Thursday, January 29, 2015

Another 1,000-ft Apartment Tower Slated for Far West Side

Construction on the Far West Side is really booming. In addition to the Hudson Yards and the Manhattan West complex, Larry Silverstein is now moving forward with a new 1,600,000 square foot development adjacent to the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel at 514 Eleventh Avenue. The 1,100-foot tall project will be comprised of a single 100-story luxury high-rise atop a five story retail and parking base, directly across the street from his twin Silver Towers, which each rise to 60 stories.

The new tower will have at least 900 residential units with 300,000 square feet of retail below. In addition, the tower will contain 175 units of corporate housing.

The building will take up the whole block between 40th and 41st streets, and between 11th Avenue and an on-ramp to the Lincoln Tunnel.

The entire project is expected to be completed by 2020.

Silverstein Properties has already developed two large residential projects on the West Side with more than 2,000 units combined in Silver Towers, the twin-towered rental buildings at 600 West 42nd Street, and the 41-story tower at 1 River Place.

The development firm completed the 72-story 4 World Trade Center, and the retail base of 3 World Trade Center as well as recently opened 2 World Trade Center.

The new building is just part of a tidal wave of residential construction getting underway on Manhattan's Far West Side.

Last year, Brookfield Properties changed plans for its Manhattan West project at Ninth Avenue and 33rd Street and is adding as many as 900 residential units to a formerly entirely office project.

Nearby, the largest residential tower under construction in Manhattan recently topped out at 605 West 42nd Street. The 60-story tower, formerly known as Atelier II, will house 1,174 apartments.
Extell Development's 52-story rental tower at 551 Tenth Avenue is quickly rising just a block away.

The project is also down the street from the 62-story MiMA tower, which means things are getting crowded by the river -- all residential byproducts of the Hudson Yards mega-project.

Larry Silverstein bought the former Mercedes-Benz dealership on the Far West Side for more than $100 million.

The site was formerly a showroom for the luxury automaker, which relocated to 555 West 53rd Street last year.

Mr. Silverstein is also eager to get his old friends at the Port Authority to take space in another neighboring tower project, where he hopes they would park their buses, and presumably provide some money to finance his projects and persuade banks in making the necessary construction loans.

Now, if only they could open that extra 7-Train stop at 42nd Street...

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Crown Heights Gas Station to become 133-unit Apartment Building

Real estate development firm Adam America is planning to build a 133-unit rental building totaling 165,000 square feet at 1525 Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights. The project is expected to cost more than $100 million, and will include basement space and ground-floor retail. 20% of the project will be set aside as affordable housing. The company recently acquired the development site, about two blocks east of Prospect Park on the corner of Eastern Parkway, for $32.5 million.

The development will feature a package of building amenities aimed at attracting the more-affluent residents who are streaming into the neighborhood.

The eight-story mixed-use building, designed by Issac & Stern Architects, will have a basketball court, a roof deck, a gym and a lounge where tenants can go if they want to work from home.

1525 Bedford will have 28 apartments on the second and third floors, 17 apartments on floors four through six, 13 apartments on the seventh and eighth floors, plus ground floor commercial space, and a landscaped rooftop space.

Adam America has completed several residential projects in Brooklyn and is hoping to replicate the success it had with another rental building it built in the fast-changing neighborhood, a 77-unit property nearby at 500 Sterling Place. The developer fully rented it and then sold it for nearly $50 million in recent weeks.

"We weren’t even marketing that property for sale, but we received an offer that we couldn’t turn down," Mr. Sachs said of 500 Sterling Place. "It shows the level of interest in Crown Heights."

The developer is also building a $65 million, 75,000-square-foot mixed-use property at 120 Union Avenue.

A gas station and a car wash currently sit on the site, which occupies the whole block-front on Bedford Avenue between Lincoln Place and Eastern Parkway.

The developer needs to begin work on the building’s foundation as soon as possible because in June, the city’s 80/20 inclusionary housing program is up for renewal and could change to a ratio, such as 70/30, that is less favorable for market-rate apartments. 

