Sunday, June 30, 2013

New Recessed Downlighting Fixtures for LED and CFLs

  Topaz Lighting & Electric is proud to announce their newest division, NextWave 
  Recessed Downlighting. Nextwave offers  a select line of recessed downlighting 
  for Commercial and Residential applications. Our line of 4” and 6” recessed 
  housings are perfect for LED and CFLs, in both new and remodel construction.

Nextwave™ is considered a leader in the production of first-rate Recessed Downlighting and Fixtures for a wide range of applications in the commercial, industrial, institutional, and consumer markets.  Our fixtures are made with the highest quality materials available to ensure years of operational reliability and they are value priced. We are an excellent alternative to the giant manufacturers.We offer a broad range of products for every application including:

  • Line Voltage 6-1/4”. Recessed Cans for Sloped Ceilings
  • Universal Line Voltage 6-1/4”. Recessed Dual-Purpose Cans
  • Trims for All 6-1/4”. Line Voltage Cans
  • Line Voltage 6-1/4”. Recessed Cans for Sloped Ceilings
  • Trims for 6-1/4”. Line Voltage Sloped Ceiling Cans
  • Low Voltage 4”. Recessed Cans
  • Trims for All 4”. Low Voltage Cans
  • Low Voltage Mini Trims 3-1/4”. To 4-1/2”. Diameter
  • Electronic Transformer For Use With Mini Trims
  • Line Voltage 4”. Recessed
  • 4-7/8”. Trims for 4”. Line Voltage Cans
  • Downlighting for Compact Fluorescent Lamps Trims for Compact Fluorescent Cans
  • Fluorescent 6”, 5”and 4”

Nextwave™ recessed down lighting fixtures are sold exclusively through authorized Nextwave™ wholesale distributors.

Click here to view our complete line of products, or Contact Us for more information.

Friday, June 28, 2013

NYCHA Reveals Luxury High-Rises (Part 2 in a series)

The New York City Housing Authority, facing one of the most serious financial shortfalls in its history, is for the first time making a major push to lease open land on the grounds of its housing projects to developers to generate revenue. NYCHA wants to raise more than $50 million a year on long-term leases for parks, courtyards, parking lots, playgrounds and other property, seeking to address a $6 billion backlog of repairs. The city has revealed buildings that will more than double the size of the 15-story towers at Washington Houses. The luxury high-rises would be 35 and 41 stories tall.

But the plan has stirred deep concern among tenants who have been warily eying gentrification in one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. The proposal is initially directed at eight housing projects in Manhattan near the waterfront and other prime areas where real estate values have jumped.

The authority has repeatedly told tenants that it has no plans to sell buildings themselves, and that no public housing tenant will be displaced by the new policy.

Still, in a city that teems with real estate anxieties, tenants harbor alarmed about the loss of open space, especially for children and the elderly.

While the plan has been adopted by the Bloomberg administration, approval by the federal government is still required. Furthermore, it is not clear whether developers will flock to lease land for market-rate buildings so close to public housing.

In his State of the City address last month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that the alternative would be to allow public housing buildings “to crumble” or to “knock them down.”

The plan is part of a broader effort to close the authority’s budget gaps that includes raising rents for some tenants and leasing retail space on the ground floor of some buildings.

The authority, landlord to more than 400,000 residents, has a backlog of about 350,000 repair orders. It also has a waiting list of 160,000 families. The authority’s chairman, John B. Rhea, whom Mr. Bloomberg appointed, said his agency needed to pursue innovative strategies to address both an operating deficit of $60 million in its current budget and $6 billion in capital needs.

“This is the single largest opportunity to preserve public housing units and our buildings,” Mr. Rhea said, referring to the proposal to lease the land.  Asked about the fears of tenants, he emphasized that “the plan is not a plan to privatize public housing.”

The authority is proposing 4,000 to 5,000 private apartments on 13 parcels of land at eight projects — about three million square feet in all. Of those apartments, 20 percent or up to 1,000, would be designated as affordable.

The eight projects, with a combined population of more than 25,000 people, are Alfred E. Smith, Baruch, Campos Plaza, Fiorello LaGuardia and Meltzer in Lower Manhattan; Carver and Washington on the Upper East Side; and Douglass on the Upper West Side.

New York has done more than most localities to preserve its public housing. In other cities, high-rise buildings, let alone parking lots, have been sold off or demolished.

Despite the authority’s assurances, the prospect of high-income neighbors at their doorsteps has many tenant associations worried, with many residents convinced that the plan was the first step in a process that would lead to their eviction.

In this series, TheElectricWeb takes a closer look at NYCHA's 'Land Lease Opportunities to Preserve Public Housing.' Today we direct our focus at two proposed development sites on Manhattan's Lower East Side: Fiorello LaGuardia Houses and Max Meltzer Tower.

