Sunday, September 29, 2013

Massive Hallets Point Project Gets Zoning Approval

The City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve zoning changes that would allow the development of a $1 billion residential housing project on the Astoria waterfront. The proposal by the Lincoln Equities Group would bring nearly 2,700 residential units to the Astoria waterfront. The City Council has until October 10 to make a decision. Another big developer has submitted renderings to the Department of City Planning for an $800 million project, dubbed Astoria Cove. It is spearheaded by the Alma Realty Corp., and would add seven buildings with 1,700 apartment units on the north side of the peninsula. 

What is Hallets Point? It’s a new development planned for the waterfront along the Queens waterfront called Hallets Point, a peninsula that juts out into the East River just south of Astoria Park.

The mixed-use towers would share the peninsula with Astoria Houses and bring along much-needed amenities like a grocery store, retail and plans for a school in the process, according to the developer and representatives from the community, who have long complained about a sense of isolation.

Here are some of the elements of this project:

  •     Lincoln Equities is the developer
  •     Costs are estimated at $1 billion
  •     The development will create jobs though construction and later, retail
  •     The mixed-use development is slated to have twelve buildings on ten acres
  •     Three of the buildings would be on existing NYCHA property (Astoria Houses)
  •     Seven of the buildings would be residential, containing nearly 2,700 apartments
  •     483 units would be affordable housing, geared toward seniors
  •     2,161 units would be market rate housing
  •     A few waterfront townhouses are also planned
  •     Heights of the buildings would range from 20 to 40 stories

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The project is situated on 26th Avenue between the waterfront and as far east as 9th Street, and the Astoria Houses development is on the project’s south side.

Other elements of the development include construction of a K-8 public school on the Astoria Houses campus; retail, including a supermarket, drug store and restaurants; and a landscaped public esplanade along the East River. Underground parking is also planned for the development.

City and federal officials are looking for funding from Washington to expand the East River Ferry, pushing a plan that would bring the waterway service to Astoria’s developing Hallets Point peninsula and several other city neighborhoods.

click to enlarge
Another big developer has already submitted renderings to the Department of City Planning for an $800 million project, dubbed Astoria Cove.

It is spearheaded by the Alma Realty Corp., and would add seven buildings with 1,700 apartment units on the north side of the peninsula.

The plan is next up for a vote in the City Council.

Should lawmakers give their approval; the developer will break ground next year. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.


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Friday, September 27, 2013

24-Story Apartment Building to Rise above Rego Center Mall

Vornado Realty has resurrected its plan to construct a 24-story apartment building on top — yes, on top — of the Rego Center Mall. The plan, first unveiled in 2007, will build a 288-foot-tall building with 314 apartments atop the popular shopping mall at 61-35 Junction Blvd.  Vornado Realty Trust has already received the construction permits needed to start work. The mall, which opened in 2010, includes T.J. Maxx, Century 21, Costco and Kohl’s. The 287,113-square-foot project will cost around $120 million.

Work has already begun to build 314 apartment units on top of the Rego Center shopping mall in Rego Park.

An application submitted by Manhattan-based Vornado Realty Trust to construct the 24-story addition was approved in June, according to the city Department of Buildings.

The addition would be 288 feet high and will be designed by the New York firm SLCE Architects.

Residential apartments were part of the original proposal for the site on Junction Blvd. off the Long Island Expressway — once a parking lot for the Alexander’s department store. When ground was broken in 2007, Vornado officials said 400 apartments would rise on the site. But those plans went on hold after the economic downtown.

But the mall went ahead as promised and now includes a Costco, Kohl’s and Toys R Us as well several other retail shops and eateries. It is connected by a bridge to the Sears, Burlington Coat Factory and other stores built years ago on the former Alexander’s location.

The new development will not include enclosed parking space, according to city records. The mall already has a parking deck and the Rego Park Mall, in front of the center, has a four-level parking garage. The apartment piece, which was included in the original plans for the shopping center, is considered Phase-II of the center’s development.

Vornado has also proposed building a multi-use facility across the street from the mall that would include three floors of retail stores, residential housing and even a public school. The company said it would not break ground on Phase-III for at least four years.