Adam America is in talks with several lenders to finance the construction.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Construction to Begin on Wacky Townhouse with Fiery Facade

Feel the burn. A single-family residence located at 187 Franklin Street in Tribeca is moving forward with construction on a kooky design which will see the building’s frontage removed and replaced with a wavy red-brick facade which resembles dancing flames. In addition to a transformed facade, two stories will be added, including a setback penthouse. Construction is already underway and the project is slated to be completed in December.

It isn’t the sort of design you’d expect to see in Tribeca, but lo and behold, this bold statement by architect Jeremy Edmiston of System Architects is about to become a reality along a quiet block just east of Greenwich Street.

The building, which was originally constructed in 1993, is located on a landmarked block that is part of the Tribeca West Historic District.

While the architect keeps to Tribeca’s history with a red brick facade, he doesn’t try to replicate the building’s neighbors.

The facade of 187 Franklin Street will be comprised of 14,538 bricks assembled is such a way that it makes the townhouse appear as if it is entirely engulfed in flames.

The designer’s inspiration for the facade is actually far more functional and well suited than one would guess. The architect writes on his website:

“Because our clients’ home faces a public building, we added a new facade in which the windows are angled so that they protect the family’s privacy, while bringing in a whole lot of light.”

In addition to the building’s wacky flame-like facade, the metamorphosis will also include tilted windows, silver mesh-like balconies, the addition of two more stories, and a setback brick penthouse on the roof.

The townhouse was put up more than twenty years ago and is not historically significant. But because it’s in a landmarked district, any new building or addition to a building has to go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission and prove that it’s not bringing down the neighborhood.

Getting the blessing of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission can be a tricky thing. Typically, the best bet is to go with historic materials and keep the modern ornamentation to a minimum.

That was clearly not the approach that System Architects took.

Surprisingly, the design won accolades when it went before Landmarks back in 2011. Members said everything from “It more than works—it actually enhances the richness of the district” to “We should celebrate this project."

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for the design with a rare vote of 9 to 0 in favor of the building.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Empire Outlets Developer Plans 214-unit Apartment Building

Another big residential project may soon be getting underway in Staten Island. BFC Partners, the same developer that is building a giant observation wheel and the Empire Outlets retail complex, plans to build an eight-story apartment building with 214 residential units atop nearly 9,000 square feet of retail space, in the Stapleton section of the borough. 
BFC Partners plans to build a mixed-use development at 475 Bay Street that will include 8,925-square-feet of first-floor retail space, with seven floors of residential units.

The structure will span 162,000 square feet and rise to 70 feet. Each floor will hold about 30 apartments averaging 750 square feet.

The site currently is currently zoned for low density manufacturing and commercial uses -– for now.

The developer will have to seek a variance or a formal rezoning to permit residential development on the property.

BFC Partners will likely win permission to build the Bay Street project, in light of Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing initiative and the city’s emphasis on growth in Staten Island.

The developer’s St. George project, Empire Outlets, will be comprised of approximately 100 designer outlet shops and a 200-room hotel on the waterfront.

475 Bay Street is being designed by Edelman Sultan Knox Wood Architects of Manhattan, and will rise along the Stapleton waterfront on Staten Island’s North Shore, not far from Ironstate Development’s Homeport complex.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation selected Ironstate for the first phase of construction at the 35-acre decommissioned Homeport naval base.

That project will soon be home to retail space and 900 units of housing, called Urban Ready Living Staten Island.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

950-ft Tower Planned for Jersey City Will Be Tallest Bldg in N.J.

Manhattan will soon have a very tall neighbor across the Hudson River in New Jersey. A Chinese developer is planning to build a 95-story condominium tower on a parking lot at 99 Hudson Street on the Jersey City waterfront.  The 950-foot skyscraper will soar past the Goldman Sachs tower, located just two blocks to the south, and become the tallest building in New Jersey. The 760-unit residential building will also include an affordable-housing component. The new tower will begin going up this spring and could take as little as two years to complete.