LaGuardia Houses
Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia Houses on Manhattan's Lower East Side has nine buildings, 15 and 16-stories tall with 1,093 apartments housing some 2,596 residents. LaGuardia Houses has a $79 million unmet need for capital building improvements over the next 5 years.

Madison Street Development Site
   Site Area: 10,038 SF
   New Construction: 135,000 SF Residential

Rutgers Street Development Site
    Site Area: 8,371 SF
    New Construction: 120,000 SF Residential
    276 New Apartments

Present Use of Proposed Sites
    48 Parking Spaces
    Compactor Yard

Benefits for Residents
    Preference for new low-income apartments
    Emergency power generation for critical building systems
    Temporary and permanent job opportunities
    Enhanced security for development


Meltzer Tower 
Max Meltzer Tower on Manhattan's Lower East Side is a 20-story building exclusively for seniors with 230 apartments housing an estimated 246 residents. Meltzer Tower has a $10.5 million unmet need for capital building improvements over the next 5 years.

East 1st Street Development Site
    Site Area: 13,000 SF
    New Construction:
        121,500 SF Residential
          18,500 SF Commercial
              97 New Apartments

Present Use of Proposed Site
     Landscaped Courtyard
     Sitting area / play area

Benefits for Meltzer Tower Residents
     Redesigned Central Plaza
     New low-income apartments
     Emergency power for Tower
     Temporary job opportunities
     Permanent job opportunities
     Enhanced security systems

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Legislature Kills Revision to New York's Scaffold Law

The scaffold law has been on the books in New York since 1885, and it seems as though businesses have been lamenting it ever since. But lately, this obscure law has morphed from a nuisance into a threat—not just to contractors and property owners, but to taxpayers. The statute, Labor Law 240/241, holds property owners and employers liable for ALL damages when a worker is injured in a gravity-related accident. This has led to some bizarre outcomes.

A worker who tumbled from an A-frame ladder that he'd leaned against a wall -- rather than opening it as instructed -- won $2 million. A town that had a leak inspected was hit with a $30.3 million judgment when a roofer, who refused to wear a safety harness, fell and was injured.

Only in New York is a worker's negligence irrelevant, even if his drunkenness or disregard for safety rules led to the injury.

As jury awards have escalated and the number of insurers willing to write policies covering falls in New York has dwindled, liability insurance costs have roughly doubled in two years.

The law has added an additional $400 million to the price tag of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. It costs the Metropolitan Transportation Authority money that could otherwise pay for five or more subway station rehabilitation projects annually, and the city enough to build seven new public schools. Municipalities around the state are similarly cornered.

Private project costs are likewise bloated. Smaller contractors—notably women- and minority-owned ones—get shut out of jobs because they can't afford the insurance. And funding that could be paying construction workers to improve local infrastructure instead goes to attorneys.

Defenders of the scaffold law, namely unions and trial lawyers, say it makes job sites safer. Not true. Absolving workers of any responsibility for accidents leads them to take risks and inevitably encourages some to game the system. After Illinois repealed its scaffold law in 1995, construction fatalities plunged and employment increased.

The worsening effects of New York's law have inspired a renewed reform effort by both private- and public-sector stakeholders, who are informing legislators of the cost to taxpayers, mass-transit commuters and businesses.

But this is about more than the soaring financial and social damage caused by the law. This is about a fundamental flaw in our justice system. The New York State Legislature tried to correct it by passing a bill to replace "absolute liability" for owners and employers with a "comparative negligence" standard used in many states when a worker is injured because of his own intoxication, criminality or violation of safety standards.

While it seems that such a revision in the law is an economic necessity, in one swoop, Speaker Sheldon Silver wielded his authority and struck down the debate altogether.

Although the proposal change would only have placed more burden on construction workers injured due to their own negligence, a spokesman for the assembly speaker said ‘any changes to the Scaffold Law will not be considered. We don’t think it’s the right policy to further burden injured workers.’

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Huge Rebound in NYC Construction Spending is Forecast

If the construction sites roaring to life across the city weren't sign enough, a new report confirms that New York's construction market is again booming. A surge in construction spending by private developers, especially for large residential projects in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is expected to drive total spending up 6.2% to $32 billion this year, according to the New York City Building Congress. Next year construction spending is predicted soar by 17% next year, to $37.3 billion. That is just 2% below spending levels in 2007, when adjusted for inflation.

Leading that charge is a remarkable rebound in residential construction, which is expected to build 13,800 units this year and 16,900 next year. That is up from 11,000 last year and a sclerotic 6,000 units at the depths of the recession in 2009.