Vornado Realty Trust first opened the shopping complex, at 61-35 Junction Blvd., in 2010. While community members were initially concerned about traffic congestion in the area, the center was a welcome addition to the neighborhood because it brought the promise of jobs.

Vornado has the right to build the tower, but locals are concerned that there is now more traffic then there was when the project was initially proposed.

According to Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio, "Congestion is a concern." He said he has received calls from community members about the construction. "It’s a major concern for everybody,” he said.  He said board members would carefully watch the new development so they will be aware of both traffic and other quality-of-life issues.

Rego Park, named after the Real Good Construction Company that built homes in the area in the 1920s, is already flush with tall apartment towers. Massive Lefrak City sits on the other side of the expressway.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

JFK's Most Famous Terminal To Become A Luxury Hotel

After years of inactivity, the former TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport will be transformed. When it was completed and opened in 1962, the TWA Terminal was heralded as futuristic beacon for the jet age. More than 50 years later, the landmark building will be redeveloped as--what else?--a luxury hotel. The Port Authority has chosen famed hotelier Andre Balazsm, developer of the Standard Hotel in Tribeca, to transform the site into a one-of-a-kind hotel and conference center in the heart of JFK’s central terminal area. The Standard Flight Center is still in the planning stage, with no opening date yet announced.

The famous TWA Flight Center at New York's JFK airport was once the ultimate symbol of the jet age.

The Eero Saarinen-designed building opened in 1962, and was an instant, award-winning architectural icon.

Unfortunately, its futuristic look didn't translate to the 21st century.

Once known as the "Grand Central of the jet age," It closed in 2001, when Trans World Airways ceased operations. It occasionally reopens for special events, hosting open houses and, briefly, an art gallery that was promptly vandalized and shuttered.

Now, after years of dithering, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has finally settled on a developer for the site. Balazs Properties will turn it into a Standard brand hotel and conference center with restaurants, stores, a flight museum and a spa and fitness center.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has long tried to bring the TWA terminal back to life. They first proposed a restaurant and conference center surrounded by one or two new terminals, but faced opposition from the Municipal Art Society of New York and famous architects for compromising the spirit of the famous structure.

The news is not particularly surprising. The gull-wing structure was previously being renovated in conjunction with JetBlue which made it the gem in the airline’s Terminal 5 development when it opened in 2008. (The building’s profile even graced JetBlue’s logo.) The airline, however, failed to incorporate the terminal in its greater T-5 complex.

The Port Authority is committed to preserving the essence of Saarinen's iconic design and Andre Balazs, now responsible for the building's next chapter, promises his vision will live on.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

St. Luke’s-Roosevelt to Renovate 20-story Apartment Tower

The 20-story apartment building that St. Luke's-Roosevelt owns at 501 West 113th Street, across from the street from its Upper West Side campus, has a high vacancy rate and is in need of a big capital investment. The  prewar apartment building needs major electrical work, and the presence of lead paint has depressed vacancy to just 35% .The renovations, which will take approximately two years to complete, will also include updates to the building’s facade, elevators, floors, and windows, as well as a new fitness center. When demolition and renovations are completed, the building at 1080 Amsterdam Avenue will have 96 units and two commercial units on the ground floor. The building will be renamed Stonehenge 113.

St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital has completed an innovative, sale of a 99-year ground lease on a sparsely occupied residential tower on West 113th Street to SL Green Realty Corp.

The transaction provides the hospital with long-term revenue, generates the capital for a renovation, and at the same time allows the hospital to avoid selling off a valuable piece of real estate.

The buyer will pay $1 million in annual rent for first 22 years, when the rent increases to $2 million, with other adjustments over time. Every 25 years there will be a fair market value assessment of the property. There is a $13 million upfront payment to the hospital.

The building, which mostly consists of studios and one-bedroom units, will be remodeled with new floors, kitchens, and bathrooms. Stonehenge Partners believes that the small unit size would keep living costs low and make the building an appealing option for Columbia students.

They expect the building to attract a variety of residents, including older undergraduate students and graduated students interested in living close to campus in a newly renovated building.

The deal appealed to the St. Luke's-Roosevelt board because it did not want to completely lose control of the asset. Many developers looked at the building with architects and engineers. The proposed deal was complex, and the hospital's board carefully weighed the financial strength of the developers and their offers' financial benefit to the hospital.