China Overseas America is preparing to build 760 condominium apartments and about 18,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, plus a 7,000-square-foot park at 99 Hudson Street.

The company had originally received approval to build two towers of about 40 stories each, but now plans to build a single 95-story tower. The developer waned to build something architecturally significant — a taller, slimmer building that will be iconic for the skyline. The new skyscraper would rise 950 feet.

Construction is expected to begin late this spring, once it receives the expected approvals from the city's planning board and council.

The building is the first major Chinese-backed development in Jersey City. However, China Construction America, which is based in Jersey City and is a sister company of China Overseas America, has a multimillion-dollar contract to rebuild parts of the 82-year-old Pulaski Skyway.

Jersey City is already home to some of the tallest buildings in the state, including the Goldman Sachs tower at 30 Hudson Street, at 781 feet; 101 Hudson Street, 548 feet; and Trump Plaza, currently the state’s tallest residential building at 532 feet.

The mayor called the proposed tower "a milestone moment for Jersey City."

 The project shows how Jersey City has become a refuge and market of choice for a mix of empty-nesters and buyers priced out of Manhattan. The plan, calling for condos ranging from one to three bedrooms, shows that the city is attracting more families and others who want to buy homes and remain there.

“This building will literally have the best view in the world,” Fulop said. “It’s going to have panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the New York City skyline.”

Condominium towers targeting wealthy buyers have been rising across the Hudson River in Manhattan, as apartment prices have climbed to their highest since their 2008 peak.

One of them, 432 Park Avenue, will be 1,397 feet tall upon completion, taller than the Empire State Building.

High-rise towers are also going up across the East River in Brooklyn and the Long Island City section of Queens.

"Our plan here is to continue building a world-class skyline," he said. "We couldn't be more excited to attract hundreds of millions of dollars of investment into the city."

Jersey City is in the middle of a building boom, with about 6,000 residential units under construction, and 18,000 more already approved.

As new projects have opened, the population has grown, showing people are being attracted from outside the city limits.  Jersey City is likely to pass Newark to become the state’s most populous city by 2016.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

$450M Plan to Connect LaGuardia Airport to AirTrain and Subway

This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce a bold plan to build a 1.5-mile rail line along the Grand Central Parkway to connect LaGuardia Airport to the No. 7-Line and Long Island Rail Road at Willets Point station. Under the plan, New Yorkers will finally be able to take the train to LaGuardia Airport. Construction of a second AirTrain in Queens will cost around $450 million —about $300 million per mile—and is expected to take five years to complete.

The new AirTrain will be the first rail line running to LaGuardia, which can now only be reached by bus or car, making for a difficult trip.

Construction of a direct rail ride to the northern Queens airport would be a huge relief for millions of passengers each year.

Currently, those going to the airport by public transit would have to take a number of buses, including the M60 bus service from Harlem and the Q70 from Jackson Heights.

The 1.5 mile line will run along the Grand Central Parkway won’t create an undue burden to any of the neighboring structures.

Because Willets Point is an industrial area, the project should not face any major problems with the community that would arise in residential neighborhoods.

Construction of the new AirTrain — which will be built by the Port Authority and the MTA — is estimated to cost around $450 million. —about $300 million per mile—and take about five years to build.

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New York State has cash to fund the project and other transportation plans, from sources including a $5 billion budget surplus created from recent settlements with major banks.

JFK Airport already has an AirTrain connecting it to the subway. That rail line is 8.1-miles long and connects riders from the LIRR and E and J trains at Jamaica, and the A train at Howard Beach.

It connects to each of the airport's terminals as well as a parking lot for car rental companies and shuttles to nearby airports, and costs $5 when entering or leaving at Jamaica or Howard Beach.

Connecting LaGuardia to the subway and LIRR will be a boost to the Willets Point area ahead of its redevelopment, which is currently in the beginning stages.

The transformation includes rehabbing the polluted ground of the former Iron Triangle, land that will eventually be home to thousands of units of housing, hotels, a school and a large mall.

The new AirTrain announcement is expected to be the highlight of a transportation and infrastructure plan presented by Cuomo ahead of Wednesday’s State of the State address.