And the dollars being pumped into the economy are more, as well, since developers are taking on more expensive and complicated high-rise projects.

Residential spending will reach $6 billion this year and $8 billion next—more than four times the $2.3 billion spent in 2010.

"It's amazing, because this recovery is being driven by the private sector, which we had not expected," said Building Congress president Richard Anderson.

This means not only good news for New Yorkers desperately seeking apartments but also construction workers, who had long been out of work. And yet residential construction has not quite reached pre-recession levels, when 30,000 units were being built a year for four consecutive years, from 2004 to 2007.

Construction employment across all sectors is expected to reach 120,000 jobs this year; up from 115,000 last year, while 10,000 more jobs are predicted to be added next year.

Another important factor is institutional work, which has been strong the past few years as hospitals, universities and other private universities have continued to expand. Commercial construction, of offices, hotels and retail spaces, continues to grow, as well, as the economy in general, and the tourist economy in particular, strengthens. Overall, non-residential private spending will grow 38% this year, to $13.5 billion, from $9.8 billion, and it will expand a further $2 billion next year, according to projections.

The one weak spot is government work, though even it has remained stronger than expected. In 2009 and 2010, the industry was woefully dependent on public sector work, which accounted for nearly two-thirds of all projects. Now, at $12.4 billion in 2013 spending, it has fallen to 40% of the market. Last year, public spending was $15.1 billion. There is some anticipated growth in 2014, to $13.8 billion.

The latest construction estimates are the mid-year update of the New York Building Congress' annual Construction Outlook, which is released in October, and it shows significant promise because the numbers have been upgraded significantly from previous estimates, when construction was predicted to only reach $30.2 billion, about $1.8 billion below the new estimate. Furthermore, the market was expected to contract in 2014, to $29.1 billion, rather than the new estimate of $37.3 billion.

Mr. Anderson credits the city itself. "I think fundamentally, it's New York," he said. "There's a lot of confidence in the future of the city. People are living here, they're buying here, they're working here, and institutions are investing. People are putting money into the city because they believe in the city."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Outsourcing: 'Savings' Don’t Tell the Whole Story

Politicians have justified awarding contracts to overseas companies based on numerous savings they claim it will produce. That does not take into account the wages lost by workers who otherwise would have been employed on the project. It does not take into account the taxes those workers would have paid — from state and city income tax to Social Security and unemployment taxes. 

It does not take into account the multiplier effect, all the related benefits derived across the economy from the daily purchases made by people with jobs. It does not count all the state and local taxes that employed workers pay for schools and highways.

Nor does it take into account all the tax revenue that New York State and City government will have to expend for unemployment, health care and other costs run up by people who have no jobs.

In short, what may look like a "savings" is anything but.
  • If people don't have jobs, they don't make money.
  • If people don't make money, they don't buy things.
  • If people don't buy things, there is less demand.
  • If there is less demand, then companies don't produce goods.
  • If companies don't produce goods, they don't need employees. 
  • If people don't have jobs, they don't make money... 
What is clear is that New York is losing exceptional opportunities to create good-paying jobs at home during a time of high domestic unemployment.

With millions of Americans unemployed, underemployed, working part time because they cannot find a full-time job, or so discouraged they gave up looking for a job; when millions are out of work for the longest period in our history; when millions are in the process of losing their homes because they were unable to keep up with mortgage payments after corporations eliminated their jobs or they were forced to absorb runaway medical bills; New York is providing work for a foreign construction companies -- and shipping more our tax dollars overseas.

Peter Coyne
President, ElectricWeb Communications

Monday, June 24, 2013

MTA Outsources $235M Verrazano Bridge Project to China

Add Staten Island’s Verrazano Bridge to the list of U.S. icons that are made in China. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority outsourced a $235 million renovation project to China for work on the statuesque steel span — over the protests of hard-up American steelworkers who say they could do the job. The agency says it could not find an American company capable of making the high-tech steel plates it wants, but critics say the decision came down to cheaper labor.

“It’s a kick in the teeth. There’s a lot of New Yorkers who would be thrilled to work on this project. It should be American made,” United Steelworkers’ Vice President Tom Conway said.

The union has reached out to New York’s AFL-CIO to mobilize support among other labor organizations.

“Our state has lost nearly half its manufacturing capacity in the past 20 years,” AFL-CIO head Mario Cilento said in a letter sent July 1 to its executive council.

“Irresponsible actions by public agencies like the MTA will only make things worse,” Cilento wrote, asking members to “stand by” as they prepare to fight the MTA’s outsourced contract.

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Mar 1, 2012]

According to the MTA, there’s not a steel plant in America that can produce the type of high-tech steel plate it wants — known as orthotropic design. “The MTA worked diligently to find an American steel manufacturer with the capability, experience and desire to fabricate the steel bridge deck ... the MTA could not find an American fabricator,” the agency said in a statement defending its decision.

