8%-plus."

Much of the increase is in the ballooning cost of reinsurance, or secondary layers of coverage. Typically, a re-insurer has to pay only after the first $1 million of coverage is used up, but that level is being hit much more frequently these days. Because of the number and size of claims, now the secondary carriers are suffering huge losses.

As a result, most insurers are now requiring a "buffer policy" of up to $5 million -- at a cost of nearly 10 times the previous rate for that intermediate level of coverage.

Brooklyn-based Skyline Steel Corp. got the bad news last summer.

"We were required by our customers, who are some of the larger contractors, to increase liability coverage from $1 million to $2 million per occurrence," he said. Skyline is paying the equivalent of 11% of sales after adding the additional coverage, up from 3.7%.  Skyline's bill jumped despite an "above average" safety record.

The Law behind the Costs

New York State's so-called 'Scaffold Law' - which holds the subcontractor liable even when an injured employee failed to comply with the company's safety policies and training - is the main culprit for skyrocketing insurance costs, according to Lou Colletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association.

He said the higher cost resulting from the law—the only one of its kind in the nation—could put some smaller subcontractors out of business, and even prevent some contractors from moving ahead with projects.

Attempts to change the law - to hold an employee partly liable for injuries caused by his or her own malfeasance - have died in Albany amid lobbying by trial lawyers and unions, who argue against watering down worker protections.

Rochester Assemblyman, Joseph Morelle, is introducing a bill this year to reform of the Scaffold Law, and allow owners, contractors, subcontractors and insurers to cite an employee's negligence as a defense.

Posing additional uncertainty for insurers is something called the "horizontal exhaustion" issue. It stems from a 2008 New York appellate court ruling on liability for the death of a worker who fell down an elevator shaft during the construction of the Bronx Court House. In that case, the judge ruled that the excess coverage held by the worker's employer should not kick in until after the primary insurance policy held by the building owner and that of the construction manager, Bovis Lend Lease, had been exhausted.

Higher Premiums

Because of that ruling, some primary insurers say they have no choice but to raise premiums to reflect their increased risk from claims against other companies working on the same project as their own clients.

The bad news, however, is that in the wake of the estimated $60 billion in destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties alone, any hope of insurers cutting rates for contractors is more remote than ever.

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[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jun 28, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 25, 2013]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Feb16, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Dec 6, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jul 14, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 16, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 10, 2013]

Monday, February 18, 2013

Unions Kick Queens Soccer Stadium to Goal Line

Plans for a Major League Soccer stadium in Queens were kicked one-step closer to the goal line, with three major unions announcing their support for the proposal. The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, The Hotel Trades Council, and Local 32BJ SEIU --which together count more than 200,000 members—are backing plans to build a new soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The project is a priority for the Bloomberg administration, which is offering a 35-year, $1-a-year lease, with no sales tax on construction materials, no property taxes and no revenue sharing with the city.

Last week, the union leaders said they were throwing their political weight behind the $300-million stadium project because it would create about 2,100 construction-related jobs, 160 full-time jobs and 750 part-time jobs.

The union endorsements were hardly unexpected, as Major League Soccer had indicated it would use union labor to build the 25,000-seat venue.

The soccer league has also struck an agreement with Local 100 to make it easier for stadium food service workers to organize. Nevertheless, the privately financed stadium has also become a hot button issue among community groups worried they will lose a portion of the only large park in the neighborhood.

Defenders of the project claim the stadium will also enhance a park many claim is run down and not well maintained. Major League Soccer would also be required to replace any official parkland where it builds.

The soccer league hailed the union endorsement as another step ahead. "We are thrilled to have the support of the unions who represent hundreds of thousands of working men and women," a Major League Soccer representative said. "They understand, as we do, what an important economic engine this stadium will be."

Moreover, Mayor Bloomberg agrees. "This major private investment in Queens would create thousands of quality jobs in an area of the city where economic activity is badly needed,"

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[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jun 25, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep 6, 2012]

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hi-Tech Glass Tower Slated for Columbia Medical Campus

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

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

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

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

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

The high-tech medical simulation center, which will allow hands-on learning in realistic settings, will transform the way Columbia University trains health professionals in medicine, dentistry, and nursing, as well as how practicing physicians maintain their clinical skills and learn new techniques.