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New York is a world class location but our airports are outdated and lag behind our competitors. Vice President Joe Biden’s recently joked that LaGuardia looks like a “third world country.”

Airport re-design plans include a high speed ferry terminal to connect LaGuardia to Manhattan, a hotel and business center and more shops and restaurants at LaGuardia – as well as another hotel at JFK.

As part of the state’s infrastructure plan, the governor will be pushing for construction of four new stations in the Bronx along the Metro-North line and redesign of the runways at JFK and LaGuardia to reduce delays.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Plans to Build Three Apartment Towers atop East River Plaza Mall

Harlem’s popular East River Plaza mall could be getting some very tall neighbors. Forest City Ratner and the Blumenfeld Development Group are planning to construct three huge residential buildings atop the East Harlem shopping center located at 520 East 117th Street. The towers would rise 48, 42 and 36 stories with up to 1,100 apartments on the roof of the existing mall. The three building addition would add about 1.1 million square feet to the complex. The developers plan to set aside 25% of the units for affordable housing.

East River Plaza currently houses stores such as Target, Burlington Coat Factory, Old Navy and Costco, but residential development has always been contemplated. The five-story, 500,000 square foot complex, which opened in 2009 was designed and built to support potential residential buildings.

"The infrastructure is there, the property has water views, is next to the FDR Drive and would be an iconic property," said David Blumenfeld, a principal of Blumenfeld Development Group, which owns the mall at 116th Street and the FDR Drive along with Forest City Ratner Companies, one of the city's largest developers.

The underlying zoning of the property is already designated for residential use and would only require a modification of the special permit used to build the retail center.

The project, designed by architect Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos, includes “La Plaza,” which will turn a cobblestone cul-de-sac at E. 118th Street into a community square with cultural and retail space.

The plaza will include public art displays and will also be the main entrance for residents.

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“Affordability will definitely be a part of any residential project at East River Plaza,” said Blumenfeld, adding that the company was looking to do a higher rate of affordable housing than the standard 80 percent market rate and 20 percent affordable split.

The developers have promised about 25% of the units — or 275 — will be set aside for residents who earn 30%-60% of the area median income, which is $18,000 a year for an individual or $52,000 for a family of four.

“We are dedicated to creating a thriving, mixed-income community,” said Melissa Burch, executive vice president of residential and commercial development at Forest City Ratner.

But some in the community aren’t buying it.

“Those buildings are going to shut out all the daylight in the neighborhood,” said a member of the NERVE community housing group. “It’s going to be like a shadow curtain.”

Elsewhere, East Harlem is booming with new, tall residential towers.

Continuum Company is planning two 32-story residential towers at Park Avenue and 125th Street. The $415 million, 600,000-square-foot development will have 650 units.

There's only one way to expand on the island of Manhattan and that's up. When complete, the 48-story tower will top-out at 575 feet, making it the tallest building in the neighborhood— even taller than 1800 Park Avenue.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said his administration is willing to let developers build higher in exchange for increased affordable units. The mayor has set a goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Four Lower East Side Towers to Break Ground This Summer

Forty-eight years after the bulldozers came through, the Seward Park area of the Lower East side is being redeveloped into Essex Crossing at a price tag of more than $1 billion. The 1.9 million square-foot mega-project will include more than 1,000 units of housing at nine sites near the intersections of Essex and Delancey Streets. The development site is the largest city-owned plot of land below 96th Street. The build out will create 250,000 square feet of office space, a rooftop farm, a Regal Cinema, a bowling alley, an Andy Warhol museum and retail stores. The project is expected to create 4,400 construction jobs, most of which will be union. 

Taconic Investment Partners, L+M Development Partners, and BFC Partners were selected through a competition to develop the project. The consortium, known as Delancey Street Associates, will invest a total of $1.1 billion in the project.

Demolition of Site 2 is set to begin at the end of January and ground breaking on Phase1 is planned for this summer.

Construction at sites 1, 2, 5 and 6 should be finished by 2018, with the entire project anticipated to be complete by 2024.