Orthotropic design is rarely used in America because the bulk of U.S. bridges were built before the technology existed.

The MTA hopes to extend the Verrazano’s lifespan by replacing its heavy concrete upper deck with lighter, stiffer orthotropic plates. Similar work was done two years ago on another U.S. span, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The Verrazano, a double-decked suspension bridge — which opened in 1969 after 10 years of construction — was built by American steel and iron workers, Conway noted. “We were good enough then, but now all that work will go to China, to a government-owned company,” the union official said. “Maybe we’ll get some work tying up the barges” that haul the steel from China, he added bitterly.

The MTA said it will have strict quality-control tests to make sure the Chinese steel meets U.S. safety guidelines and requirements. Production has already started, the agency said. Once the finished Chinese-made steel plates are shipped back, American workers will reassemble the Verrazano’s upper deck.

“We are very skeptical about their claim they can’t find an American plant to make these plates. We found two in Pennsylvania — 100 miles from the bridge — that bid on the project and wanted to do it,” said Conway.

The real issue is money, he said. “This job here is about $30 an hour. In China, the workers will get anywhere from $10 to $15 a day,” he said. It would cost another $100 million to keep the project in America, the MTA said.

Cilento said the agency “should be ashamed of itself” for the blatant outsourcing. “It is incomprehensible that the MTA would award a $235 million project to China when there are American workers ready, willing and able to perform the task,” he said.

Monday, June 17, 2013

City Council Approves BAM South Mixed-Development

Despite last-minute protests, the BAM South development in downtown Brooklyn won approval at the City Council. The 32-story tower, which will be developed by Two Trees Management, is an extension of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with cultural space in its base and 300 apartments above.  While Councilwoman Letitia James managed to wrest some concessions from the project, notably an agreement not to redevelop a library branch on Pacific Street, her demands that the 350-foot-tall tower on Flatbush Avenue be built with union labor, went unheeded.

Among the Bloomberg administration's agreements were that the 50,000 square feet of cultural space in the project would remain limited to that use into perpetuity, preventing it from becoming shops, apartments or other private developments. The community would be given a stake in programming the 10,000-square-foot public plaza outside.

Two Trees and the city would not agree to increasing affordability on the BAM South site, where 60 units, or 20% of the building, would be set aside as affordable housing.

Instead Ms. James said she had gotten the administration to agree to increase the affordability of two adjacent properties, known as BAM North 1 and BAM North 2, to 30% of the total units.

This is not far off from commitments already made by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development to develop the sites, however, Ms. James said it makes a difference to have that affordability guaranteed. She also noted that 150 of the units would be set aside for low-income residents who make no more than $65,000 for a family of four. It had been higher, for middle-income rather than lower-income families.

Ms. James, who did not voice her opposition to the project until two weeks ago, which some people have claimed, was because she is trying to win labor support for her bid to become public advocate. Requiring union construction was opposed by the developer, Two Trees, which said it could not cover both the level of affordability required by the project and to pay a prevailing wage—the firm frequently forgoes full union jobs, though it does employ union laborers for more skilled parts of projects, a commitment Two Trees reiterated in a statement.

Other projects under development include The Dermot Company's 47-story project on Flatbush Avenue, known as 66 Rockwell, the first new residential building in the area since the real estate bust, with 327 apartments coming to market later this summer.  The Hub, under development by Doug Steiner, owner of the eponymous movie studio in the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard, will soon rise a few blocks away. That 52-story tower is slated to boast 750 housing units.

"We called it The Hub because there are so many great neighborhoods radiating out from our site, it's got great transportation, it's got great shopping and restaurants, and now it's going to have the best-in-class buildings," Mr. Steiner said. "Downtown Brooklyn really is becoming the heart of the Brooklyn everybody's talking about."The biggest victory is not even for Ms. James' constituents. Among the cultural groups moving into BAM South is the Brooklyn Public Library, which is opening a new branch there. The hope had been to relocate the children's library on Pacific Street and then sell off the building to raise funds for the cash-strapped library.

Related Articles:

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Mar 4, 2013]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 16, 2013]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jan 18, 2013]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Sep 29, 2012]

Thursday, June 13, 2013

NYCHA Land-Lease Plan: A Closer Look (Part 1)

The New York City Housing Authority, facing one of the most serious financial shortfalls in its history, wants to raise more than $50 million a year on long-term leases for parks, playgrounds, parking lots and courtyards on the grounds of its housing projects, to developers to generate revenue and address a $6 billion backlog of repairs.