A terrace with views of the Hudson River will be incorporated into the new building.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 16, 2013

$390M in Loans for Related's Projects in Outer Boroughs

The Related Companies has nabbed two construction loans totaling $390 million for development projects it is working on in the outer boroughs, in another sign of an uptick for new construction in the city. With $390 million in construction financing, the developer will immediately commence work on an expansion of its Gateway Center mall in East New York, Brooklyn, and move forward with work at the massive Hunters Point South housing complex in Long Island City. 

The financing deals come at a time when other lenders have also begun to finance real estate projects that just a few years ago would have had difficulty attracting capital.

Gateway Center Expansion 

$225 million in financing is earmarked to fund an expansion of Related's Gateway Center retail mall in Brooklyn's East New York.

The construction will add 600,000 square feet to the existing 900,000-square-foot complex that opened in 2002, on the site of a former garbage dump.

Comprising 13 buildings, and anchored by Home Depot, Target and BJ's Wholesale Club, Gateway Center is one of the largest suburban-style retail centers to be built in the city. Construction on the second phase broke ground in December 2012.

Happy Ending to Failed Olympic Bid
$165 million in additional construction financing has been given to the development partnership of Related Cos, Phipps Houses and Monadnock Construction, for the massive 5,000-unit affordable housing complex in the Hunters Point section of Queens.

Construction of the twin buildings at parcels A and B is well underway, as is work on the waterfront esplanade.

The first 908-units of affordable housing are expected to be completed by mid-2014. The Hunters Point South mega-development grew from planning for the city's failed bid for the 2012 Olympics.

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[PDF] Hunters Point South - Project Scope 

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Nov 18, 2011]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Oct 24, 2012]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Oct 11, 2012]

Friday, February 15, 2013

Unanimous Approval for Pyramid on West 57th Street

One of the most unusual apartment towers slated to rise in the city won unanimous approval of the City Council last week. Council members voted to give a green light for construction of the pyramid on West 57th Street. Durst Fetner Residential won approval after settling a dispute to build 173 units of affordable housing within the 32-story, 750-apartment building. By law, the affordable housing units will be income-restricted for 35 years. 

The project, stretching the entire block between 11th Avenue and the Hudson River, will include 750 rental units in the ski-slope-shaped, 32-story tower designed by Danish architect, Bjarke Ingels, as well as 100 additional housing units in a former industrial building next door.

City Councilwoman Gail Brewer, who represents the area, said the community board had been frustrated that the units were only affordable for 35 years, but to sell them on the project, Durst Fetner agreed to contribute $1 million into an affordable housing fund.

"We are thrilled with today's vote and are grateful to the City Council and especially Councilmember Brewer," said a Durst spokesman. "Today's approval will pave the way for one of the most exciting and innovative designs to hit New York's skyline in a generation."

Durst Fetner also addressed some minor concerns about the facade on West 58th Street, which everyone from the community board to City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden have complained about as being blank for nearly an entire city block.

The reason is that is where many of the apartment pyramid's mechanical systems will be located because the building is within the FEMA flood plain for a hundred year storm, and thus they cannot be placed in the basement. At the City Planning Commission, the developer agreed to add space for artwork to the facade. Now, at the urging of Councilwoman Brewer, there will be more greenery, as well.

The final piece of the negotiations was a promise by Durst Fetner to consult with the community board on the new community facilities that will be a part of the project. Developers typically get development bonuses for including such uses in their projects, but they can range from dentists offices to adult education centers. The board has expressed an interest in some kind of childcare facility, such as a daycare center, a desire the Durst Fetner has said it will try to accommodate

Related Articles

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 24, 2013]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 29, 2012]

Monday, February 11, 2013

Another New High Line Tower Soon to Rise

A developer has finalized its vision for a new office tower it plans to erect next door to the High Line Park, at 510 West 22nd Street. Plans recently submitted to the city by Garden City-based developer Albanese Organization, for the 170,000-square-foot tower just west of the elevated greenway, are considerably different from last year's proposal— inside and out. What was originally to be a glassy nine-story, all-steel structure will now be a 10-story concrete one. 

Frank Gehry’s IAC building was a shot of glamour for West Chelsea when it was built in 2007, an almost ethereal assemblage of white, sail-like forms at 18th Street and the West Side Highway.

At 130,000 square feet, it is one of the largest commercial buildings in the neighborhood.