In July, St. Luke's-Roosevelt closed on a deal with SL Green Realty and Stonehenge Partners.

The hospital had other residential space at 515 West 59th Street, and relocated about 65% of the tenants to that building.

When demolitions and renovations are completed at 501 West 113th Street, the building will have 96 units and two commercial units on the ground floor, all generating income for St. Luke's-Roosevelt and its development partners.

The renovations will take approximately two years to complete.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Teen Invents Flashlight Powered by Body Heat

Portable light sources have been one of the most evolving inventions in history -- from the primitive torches and oil lamps of yesteryear, to today's battery-powered flashlights and headlamps. But through it all, most of these illuminating tools have required an outside energy source that would deplete when needed the most. But now, thanks to one particularly enlightened 15-year-old girl from Canada, your next flashlight just might be powered by the heat from your hand. 

At the tender age of 15, Canadian high school student Ann Makosinski has designed and built a flashlight powered by body heat.

Her Hollow Flashlight secured her a finalist slot in the 15-16 age group of the Google Science Fair ahead of thousands of entries from more than 100 countries.

The LED flashlight relies on the thermoelectric effect, with tiles that generate electricity from the differences in temperature to generate electricity.

The tiles are fixed to the outside of a hollow tube so that when held, one side of the tile is heated by the warmth of the hand, while air flowing through the hollow tube helps keep the other side cool. The electricity generated by the temperature differential between either side of the tile powers the LED light.

Makosinski built two different flashlights. The first was made using a tube of aluminum, which is a good heat sink material thanks to its high thermal conductivity, while the second was built using a PVC tube.

Both models work better when the difference between the ambient temperature and body temperature is greater. So while the flashlights worked with an air temperature of 75°F, they emitted more light with the air temperature at 60°F. Both flashlights were able to maintain a steady beam of light for 20 minutes, even in the warmer temperature.

The final cost of each flashlight came to only $25, but if mass-produced, the cost would be substantially lower.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

City Unveils $1B Seward Park Redevelopment Plan

Forty-six years after the bulldozers came through, the Seward Park area of the Lower East side is being redeveloped at a price tag of more than $1 billion. The 1.65 million square-foot Essex Crossing development will include more than 1,000 units of housing at nine sites near the intersections of Essex and Delancey Streets. The build out will create 250,000 square feet of office and retail space, a rooftop farm, and an Andy Warhol museum. Mayor Bloomberg says the project will create 4,400 construction jobs, most of which will be union. Groundbreaking is set for the spring of 2015. The whole project should be complete by the end of 2024.

The project’s amenities include a bowling alley and movie theater. A site has also been reserved for a public school, which will be developed by the School Construction Authority. The developers will also upgrade the existing DOT plazas on Delancey Street.

The Essex Street Market will relocate across Delancey Street, doubling in size to approximately 30,000 square-feet on the ground floor, plus a mezzanine of roughly 7,000 SF. The new market, anticipated to open in 2018, will accommodate all the existing market vendors at the time of the move and provide room for new vendors in a range of sizes.

The project will include an extensive assortment of retail and commercial uses, including the unique space to be known as the Market Line, on a concourse created through vaulted archways from the second floor through the cellar of the three sites south of Delancey between Essex and Clinton Streets. [ElectricWeb | Blogger, June 6, 2012]

The natural light-filled, continuous Market Line will include a variety of spaces, consisting of small- to medium-sized vendor stalls with tenants that include retail and food-oriented uses, a culinary incubator and a center dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurs to learn craft skills and produce and sell hand-made merchandise.

In addition, approximately 40 retail spaces will be developed in the Market Line. The project also includes a large grocery store.

Long known as the Seward Park Renewal Area project, the city has wanted to redevelop the sites since 1967, when it began tearing down old tenement buildings that were occupied by working-class immigrants.

The Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Project grew out of collaboration between community leaders and elected officials, who have worked on the Essex Crossing plan for the past five years. The Essex Crossing site the largest city-owned plot of land below 96th Street.