In this series, TheElectricWeb will take a closer look at NYCHA's 'Land Lease Opportunities to Preserve Public Housing.' Today we direct our focus at three proposed development sites: Campos Plaza on the Lower East Side; George Washington Carver Houses in East Harlem; and the Frederick Douglass Houses in Upper Manhattan.

Pedro Campos Plaza I & II 
Home to 1,219 residents on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, with $27.2 million of unmet capital needs over the next 5 years.

East 12th Street Development Site:
   Site Area: 26,122 SF
   New Construction: 90,000 SF
   97 New apartments
   20% will be available to low-income households

Present Use of Proposed Site:
    45 Parking Spaces
    Compactor Yard
    Basketball & Handball Courts
    Outdoor Sitting Area

Benefits for Residents:
    Central Plaza redesign
    Preference for new low-income apartments
    Emergency power generation for critical building systems
    Temporary and permanent job opportunities
    Enhanced security for development


George Washington Carver Houses 
Complex consists of 1,246 apartments in 13 buildings, between 6 and 15-stories tall, housing 2,723 people. Carver Houses has a $41 million unmet need for capital improvements over the next 5 years.

Development Sites:
    Madison Avenue 14,000 SF
    Park Avenue: 23,000 SF

New Construction:
    242,000 SF of Residential
    262 New Apartments
    20% available to low-income households
    500,000 SF of revenue generating facilities
      (medical or educational)

Present Use of Proposed Site:
    117 Parking Spaces
    Basketball & Handball Courts

Benefits for Residents:
    Preference for new low-income apartments
    Emergency power for building systems
    Temporary & permanent jobs
    Enhanced security for development


Frederick Douglass Houses
Contains 2,054 apartments housing some 4,588 residents. Douglass Houses has a $192 million unmet need for capital building improvements over the next 5 years.Z

Development Site 1:
    Manhattan Avenue: 19,000 SF
    New Construction: 340,000 SF Residential

Development Site 2:
    West 104th Street: 16,000 SF
    New Construction: 175,000 SF Residential

Development Site 3:
    West 100th Street: 18,750 SF
    New Construction: 220,000 SF Residential

Total Construction:
    794 New Apartments
    20% available to low-income households

Present Use of Proposed Site:
    198 Parking Spaces
    Courtyard / Sitting Areas
    Basketball & Handball Courts

Benefits for Residents:
    Central courtyard redesign
    Emergency power for building systems
    Temporary & permanent jobs
    Enhanced security for development
    Preference for new low-income families

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NYC Housing Authority Plans for Private Development

While New York City's plan to allow private development on public-housing land is drawing increasing fire, officials are preparing to let developers submit plans for 99-year leases on eight parcels of land owned by the New York City Housing Authority, and build at least 4,300 new private apartments. NYCHA believes the move could bring $30 million to $50 million in annual revenue, which would be used to address the agency's $60 million annual budget shortfall, and pay for improvements to housing authority properties citywide. The developers would need to include some 800 affordable apartments in the new complexes.

The city remains committed to the initiative, saying it only needed approval from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to move forward.

"Strategies like this Land Lease plan are vital to improving the circumstances of NYCHA's residents and buildings and ensuring that quality public housing is available to New Yorkers who need it most," housing-authority spokeswoman Sheila Stainback wrote in a statement. "

Residents say they are worried the developments will displace community centers and parking lots around the public-housing buildings. Others say luxury apartments will cause further gentrification and ignite development that will change their neighborhoods. Under the lease plan, 20% of the new apartments would be set aside for low-income residents—which advocates say is too few.

"You're going to have these luxury housing units that will block our light, take away our trees and our playgrounds and our parks," said Carmen Negron, a Lower East Side resident of the Baruch Houses. The president of Douglass Houses Resident Association says tenants are worried about losing a valuable community center.

The city says it has no intentions to demolish community centers—although many would be moved—and that residents who now hold parking passes will have new spaces allocated to them after construction is completed.

Still, the Bloomberg administration cites the value of the city-owned land, and insists that the plan to generate money makes economic sense.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Two Massive Projects Ready to Revamp Astoria Waterfront

The Astoria Cove project, announced last week, along with the Hallets Point Redevelopment, which has a green light from the city, will transform a gritty waterfront stretch of Astoria off Roosevelt Island. Hallets Point would add 2,200 units of housing and a supermarket to the Astoria waterfront, as well as an esplanade along the East River. The project has received initial certification from the city Planning Commission. Astoria Cove calls for an additional 1,535-units of housing in a combination of 8-story townhouses, and waterfront towers rising between 12 and 30-stories. Plans also include 117,000-square-feet of retail space, a new school and a public park.

The twin projects have been generously planned in terms of public passive recreation and would be a boon for the city. The East River waterfront would get a major facelift to accommodate eateries and increase public access. 