The project’s amenities will 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 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 square feet.

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, a subterranean esplanade with vaulted archways that weaves from the second floor through the cellar of the three sites south of Delancey between Essex and Clinton Streets.

[See 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.

But one big concern is a lack of additional parking in the development plan.

Isaac Henderson, project manager of L+M Development Partners, said the developer consortium has been working with DOT on traffic issues. He explained that after talks with the DOT, they determined that with the congestion around the area of the Williamsburg Bridge, it wasn’t safe to include more parking.

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 more than seven years. [See ElectricWeb | Blogger, Nov 13, 2012]

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Monday, January 12, 2015

World's Skinniest Skyscraper to Soon Rise at 111 West 57th

The New York City skyline is the most famous in the world, and if you look closely, there’s a new shape that’s starting to stand out. That shape? Slender. JDS Development has a project that takes that idea to a new level.  A 60-foot wide lot at 111 West 57th Street will soon be the home of the skinniest skyscraper in the world.  In addition, the building will soar to an incredible height: 1421 feet 25 feet taller than the rooftop of 432 Park Avenue. Steinway Tower will have 3 high-speed elevators, and each floor will be its own ultra-luxury 5,000 square foot apartment. Vertical construction is expected to begin later this year.

“Land is very scarce, especially in the most desirable parts in the city. That’s why you seeing this trend of taller buildings being built on smaller parcels of land,” says developer Michael Stern.

His firm, JDS Development Group, has a project that takes the idea of slender to a new level. It will even top the High Cliff in Hong Kong, currently the most slender skyscraper in the world.

When completed, the lot located at 111 West 57th Street in midtown Manhattan, will be the future home of the skinniest skyscraper in the world.

The building will sit on a lot just 60 feet wide, and will be taller than its recently completed neighboring, One57, and even slimmer than nearby 432 Park Avenue.

At 1,421 feet, 111 West 57th Street will briefly hold the title of  Tallest Residential Building in the Western Hemisphere, trumping 432 Park by a mere 25 feet.

But come 2018, that title will pass to Nordstrom Tower, one block over at 225 West 57th Street, which is slated to rise 1,479 feet. A soaring spire will bring that building's overall height to 1,775 feet — just a foot shy of One World Trade Center.

The model-thin skyscraper will incorporate the historical base of the old Steinway Hall, with construction of 111 West 57th Street expected to begin in mid-2015. The building will offer a total of 55 units, spread between 80 floors.

Steinway Tower will become the most slender building in the world because of its very narrow floor plate. It will be entirely unprecedented in its dimensions which are 58 feet wide, while rising around 1,421 feet tall. That will give the building a slenderness ratio of about 1:25 when it is completed in 2017, while the ratio for most buildings is well under 1 to 20.

These new, slender skyscrapers are cropping up thanks to advances in building science coupled with eye-popping real estate prices. “The price that people are willing to pay for the unobstructed Central Park view is really the only reason these buildings can be economically feasible.”

111 West 57th Street has all the approvals necessary to begin construction, and in the final stages of securing a $500 million construction loan. The skyscraper will become the latest in a family of super-tall buildings in the area— One57, 432 Park Avenue, 53 West 53rd Street, among others.

The Details

The bottom six floors of the 80-story building will be retail, while the remainder of the tower will house a total of  55 full-floor and multi-floor apartments with 15-foot ceilings and unobstructed views of Central Park across to Long Island City, and out to Long Island. The penthouse will sit over fourteen hundred feet in the air.

And the views from this extraordinary perch in the sky? They’re likely amongst the best in Manhattan. “There’s just going to be nothing like it across the entire city,” says Stern.

“You really get this floor-through experience that you’re floating in the city. It’s going to be truly spectacular.”

But building such a slender apartment tower is not always so easy.