[ElectricWeb | Blogger, Nov 13, 2012]

Taconic Investment Partners, L+M Development Partners, and BFC Partners were selected through a competition to develop the project, he said. The development team will invest a total of $1.1 billion in the project.

The city expects to break ground on the project in spring 2015. The first five buildings are expected to be finished by summer 2018. The city anticipates the entire complex will be finished by 2024.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

World’s First Invisible Skyscraper to Be Built in South Korea

Designed by architectural firm GDS Architects, Tower Infinity in South Korea will be the world’s first ‘invisible’ skyscraper. Equipped with an LED facade system with optical cameras, the building will create a reflective skin to display the background behind it on its exterior—allowing it to blend in with the skyline. Developers of Tower Infinity were recently granted construction permits to begin building the skyscraper on the outskirts of Seoul, near the city’s airport.

At a height of 1,467-feet, the building will be used for entertainment and leisure purposes, and will include a 4D Theater, restaurants, a water park, landscaped gardens, and the third-highest observation deck in the world.

“Instead of symbolizing prominence as another of the world’s tallest and best towers, our solution aims to provide the World’s first invisible tower, showcasing innovative Korean technology while encouraging a more Global narrative in the process,” said the company.

Check out the photos for a sneak preview at the world’s first ‘invisible’ skyscraper:

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What the New York City Skyline Will Look Like In 2020

If current building proposals are any indication, New York's skyline is going to keep getting taller and taller. In the next few years, the skyline will boast 10 new towers. The 1,250-foot Empire State Building, currently the tallest completed skyscraper in the city, will rank third behind 1 World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue. For an idea of what the city will look like a few years from now, check out renderings of the city that incorporate current construction projects.

Midtown, looking south towards downtown Manhattan:

The Far West Side will look a bit different once Hudson Yards is added:

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

24-Story Hotel to Rise at Jamaica AirTrain Station

The MTA has given the green light for a development project that will result in a new $35 million hotel in Jamaica Queens at the Long Island Rail Road station. Able Management Group will purchase the site located across from the AirTrain Station at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd. for $4.5 million and develop the property into a 210-room, 24-story hotel. City tourism officials believe the new hotel will be a hit with budget-conscious travelers looking for an easy airport commute. Construction is expected begin early next year.

A neighborhood once plagued by empty storefronts and rundown 99 cent stores scored a major coup in its bid to rebrand itself as a thriving community of shops, restaurants and hotels.

A 210-room hotel, geared toward business travelers, is expected to go up next year in downtown Jamaica. The hotel will be located across the street from the AirTrain JFK to Kennedy Airport on a quarter-acre site at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd.

The three-and-a-half star hotel is expected to be a national brand, similar to the Courtyard by Marriott or Hilton Garden Inn. It will include a sit-down restaurant, three retail shops on the ground floor and a business center.

City tourism officials believe the new hotel will be a hit with budget-conscious travelers looking for an easy airport commute.

Business leaders expect it to have a domino effect of spurring new development in the area. It’s a sign that Jamaica, once a middle-class community filled with department stores, is on its way back.

City tourism officials believe the new hotel will be a hit with budget-conscious travelers looking for an easy airport commute.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Lighting Science Group Receives $20 Million Investment

Lighting Science Group Corp. recently announced it closed a $20 million preferred stock financing plan led by affiliates of Pegasus Capital Advisors, L.P., with participation from Riverwood Capital Partners, L.P. These companies are LSCG's two largest shareholders. Lighting Science Group received $17.4 million of the funds at the closing of the financing and has received a commitment to fund the balance of $2.6 million. The funding will be used to finance the company's growth, with a strong focus on technology platforms and product innovations.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

21-Story Apartment Tower Breaks Ground In Long Island City

World-Wide Group has broken ground on a $157 million luxury rental development at 24th Street and Queens Plaza North in Long Island City. The building will rise 21 stories and contain 421 rental units. The development will feature 25,000 square feet of amenities, including an outdoor pool with a landscaped roof deck, a fitness center, private gardens, indoor parking and a bike room. The ground breaking comes a year and a half after the developers purchased the 40,000-square-foot lot at 41-50 24th Street for $28.9 million. The developer expects construction to last about 18 months.