Now, it may have a rival, at least in size. The Albanese Organization just closed on a deal for a nondescript warehouse abutting the High Line elevated park that was once intended to be a hotel built by the musician Jay-Z. Albanese plans to replace it with a nine-story 175,000-square-foot office building.

The $140 million project, at 510 West 22nd Street and 10th Avenue, a few blocks north of the IAC building, is to have 160 feet of frontage on the High Line, 14- to 20-foot-high ceilings and floor plates of 15,000 to 20,000 square feet.

“The IAC Building was ahead of its time,” said Mr. Albanese, “but there is demand for another corporate headquarters-type development now in the neighborhood.”

Cook + Fox Architects is designing the structure and is hoping to obtain LEED Platinum certification as a sign of its green credentials. “It will have entirely new infrastructure, and from the interior you will feel engaged with the High Line and with nature,” said Richard A. Cook, a partner at the firm. There will be terraces on the north and south sides of the second floor, as well as a penthouse-style setback on the ninth floor and a planted roof. The ground-floor retail space will most likely be for a gallery or events, Mr. Cook said. Ceiling heights will average 10 feet; column-free window expanses will offer far-ranging views.

The originally all-glass structure with non-opening windows will now include some operable ones, rare in an office building — architect Rick Cook of Cook + Fox “thought it was critical because of the uniqueness of the site for an office building.”

The 510 West 22nd Street address is now a vacant five-story garage, a small chunk of which will be retained to meet zoning requirements.

What’s now a blank wall abutting the High Line — one of the insanely popular park’s few eyesores, although largely shielded by trees until winter — will become a “reach out and touch it” glass facade, similar to those of apartment buildings astride the park.

The developers want to break ground as soon as it can to exploit the High Line corridor’s singular commercial appeal, a function of the park’s gravitational pull on fashion and media tenants, and limited office supply compared with apartments.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Subway Copper Bandit Struck 3 Times Last Week

It is not as prevalent as in the 1980s, but there are thieves bold enough or dumb enough to risk dying like a fly in a bug zapper to make a few bucks. They steal copper cable from live tracks and sell the metal at scrap yards. The copper bandit plies his dangerous trade in tunnels beneath the city. During gaps between trains, he cuts and removes sections of copper cable for quick cash. It is not attacking old people with a brick, but stranded riders will say it is not stealing quarters from a pay phone, either. On at least three occasions last week, Prince Hayes cut live cables from subway tunnels. And once he strikes, with a hacksaw and pliers, there is instant trouble. 

Trains racing to the next station have their emergency brakes tripped by the damage, bringing them to a sudden halt. There are lengthy delays and costly repairs.

Monday 2/4/13: Missing sections of cable - some up to 200 feet in length - were discovered in two locations along the L in Brooklyn, near the East 105th St. station, after trains lost power or had emergency brakes activated.

The problems started in the morning, and service was not fully restored until the evening. Meanwhile, trains skipped several stations on the line because they were diverted to express or alternate tracks while repairs were being made.

Wednesday 2/6/13: The L line in Brooklyn was hit for the second time during the week, as a bandit, most likely seeking money for drugs, lifted a 150-foot section of cable near the New Lots Avenue station. It was discovered missing when a train’s emergency brakes were tripped amid the start of the morning rush. More thievery - more straphanger pain.

On at least one occasion, Hayes caused a small explosion that sent billowing smoke into the nearest station. Another time, his handiwork forced dispatchers to suspend service on one line and reroute trains on three others.

That the daring copper thief has not been killed yet is a testament to his luck or skill or maybe a bit of both. The thick, heavy cable he removes is part of the power distribution circuits that handle 600 volts of electricity. If he picked the wrong section of cable, he would fry like a bug under a magnifying glass.

If there is a positive recurring theme in this Portrait of a Subway Criminal, it is this: NYPD Transit Bureau detectives regularly arrest Hayes and put him out of commission, at least temporarily.

Since July 2005, Hayes has been charged six times with copper theft crimes - and that is just in Brooklyn, according to court records. Since 2000, he has had eight drug possession charges, mostly for heroin.