Astoria Cove is a residential development proposed for western Astoria. It would bring 1,535-units of housing in a combination of townhouses and towers along 26th Avenue, between 9th and 4th Streets.

The inland buildings would top out at 8-stories, while the apartment buildings near the water would rise between 12-30-stories. Twenty percent of the apartments would be set aside for affordable housing. 

The development would include public access to the waterfront, a 25,000-square-foot supermarket, and 117-square-feet of retail space with a 456-seat elementary school.

The developer is also exploring options for a residents-only shuttle service to and from the 30th Street N/Q station, about a mile away.

It's one of two major housing developments proposed for the Hallets Point peninsula — a chunk of land that juts out into the East River, just south of Astoria Park - a stretch of the waterfront that is largely desolate except for the NYCHA Astoria Houses, which takes up the other half of the Hallets Point peninsula. 

The peninsula certainly needs development.  Presently, the site is a mix of vacant lots and underused industrial structures. Area residents welcome the new amenities development would bring — particularly schools and supermarkets — as long as they were accessible to NYCHA residents as well.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Construction Begins on Huge Brooklyn Chocolate Factory

World-famous confectioner, Jacques Torres has got a golden ticket -- and big expansion plans, including a new, state-of-the-art chocolate factory opening later this year at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park. The legendary chocolatier compares his 40,000-square-foot space to a modern version of Willy Wonka's famed factory. The Brooklyn plant not only features chocolate manufacturing, but also tourist attractions such as a chocolate powder room, an ice cream room and a five-ton melter, all worthy of his fictional inspiration - no golden ticket required.

Mr. Torres celebrated the start of construction at the enormous, football-field-sized space, after a groundbreaking ceremony early last week.

Once rolling, Mr. Chocolate plans to shift production from his Williamsburg and Hudson Street factories - where he currently does his confectionery magic, and consolidate manufacturing into this one space. 

His popular retail shop at 66 Water Street in Dumbo will also be remodeled and enlarged. 

The legendary chocolatier compares his 40,000-square-foot space to a modern version of Willy Wonka's famed factory. “The Brooklyn operation will be a one-of-a-kind addition to the city,” he states. The plant not only features chocolate manufacturing, but also tourist attractions such as a chocolate powder room, an ice cream room and a five-ton melter, worthy of his fictional inspiration.

The factory will be open to the public and offer tours once it's up and running. Torres has plans to bus visitors in from the company's Manhattan retail outlets in SoHo and Rockefeller Center - no golden ticket required.

"I don't think there's going to be any other place in New York like this chocolate factory," he said. "It's going to be big. It's going to be new. It's going to be very advanced. We're going to do so many new products. And it's in a great location. I mean, Sunset Park is a great place where we're going to have a lot of chocolates."

Visitors will be able to peer into the factory through giant windows to watch the assembly line of chocolate goods pass before their eyes.

The space has a sweet future, but also sterling past.

Designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert and built in 1918, the Brooklyn Army Terminal was originally a military supply facility. Every letter sent to a U.S. serviceman in World War II came through the structure. Elvis Presley passed through here as a member of the armed forces.

The city took over the 97-acre complex in 1981. Today, it houses light manufacturing such as furniture makers, art collectives, and internet companies.  

And as in DUMBO, where Torres moved in 2000, the factory will likely be part of the transformation of an entire neighborhood.

Brooklyn is already the most important chocolate manufacturing region west of Belgium. Li-Lac Chocolates, Tumbador Chocolate, and Mast Brothers, all international-known brands, have manufacturing centers in the borough.

"There is tremendous opportunity in Brooklyn for a chocolate company," said Li-Lac owner Anthony Cirone, who moved his factory from the West Village to Sunset Park, not far from the new Torres location.

"The growth of the borough with popular and affordable neighborhoods for kids and families opens up great retail potential." 

No Oompa Loompas are on the payroll yet, but the French-born Torres expects to open his new Sunset Park factory this fall.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

FreshDirect One Step Closer to South Bronx Expansion

A Bronx Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit from by a community group seeking to block the online grocery's move to the Harlem River Yard in Mott Haven. Fresh Direct intends to invest $112.6 million to build its new headquarters and operations center at the Harlem River Yards, retaining nearly 2,000 existing jobs and creating almost 1,000 new jobs. The construction of the new 500,000 square foot facility will create 685 construction jobs, with an overall economic impact to the city of nearly $255 million.

The petition by South Bronx United challenged the company’s move from Long Island City, arguing that potential environmental damage would be caused by company vehicles, and that the city failed to properly analyze the environmental impact that would result from a "truck-intensive" business moving into the area, specifically the impact of noise and air pollution. 