The World-Wide Group has started construction on its first residential project outside of Manhattan in 10 years. The developer is pouring $157 million into a 421-unit luxury rental project in the Queens Plaza North section of Long Island City, Queens.

Apartments in the 21-story building at 41-50 24th St., between 41st Avenue and 42nd Road, will range from studios to three bedrooms. World-Wide is one of several rental developments rising in the neighborhood, just north of the Queensboro Bridge.

Among others, Property Markets Group announced plans for a 410-unit rental building on 42nd Road, and Meadow Partners said it will convert a commercial building on Crescent Street into a new residential and retail project.

The developer bought the 24th Street site last year for $28,850,000 according to city records. The new property is expected to be completed in 18 months. Rents have yet to be set. Current average rent for a studio in the Queens Plaza area is $1,990 a month, $2,750 for one-bedroom, and $3,750 for two-bedrooms.

Despite all the new projects coming onto the market, apartments will be absorbed due to high demand and the area's accessibility to Manhattan. Eight subway lines are within a five-block radius from World-Wide's new development, which will boast more than 25,000 square feet of amenities, including a landscaped roof deck with an outdoor pool. The building will also have 8,400 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

Rabina Properties and Cammeby International Group are partners in the project with World-Wide, which has developed more than $3 billion worth of luxury residential properties in Manhattan. Most recently, it completed condo projects Casa 74 at 255 East 74th Street and the Milan Condominium at 300 East 55th Street, both in Manhattan.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 Years After 9/11, WTC Fences to Come Down

The next big change in the World Trade Center site will be addition by subtraction as fences that have blocked much of the site for 12 years will be removed. A significant stretch of fencing at the southeast corner of the site should come down in November with the opening of 4 World Trade Center -- the first of four planned towers on the 16-acre plot where the Twin Towers stood. Construction of 1 WTC, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, is to be finished early next year, according to the Port Authority. 

Some of the fencing is made up of large plywood sheets -- with holes cut for passersby to peek in. Other stretches consist of cyclone fencing with razor wire along the top to discourage climbers.

"It is important to shrink the amount of fencing . . . it will make the site more accessible for visitors and neighborhood residents alike," the head of the local Community Board, said.

Construction of 1 WTC, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, is to be finished on the northwest corner early next year, according to the Port Authority. The fencing at that corner will be removed soon after, and much of the fencing along the northern end of the property will come down when the Transportation Hub opens in 2015 and the temporary entrance to the PATH commuter trains is closed.

The hub will link 11 subway lines, the PATH tubes, all the trade center buildings and the World Financial Center to the west. Another transit hub, the MTA's Fulton Center, east of the trade center site, will connect 10 subway lines serving six stations. That facility, to open in June, will eventually be extended to the trade center site. The 7 WTC tower that opened in 2006 is on the block just north of the site.

Dara McQuillan of Silverstein Properties, developer of three of the four on-site towers, walked inside the fences recently, taking visitors along a stretch of dirt that will become Greenwich Street, an old north/south roadway that was blocked by construction of the Twin Towers in the late 1960s.

Fulton Street, which had ended at Church Street, will open the site with an east-west roadway. And the new Cortlandt Way will be a pedestrian walkway, including an outdoor cafe, to serve as entryway from Church Street to the memorial pools in the footprint of what was One and Two World Trade Center. The Twin Towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Click Image to Enlarge

"This whole site will be opened up to reflect the open street grid of the 1960s before the towers were built," McQuillan said.

He led the visitors into 4 WTC, where plywood protected the shiny security turnstiles that will be activated next month with the opening of the building.

The granite lobby floor is still covered in places by brown paper and plywood. Visitors looking straight ahead see shiny granite interior walls reflecting the memorial plaza and its cascading water.

Superstorm Sandy did not affect the construction schedule, McQuillan said, and some increased costs from storm damage was covered by insurance. The Port Authority in May authorized $59 million to mitigate the impact of future storms at its facilities, including the installation of metal panels at PATH stations.

Construction on 3 World Trade Center, the next tower to the north, was halted after nine floors of skeletal work but is to resume as soon as Silverstein formalizes a lease with Group M and gets financing, McQuillan said. There is no completion date for Silverstein's 2 WTC on the northeast corner, which, at 1,349 feet, will be the second-tallest tower.