Riders on the N line in Brooklyn experienced the effects of Hayes' handiwork on Sept. 13. The emergency brakes on several trains were activated near the 36th St. station. A worker searching for the cause discovered some 500 feet of cable was missing. A police investigation led to Hayes. According to a criminal complaint filed by detectives, Hayes sold the copper wire stamped NYCTA to a scrap yard near the Gowanus Canal two days after the breakdowns.

"They got me again," he reportedly told officers at Brooklyn Central Booking. Hayes copped a plea deal offered by a Brooklyn Criminal Court judge, and took a 90-day sentence to settle three open cases. Prince Hayes told the judge that, "this is the last time." However, the Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case said that, "he didn't sound too sincere."

Once again, Mr. Hayes is cooling his heels in a Rikers Island jail cell - probably best for him and subway riders.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

WTC Soon to Have Three Tall New Neighbors

Plans that call for three new skyscrapers to be built near the World Trade Center, will further change the face of lower Manhattan. A proposal from Fisher Brothers, which recently purchased the old American Stock Exchange, calls for a transformation of 86 Trinity Place into a 174-suite hotel with 100,000 square feet of retail, while also erecting 60-story residential building, next door at 22 Thames Street. In addition, Selldorf Architects has unveiled its vision for a 637-foot, 54-story tower to rise at 111 Washington Street.

The two Fisher Brothers properties are a block south of the World Trade Center site in the Financial District, an area that was hit hard during the economic downturn but recently has shown signs of snapping back. They acquired the former American Stock Exchange buildings, which have been mostly vacant since the exchange merged with the New York Stock Exchange in 2008.

The developer plans to turn the Trinity Place building into a retail complex with a handful of shops and at least one high-end anchor tenant. Above the retail complex, they are planning a 174-room boutique hotel. The partners plan to renovate and convert that building, which includes a former trading floor, 60-foot ceilings and a 15-story tower that they say is suitable for hotel development.

They plan to tear down the 10-story building at 22 Thames Street and construct a 60-story residential building that is likely to be luxury rentals. The new owners have the right to build 400,000 square feet of residential property. They declined to say how much they expect to spend on the construction work, which is estimated at around $750,000 million
Fisher Brothers bet on the financial district comes, as developer interest in the area is showing signs of turning around after a brutal period when a number of residential projects halted construction or never got going.

Since the mid 1990s, when the city began offering tax incentives to developers who converted obsolete office property into apartment buildings, the area's population has exploded. Even after the tax credits expired, building continued rapidly until there was a glut of supply during the downturn.

The empty ICON parking garage that closed down at 111 Washington Street, across from the W hotel, has shown little movement since 2008.

The lot, plus some adjacent ones and air rights, was once part of plan for a 300-unit condominium building. Then it re-imagined as a designer hotel. However, the contract never closed once the market slumped, and the spot has been quiet ever since. Until now.

Selldorf Architects recently unveiled a prismatic tower design for the site near the World Trade Center at 111 Washington Street. The 54-story building would replace the parking lots that were sold late last year.

The first five floors would hold retail and residential amenities, which would be topped by two floors for performing arts, with the tower rising 637-feet above that.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Risked Their Lives to Protect Others from Dangling Crane

When danger loomed high above the streets of New York City last October, Michael Alacha and Timothy Lynch, very much like superheroes, vaulted upward under adverse conditions and thwarted the menace. As Hurricane Sandy lashed the city with 80-mile-per-hour winds, the pair quickly assessed the damage to a snapped construction-crane boom atop One57. Alacha (whose home in the Rockaways was flooded throughout the ordeal), and Lynch (who dashed up and down the stairs -- twice) came to the rescue and helped save the city—as well as some of its prime real estate, including Carnegie Hall.

The men understood the risks as they raced to the scene, climbed 53 flights of stairs and braved life-threatening gales as storm winds tore through the open construction site.

They estimated there was a very real chance the 26,000-pound boom, thrown over the back of its mast and dangling by frayed cables, would plummet—directly onto a gas main below, with unthinkable consequences.

Michael Alacha thought he was prepared for Superstorm Sandy. Days before the storm, the assistant commissioner for the Department of Buildings made sure the agency issued wind advisories, even going so far as to require crane users to inspect their machines to ensure they were shut down properly for high winds.

Still, on October 29 as Sandy blew in, the unthinkable happened. Winds near 100 mph buffeted a 1,000-ft-tall skyscraper under construction on Manhattan's West 57th Street, flipping over the jib of a tower crane like a wet noodle. Twenty six thousand pounds of limp steel, wire rope and other debris dangled precariously over midtown Manhattan.