But Judge Mary Ann Hughes disagreed.

"We applaud the court's decision which will allow this important project to continue to move forward," a spokesman for the Economic Development Corp. said. “FreshDirect’s expansion in the South Bronx will create and retain nearly 3,000 jobs.”

Fresh Direct, currently based in Long Island City, purchases produce, meat and dairy from over 60 New York State-based farms and serves a customer base of over 100,000 people with 97 percent of their employees coming from New York City.   

The company will build a new 500,000 square foot facility on a 16-acre parcel at Harlem River Yards in the Bronx, creating approximately 685 construction jobs. 

Fresh Direct plans to purchase 10 electric refrigerated electric trucks from Smith Electric Vehicles, and five additional electric refrigeration units that can be placed on existing trucks.

Smith Electric has announced plans to build a clean technology manufacturing facility in the South Bronx that will create more than 100 construction jobs.  [See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Nov 16, 2011]

Additionally, CSX is planning construction of a rail spur to connect the new facility to its operations in the Harlem River Yards. 

From its new headquarters, the company will expand its service area to regions surrounding New York City, as well as New Jersey, Connecticut, and Philadelphia, via the new railroad link.

FedEx, New York Post and Waste Management presently operate facilities within the rail terminal complex.

Fresh Direct has exceeded the growth projections outlined in the assistance package that was approved by NYCIDA in 1999 to incentivize then start-up Fresh Direct to invest approximately $51 million to purchase and renovate a 190,000 square foot facility in Long Island City. Now, Fresh Direct has 1,963 full-time equivalent employees and by summer 2021, expects to have 2,927 full-time equivalent employees.

FreshDirect had threatened to relocate its operational hub and headquarters to New Jersey.

To encourage Fresh Direct to retain and expand their operations in New York City, a package of state and city incentives valued at nearly $130 million is being provided to augment the company's private investment.

Fresh Direct expects operations at their new expanded facility to commence in 2015.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Developer Selected for Housing Project in Williamsburg

Where the city once collected cast-off cornices and wrought-iron gates, a local developer will soon build homes for 55 low-income families. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development has selected North Brooklyn Development Corp. to build an affordable housing complex overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge. The mixed-use complex will rise on a city-owned lot at 337 Berry Street, between South 4th and South 5th streets, the site of a former Landmarks Preservation Commission warehouse.

The announcement helps fulfill a promise, made almost a decade ago by the Bloomberg administration as part of the city's 2005 upzoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to use public property for the creation of affordable housing.

 The process took additional time because the city was not working with vacant land. The former warehouse at 337 Berry Street and South Fifth was used by the landmarks commission to house architectural salvage that the agency had collected over the decades.

The salvage department was shut down in 2000, and the contents of the warehouse were auctioned off in 2011, at which time demolition could commence.

The selection comes in the midst of rising community outrage over the dearth of affordable housing units promised by the city as part of the city’s rezoning.  According to published reports, eight years after pledging to build 1,345 affordable housing units on city-owned land in North Williamsburg, only 19 units, or two-percent of the promised tally, have been completed.

As its name suggests, North Brooklyn has developed more than a dozen affordable housing and economic development projects in the neighborhood since the 1980s. "It's easier to do work in a community when you know it," Mr. Mazur, who has called Greenpoint home since 1950, said. MDG has developed more than 10,000 units across the city in the past decade.

The group has hired Dattner Architects, which has considerable experience designing cutting edge affordable housing and other public works, such as Via Verde in the Bronx and Coney Island Commons and Steiner Studios in Brooklyn.

Michael Rooney, managing partner at MDG, credits Dattner with boosting the number of apartments by more than 50% with their creative design. The original proposal from the city called for 36 units, but the team created more units by shifting the building off Berry Street and onto South Fifth. That created a square rather than rectangular footprint that could accommodate more units.

"It's amazing what a good architect can do," Mr. Rooney said. He also stressed that the fixtures and detailing would be nicer than the typical affordable-housing project. "When you walk in, you won't know its affordable housing."

Of the 55 units, 28 are two-bedrooms, 19 are one-bedrooms and eight are studios. Affordable housing is prized in the neighborhood as older families keep getting priced out of their tenements on Williamsburg's south side.

The project will also include 3,900 square feet for community groups, though they have yet to be selected.

The Garden, a family-owned organic grocery established on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, will operate a grocery on the ground floor. It was one of the first such stores to open in North Brooklyn.