Engineers on the project have to deal with a variety of issues ranging from dampening the impact of wind on such a slender structure, to making it feel not so slender. A huge steel weight will be suspended within the top of the building to stop it from swaying in the wind.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Court Clears Way for 24-Story Luxury Hotel by AirTrain

A luxury hotel in Queens will rise after the project cleared its last legal hurdle. The Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Jamaica will rise 24 stories and have 240 rooms. A legal battle was settled, allowing the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. to move ahead with Able Management to start construction of the four-star hotel. The hotel will be located directly across the street from the Air Train station in downtown Jamaica, allowing travelers a quick trip to JFK Airport.

Plans to build the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Jamaica were blocked by a legal battle between the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. and Robin Eshaghpour, who owned a portion of the property at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd.

Even though Eshaghpour had sold the property, he tried to hold onto a 99-year lease he had for the site.

A state Supreme Court judge ruled Eshaghpour had to accept the $444,000 payment for his remaining interest in the property, opening the way for Greater Jamaica to sell the entire property - including the land - to developer Able Management Group for $4.5 million.

"This is the first of what will be many positive and productive developments that take advantage of Jamaica's unique transportation assets for the benefit of all those who live, work and visit the area," said Greater Jamaica president, Carlisle Towery.

The 240-room hotel will rise 24 stories across from the Air Train on Sutphin Blvd. — a 10-minute ride to JFK Airport and a 22-minute commute to midtown Manhattan via the Long Island Rail Road.

Officials hope the 4-star hotel will lure business travelers and others to the once-rundown area that is now being redeveloped into a destination.

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

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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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

$194M Contract Awarded to Rebuild South Ferry Subway Station

The No. 1 line station at South Ferry will get a $194 million makeover after it was nearly decimated during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The new complex will allow exit and entry to all 10 cars along the No. 1 line instead of just the current five. The MTA has awarded a $194 million contract to Judlau Contracting to rebuild the Sandy-ravaged South Ferry subway station in Lower Manhattan. Work on the No. 1 line station, which will include permanent flood-protection measures, is expected to be completed in 2017.
Superstorm Sandy dumped about 15 million gallons of salt water from New York Harbor into the nearly new station. The gleaming $545 million South Ferry terminal was less than four years old when Sandy hit in October 2012.

The superstorm left an 80-foot-deep flood in the structure, destroying all of the electrical and mechanical systems, including escalators, turnstiles and signals.

After the storm, the MTA recommissioned the old South Ferry station, which had been mothballed in 2009.

Old South Ferry, which dates back to 1905, is not wheelchair accessible, and because it was built on a curve, riders can enter and exit only from the first five cars of the 10-car train.

“While the old South Ferry Station has been brought back into operation as a temporary replacement, it is obsolete ..." MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said. “Reopening the new South Ferry station complex and protecting it against future storms is an MTA priority. It will improve access to Lower Manhattan for thousands of customers and is part of our commitment to 'Build Back Better.'"

The MTA awarded the 31-month rebuilding contract to Judlau Contracting Inc. The work will include installing retractable flood doors at station entrances. Other entry points for water such as vents, manholes and hatches, conduits and ducts will also be “hardened,” the MTA said.

Previously hired MTA contractors have removed damaged equipment from South Ferry and installed interim measures to protect the station from a storm surge.

Restoring Electrical Systems Destroyed By Sandy

After walking down a set of rusting stairs, under a crumbling ceiling, along a debris-strewn platform and past a ruined control room, you arrive at the most devastated part of the South Ferry subway station: A room full of electrical equipment, corroding from the effects of almost 15 million gallons of salt water that flooded it during Superstorm Sandy.

“It is completely nonfunctional,” said an electrical supervisor for MTA New York City Transit's subway system. “Just a simple cleanup won't suffice. We actually have to reconstruct and replace all of this equipment.”

Sandy damaged the New York City subway worse than anything else in its 108-year history, flooding eight tunnels and shutting service for millions of commuters. Recovery efforts began even before the storm was over, and extraordinary work by New York City Transit brought lines back into service rapidly.

Yet while the subway seems back to normal for most of the 5.6 million daily riders, the damage behind the scenes remains extensive – nowhere more so than in the South Ferry electrical room.