Stationed at his office's emergency response center, Michael Alacha witnessed the event on television and raced to the scene. "My concern was the crane's connection to the building, specifically the top tie," Alacha recalls. "If that was compromised, with the storm still halfway through, the entire mast may have collapsed."

Alacha met with Tim Lynch, a city forensic engineer, and a safety expert with Lend Lease, the building's construction manager. The three men took an elevator to the 20th floor of One57. From there, they made a long climb to the top of the building—up to the 75th floor—to inspect the crane.

The noise and pressure from the wind was overwhelming. "I felt something fly by my eyes," Alacha recalls. "Seconds later, I realized they were my glasses."

In a few days, the crane was secure and nearby buildings re-opened. His quick thinking made a difference. The damaged rig is due to be replaced in March.

"I think Mike Alacha handled the situation very well," says Tim Lynch. "He kept a very calm head."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

These Projects Will Change the Way NY Does Business

Infrastructure and a good strong transit system are what allow this city to work. Those who cannot afford Manhattan are moving to Williamsburg, Astoria, Canarsie, and Jackson Heights. All those places are booming because of good transit. In addition, people are no longer leaving the city as they used to. In fact, experts predict the population will grow by one to one-and-a-half million over the next decade. The following four projects will be game-changers. Changing the way New Yorkers do business in the future.

East Side Access:
When this $8 billion project is completed in 2018, it will allow Long Island Railroad trains to travel directly into Grand Central Terminal.

Not only will this increase the capacity of the LIRR by 40 percent, it will provide a host of new opportunities for businesses on the East Side of Manhattan.

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 29, 2012]

Having all these people traveling in and out of the city and spending disposable income here will help drive the local economy.

Second Avenue Subway:
The Second Avenue Subway will reduce overcrowding and delays on the Lexington Avenue line, improving travel for both city and suburban commuters, and provide better access to transit for east side residents.

The target completion date for the first phase, from 63rd Street to 96th Street, is 2016.

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 16, 2012]

When it is done, it will change the nature of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There will be tremendous opportunities for businesses that support residential and office areas.

No. 7 Line Extension:
If you have ever tried to get to the Jacob Javits Convention Center by foot or bus, you know it is a pain. The extension of the No. 7 line from Times Square to West 34th Street and 11th Avenue, slated to be complete in June 2014, is creating New York’s next neighborhood on the Far West Side of Manhattan.

The subway extension will make it possible for new housing, restaurants and entertainment to grow on the Far West Side.The new subway terminal will also improve service reliability for all riders of the No. 7 in Queens and Manhattan by providing additional storage space for trains.

There will be offices and residences and they will need entertainment, food, and other support from local small businesses. [see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 9, 2012]

The Gateway Project:
Once funded, this mega-project will provide much-needed relief for New Jersey and Northeast corridor commuters.

Amtrak wants to build two new tunnels under the Hudson River and expand two existing tunnels that it owns and that are also used by New Jersey Transit. This will provide a better flow of passengers between New York and New Jersey, and provide for better LIRR and Amtrak access.

Increasing this capacity goes to the heart of additional development—city-to-city companies that want to locate in the Hudson Yards area because of good access to the rest of the Northeast corridor. You could walk three blocks from your office and take the Acela to Washington D.C. or Boston.

The earliest completion date would be 2025. It is still in the early stages, but many influential people are working together to make this happen. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Friday, February 1, 2013

US Government Predicts LED to Be the Future of Lighting

Lighting accounts for more than 20 percent of all electricity consumption in the nation, according to a study released by the Department of Energy. The report estimates that more than 8 billion lamps are presently in use in the United States. While the study points to LEDs being a negligible contributor to today’s lighting stock, the agency predicts they will become the predominant light source within the next 12 years. 

With demand growing and lamps becoming more efficient, LEDs are very likely to dominate the future of lighting.

Not surprisingly, the greatest portion of lamps is installed in the residential and commercial building sectors.

Residential Market

The residential sector, including 113 million buildings, uses 5.8 billion lamps operating an average 1.8 hours per day.

Average lamp efficacy increased from 45 to 58 lumens per watt between 2001 and 2010, indicating a trend to higher efficiency driven primarily by market preference, commercial building codes and new energy regulations.