"It was important to us to provide inexpensive healthy food," Mr. Mazur said. "The environmental injustices that have been perpetrated on the community—these are the subtle things people don't pay attention to."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Office Building & Retail to Replace SoHo Gas Station

From gas pumps and beer steins - to shopping bags and fashions, Houston Street is about to get a little bit trendier A SoHo property owner is planning to tear down the Puck Fair bar and the BP gas station at Lafayette and Houston streets, to make way for a mixed-use office and retail building. Since the 1930s, the site has remained home to giant billboards and a gas station, although the sidewalk surrounding the lot houses two of Manhattan’s busiest subway stations—Bleecker Street and Broadway-Lafayette—making it one of the most frequented spots in the city. 

LargaVista Companies —which owns the lots used by the gas station, bar and a former garage now used for retail — revealed plans for a seven-story, 91-foot-tall building on the southwest corner of Lafayette and East Houston streets.

Cook/Fox Architects has designed a bold structure that intersperses gardens and glass, offering greenery on multiple balconies and the roof top. The building would be made of limestone on the first floor up until about eye level. The rest of the structure would be covered in white terra-cotta with silver metal details.

Because of the bustling nature of the intersection, the first two floors of the building, plus the basement level, are slated for retail. The space could house a single store as big as 30,000 square feet or could be broken up into several stores.

Though the development would demolish two buildings and a gas station that fall within the landmarked SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, they have low levels of integrity or significance, and have little individual value say preservationists.

LargaVista president Marcello Porcelli, who is a second-generation owner of the gas station, has said that developing the space was a longtime dream of his. “Ever since I was a little boy I've wanted to expand this site for a higher and better use," he said.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Facebook to Triple Size of New York City Office

Facebook is moving its New York offices south to 770 Broadway, nearly tripling its city footprint, and marking the latest technology company to set up shop in the Midtown South neighborhood. The world’s largest social media network has signed a 10-year lease for nearly 160,000 square feet in the over 1.1 million square foot building. Its 200 New York employees are currently located in a 55,000-square-foot space on two floors at 335 Madison Ave. Facebook is slated to move into the Frank Gehry-designed space at the start of 2014.

Renowned architect, Frank Gehry, will be designing workspaces for the Facebook Engineering team over two levels of the historic Wanamaker Building in the East Village.

The over 1.1 million square foot, 15-story structure, which covers an entire city block between 8th & 9th Streets, was one of the earliest buildings  to employ a cast iron facade, allowing for more generous window sizes, and consequently, the entrance of more natural light.

Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker purchased the building for his department store in 1896. The new Facebook offices will be located on the 7th and 8th floor in the 'annex' of the original structure.

Although the architect is in the midst of developing the new Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, the downtown building will be the new home for Facebook Engineering, developers of the site's most popular and promising products and technologies. [See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Jun 1, 2013]

Facebook's moving plan comes amid an aggressive technology expansion in the city. There were more than 90,000 people working at 486 high-tech companies in the city in 2011, a 30% increase from 2008.

Meanwhile, bigger companies such as Google, Inc and Yahoo are increasing their footprint in the city. Yahoo Inc., which last month agreed to buy New York-based Tumblr for $1.1 billion, plans to expand its New York operations by up to 60%.

The city is investing in expanding its technology sector. The city will contribute $100 million and 11 acres of public land toward an applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island, a joint venture between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology slated to open in 2016.

Annual rents in the 770 Broadway building are in the mid-$70s per square foot, according to a brokers familiar with the location. Facebook will be paying a reported $12 million annually for the space, which will include a cafeteria with its own chef, smaller kitchens with snacks and drinks and an open floor plan

Technology companies tend to favor trendy neighborhoods like Chelsea and SoHo in part because of the lifestyle they offer employees. 770 Broadway, which lies at the nexus of New York City’s ‘silicon alley’, is also home to AOL, Inc. and The Huffington Post.

Facebook, which has been in New York since 2008, moved into 335 Madison Ave. in 2010 when it only had sales and marketing employees. The New York team, which now comprises sales, marketing, communication, design and engineering, is slated to move into the Gehry-designed space at the start of 2014.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Plans for Facebook Menlo Park West Campus

In the midst of Facebook's plans to expand their corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, California, the social networking company has commissioned architect Frank Gehry to design an entirely new west campus on a 22 acre site in Menlo Park, California.

The campus will host a park-like environment, with a grass roof and a variety of native trees, the new development will connect to the current east headquarters via a tunnel. The path will be a transit route for cyclists and pedestrians walking beneath the Bay Front Expressway.

The building itself will be a 10 acre (436,000 square feet) warehouse-type layout that will allow employees to sit out in the open with desks that can be quickly shuffled around as teams form and break apart around projects.

With construction planned to start in this summer, the new Menlo Park West campus addition will house approximately 6,000 people in the next three years. The new eco-friendly space will include a series of outdoor cafes, barbecues and benches to complement the surrounding roof-top garden.

Click images to enlarge