Most of the exterior work on 1 WTC is finished, including a 408-foot radio spire bolted to the roof in May. Interior finishing will continue into next year before the first tenant, Condé Nast, moves in, according to the Port Authority.

The entrances to the Silverstein towers will face into the plaza, and the retail spaces on the lower floors will face out on Church Street to separate them from the solemn memorial area.

The planned memorial museum beneath the plaza is scheduled to open early next year, but the board that runs the museum has been at odds with the families of some victims who object to, among other things, exhibits about the terrorists behind the attacks.

The terrorism associated with Sept. 11, 2001, affected much of the site planning. While the street grid has opened up, checkpoints will be in place and motorized entry will be restricted to taxis and authorized vehicles.

Delivery trucks will enter the site through a new Vehicle Security Center just south of Liberty Street, pass through checkpoints to underground loading docks. A new, two-block-long park will be constructed atop the structure.

Despite criticism about the pace of planning and reconstruction at the site from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan, and others, many involved said the development will be worth the wait.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NJ Gov to Back $1B PATH Train Extension to Newark Airport

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plans to endorse a $1 billion extension of PATH service to Newark Liberty International Airport, according to several sources familiar with the governor's plan. The approval of extending PATH service to Newark Liberty International Airport would mean the money is almost certain to be allocated in the Port Authority's upcoming capital plan. It is not yet clear when Mr. Christie will publicly announce his support for the project.

Governor Christie's backing would almost certainly assure that the extension project, which has been mulled over by transit officials for more than a year, would be included in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's roughly $30 billion capital plan, which is expected to be released to the public in the coming months.

The extension would be of special benefit to lower Manhattan PATH riders, who would be able to take direct service from the World Trade Center complex all the way to Newark Airport and transfer to the Air Train to travel to the airport's terminals.

The extension also would offer airport riders a more direct service to Newark-Penn Station on the NEC, a major transfer point to New Jersey Transit rail, light rail, and bus services.

Downtown PATH service currently ends at Newark Penn Station, and the most common approach for riders coming from Manhattan now is to take New Jersey Transit from Penn Station in Manhattan to the Air Train, a route that requires downtown riders to first head to midtown.

Air Train Newark, the three-mile monorail line, opened in 1996 and was extended to the Northeast Corridor in 2000 with the opening of Newark Airport/Rail Station. The station is served by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

Airport advocates hailed the decision.

"A one-seat PATH ride from lower Manhattan directly to Newark Airport Air Train is a major step forward," said Joseph Sitt, founder of the Global Gateway Alliance to encourage improvements in the New York City-area airports.

Advocates note those working on airport grounds would also benefit from the improved access to airport terminals.

They also note that PATH's passenger capacity far exceeds that of connecting monorail service, setting up a potential passenger bottleneck for those transferring at Newark Airport/Rail Station.

The project would generate more than $1 billion in design and construction work while adding permanent jobs for the link's operation. The Port Authority has yet to release a start or estimated completion date for the project.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Ground Broken on Columbia's Washington Heights Tower

Columbia University Medical Center has begun work on a new 14-story Medical and Graduate Education Building in Washington Heights. The 100,000 square foot glass tower will soon rise on existing university property at 104 Haven Avenue on its upper Manhattan campus. Construction is expected to last 42 months and Columbia  is aiming to open the tower in 2016. The university intends to hire 35% minority, women and local trades’ workers for the project. 

Columbia announced intentions to build the tower in July 2012. The building will house several high tech classrooms, learning centers and even a 300-seat auditorium.

The tower was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which also redesigned the Upper West Side's Lincoln Center and the High Line. F.J. Sciame is the construction manager for the project.

Several spaces in the building, including the auditorium, will be available for use by community groups, and the courtyard in front of the building's entrance will be open to the public.

While a budget on the project has not been released, the university has said that the tower was made possible by a $50 million donation made by Columbia alumni Roy and Diana Vagelos in 2010.

Several spaces in the building, including the auditorium, will be available for use by community groups, and the courtyard in front of the building's entrance will be open to the public.