In the residential market, which added 1.2 billion lamps between 2001 and 2010, a major technology shift from incandescent to compact fluorescent resulted in a decrease in lighting energy consumption from 208 to 175 terawatt-hours.The share of incandescent lamps fell from 79 percent of installed lighting in 2001 to 52 percent in 2010.

Compact fluorescent lamps increased from 2 to 19 percent in 2010—with one CFL in operation for every two incandescent A-lamps—contributing to a reduction in average lamp wattage from 63 to 46 watts and an increase in average lamp efficacy from 17 to 19 LPW. Dimmers control 12 percent of lamps—nearly 700 million—according to the Department of Energy.

Commercial Market

In the commercial market, which added about 100 million lamps between 2001 and 2010, a major technology shift from linear fluorescent T-12 to T-8 and T-5 resulted in a decrease in lighting energy consumption.

The commercial sector, including 5.5 million buildings with 81.2 billion square feet of floor space, uses 2.1 billion lamps operating an average 11.2 hours per day.

The share of T-8 lamps increased from about 33 percent in 2001 to 61.6 percent in 2010—while T-5 lamps increased to 6.3 percent, and T-12 lamps decreased to 31.3 percent—resulting in a reduction in average lamp wattage from 56 to 42W and an increase in average lamp efficacy from 51 to 70 LPW.

As various regulations eliminated a majority of magnetic T-12 lamp ballasts from the market by 2010 and additional regulation eliminated a majority of linear T-12 lamps in July 2012, the study suggests significant retrofit potential.

According to the Department of Energy, 538 million T-12 lamps were in operation in 2010, including more than 400 million 4-foot lamps. End-users should be looking to upgrade these installations as they and their local distributors exhaust their inventories of T-12 lamps and ballasts.

Lighting Controls

The study also highlights an opportunity for lighting controls in existing buildings. While commercial building energy codes have made various lighting control strategies commonplace in new construction, the study suggests that:only about 30 percent of all lamps in commercial buildings are controlled.
  • Dimmers (3%)
  • Photo sensors (negligible)
  • Occupancy sensors (5%) 
  • Automatic shutoff systems (4%). 
As these strategies are proven to save significant amounts of energy, statistics suggests another major upgrade opportunity for electrical contractors to install existing building-friendly solutions, such as wall-switch occupancy sensors, wireless sensors and controls, line-voltage dimming systems, and intelligent panel board upgrades.

The Future is LED

Interestingly, while LED technology currently enjoys rapid adoption and dominates research and development efforts in the lighting industry, this young technology achieved only a 1 percent share of the total installed lighting base in 2010, even though the total number of LED lamps/installations had increased to nearly 50 million lamps since 2001, or a 3,000 percent increase.

In the commercial and industrial building sectors, about 80 percent of all LED lamps were installed in exit signs, with the remaining lamps—about 7.5 million—installed in display, track, task, area and other applications. In the outdoor sector, LEDs achieved a 3–4 percent share of installed lamps used in roadway and parking lot lighting, while being predominant in traffic signals.

The Department of Energy Predicts that LEDs will continue to improve in price, efficacy and service life, accelerating its trajectory and becoming the dominant light source by 2025, according to the DOE’s 2012 report, “Energy Savings Potential of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications.”

As a result, the agency expects U.S. lighting energy consumption to be slashed by nearly one-half, saving $250 billion over the next 20 years.

In summary, if LED lighting continues the trajectory toward dramatically higher efficacy and operating life than current technologies, at a competitive cost, it will become the dominant light source, sweeping the market in a remarkably short amount of time.

The future, it seems, belongs to the LED.

Learn More

Lighting Science Group is the world’s leading maker of advanced lighting products. By applying the science of light, the LSG team outperforms the competition and delivers on the promise of LED technology for indoor and outdoor lighting projects. From outer space to major cities and now your home, Lighting Science products and solutions are environmentally friendly, save money and increase energy independence.

“U.S. Lighting Market Characterization Report”  contains detailed estimates for the national inventory of installed lamps, offering both insights into how lighting is used as well as opportunities to capitalize on trends.

“Energy Savings Potential of Solid-State Lighting”  contains detailed information evaluating the performance and cost of LED technologies and forecasts LED lighting adoption rates through 2030.