Construction is expected to last 42 months and the Columbia is aiming to open the tower in 2016. Columbia University intends to hire 35% minority, women and local trades’ workers for the project.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Neighbor for Yankees? Soccer Stadium Moves to Bronx

A Major League Soccer franchise, whose plans to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows Park were met by community opposition has a new site in mind: just south of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  If the latest proposal is successful, the New York City Football Club would build a 30,000-seat stadium that offers connections to subways and rail lines, as well as Yankee Stadium and the Gateway Center retail complex near the Harlem River. Any stadium built would not be completed until 2016. In the meantime, Yankee Stadium is the likely site for the team to begin play in 2015.

The franchise, a partnership of Manchester City Football Club of England’s Premier League and the Yankees, are negotiating with the owners of a nine-acre parcel between the Major Deegan Expressway and East 153rd Street.

“We’ve had preliminary discussions,” Randy Levine, the president of the Yankees, said, “but we’re a long way from any decision. We’re also considering sites in Queens and Brooklyn.”

The deal would not involve any parkland. The team, which would not play on the same day the Yankees had a home game, has sought a site that is near public transportation and communities where soccer is especially popular.

In May, elected officials, community groups and park advocates objected to the soccer club’s original plan to build a stadium on 10 acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, an area that already has a baseball stadium and a tennis complex.

Despite support from Mayor Bloomberg, the team backed away from the Queens site, saying it would explore other possible locations. But that, team officials said, does not necessarily eliminate Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as a potential site.

In July, Mr. Bloomberg appeared to indicate that the club would indeed play its home games in the Bronx, saying in his weekly radio address that “Yankee Stadium will become the home of the New York City Football Club.” A few days later, the mayor’s office said Mr. Bloomberg had misspoken.

Rubén Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, said he would gauge the reaction of local residents in the coming weeks to building a second stadium on the site before coming to a final decision. He said he would oppose any use of parkland.

It will not be easy for the club to put the Bronx site together. Sitting on the parcel under consideration is a parking garage for Yankee Stadium that is run by a troubled nonprofit, the Bronx Parking Development Company. In April, the company defaulted on a $237 million civic bond.

The soccer club would have to strike a deal with the parking company that would compensate it for the garage and put it on more solid financial footing.

The club would also have to acquire the land currently occupied by a highway ramp and a 100,000-square-foot factory, GAL Manufacturing Corporation, which makes elevator components and employs 225 people. Bronx officials do not want to lose a major employer. The soccer club has reportedly offered to build GAL a new factory elsewhere in the Bronx.
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Robots on Jobsites? Not So Far Fetched

MIT research scientists insist that the future of home building lies in technology which includes smart machines that can perform construction functions. A professor at USC has invented a fabrication process that operates on the principles of 3D printing. Software able to read blueprints guides a large mechanical arm suspended from a mobile scaffold. The arm extrudes liquefied concrete in patterns that form exterior and interior walls into any shape and height. Electrical, plumbing, flooring, and other finish work can be installed during the process, which operates nonstop until the structure is completed.

In the not so distant future, more and more activities will be operated by software. Instead of Teamsters, there will be robotic trucks. Where there had once been miners, there will be mining robots. Instead of factories, there will be 3D printers in your home.

But, robots on jobsites?

"Yes," says Dr. Khoshnevis, an engineering professor at the University of Southern California, who is betting on home building becoming part of that continuum.

Since 2002, he has been perfecting "Contour Crafting,” a fabrication process that operates on the principles of 3D printing.

Details like cutting window and door openings still are being refined. Khoshnevis has been soliciting investment capital for a startup company to sell the technology. He sees Contour Crafting as being suited for constructing affordable housing in areas where supply is short or where houses have been destroyed by natural disasters. He predicts the technology would reduce jobsite injuries, leave a smaller carbon footprint, and be cost-competitive with stick-built or modular construction after equipment and cycle times are amortized.

His invention might have residual benefits, too. Khoshnevis is working with NASA on a robotic system that could build structures on the moon and Mars using indigenous raw materials such as volcanic sand, which is common on the moon. That’s gotten the state of Hawaii—where volcanic sand abounds—interested in the process for producing cement.

How many years away do you think this technology is to being on jobsites?

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Since October 1, 2011