Rust stains on a row of programmable logic controllers, which handled signals and switches from South Ferry to the Rector Street station on the 1 train. All of them were ruined.

“This is like taking your computer and just dipping it in salt water,” he said, demonstrating how a bank of switches had failed. “These should snap up and down really easily. The contacts inside are a total loss.”
In front of him stretched banks of wires and electrical contacts that once held hundreds of relays – critical electric components that deliver signal information, control switches and keep trains properly spaced from each other.

Soon after South Ferry was pumped out and drained, crews removed hundreds of relays and tried cleaning them by hand to return them to service – a task that turned out to be futile, as seen by heavy corrosion marks visible on the banks of relays.

 “We reached out to the manufacturers and said, ‘Look, can we salvage this?’ ”, he said. “They told us, ‘No, just throw it away. There’s nothing you can do.’ ”

The South Ferry station, built with $545 million in post-9/11 recovery funds, opened in 2009 as a state-of-the-art marvel. It could handle 24 trains an hour on two parallel tracks – a vast improvement over the old station, which could accommodate only half of a 10-car train on a severely curved platform – and was excavated out of bedrock below the existing tangle of Lower Manhattan infrastructure.

Then came Sandy. Though MTA crews tried to barricade the station entrances and ventilation grates before the storm, chest-high water poured down the stairs and filled the station 80 feet deep, from track level to the mezzanine.
The complete rebuilding effort will take an estimated $600 million and as long as three years, and engineers are studying whether some of the vital electrical infrastructure can be moved to higher ground to guard against future flooding.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

American Museum of Natural History Plans a $325M Addition

The American Museum of Natural History, a sprawling complex occupying nearly four city blocks, is planning another major transformation: a $325 million, six-story addition designed to foster the institution’s expanding role as a center for scientific research and education. The new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation would stand on a stretch of the museum grounds along Columbus Avenue near West 79th Street that is now part of Theodore Roosevelt Park. The museum hopes to open the new building in 2019 or 2020, marking the institution’s 150th anniversary.

The addition would be the most significant change to the museum’s historic campus since the Art Deco Hayden Planetarium building became the glass-enclosed Rose Center for Earth and Space 14 years ago.

Over all, the addition would total 218,000 square feet, roughly the size of the new Whitney Museum of American Art downtown. Of that, 180,000 square feet would be new; the rest would incorporate existing space. The addition would improve visitor circulation throughout the entire museum. There also would be food and retail areas.

The addition, not yet designed, would feature exhibitions showcasing scientific topics, as well as labs and theaters for scientific presentations. Since 2008, the museum, through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, has bestowed a Ph.D. in comparative biology, something rare for a museum.

Mr. Gilder has been involved in every major initiative of the museum’s during the last 20 years, Ms. Futter said, having spearheaded the Rose Center, for example. His gift will put his total contributions to the museum at more than $125 million during that period, making him the single largest donor in the institution’s history.

The museum, with its dioramas, castle-like turrets, cavernous hallways and giant whale, is one of the best-known buildings in the city, partly because school trips there are such an integral part of a New York City childhood. Many others have come to know a version of it through the film “Night at the Museum.”

The expansion will probably face close scrutiny from residents of the Upper West Side. That neighborhood is known for its fierce development battles, such as the 1956 fight over the Adventure Playground at West 67th Street in Central Park, which the city’s “master builder,” Robert Moses, had wanted to turn into a new parking lot for Tavern on the Green.

More recently, there were conflicts over renovation of the New-York Historical Society’s museum.

Though Central Park is only a block from the museum, proposals to reduce any open space in the city can be particularly contentious. Museum officials said that while there were no drawings yet defining the addition’s footprint, they recognize the interest in preserving city parkland, which the museum sits on.

“The vast majority of the open space on the west side of the museum, between 77th and 81st Streets, will remain open space when the project is completed,” said Ann Siegel, the museum’s senior vice president for operations and capital programs.

The museum is a veteran of such debates, having successfully weathered protests over its Rose Center, which some neighbors had argued would ruin the neighborhood.

Because the museum is a landmark owned by the city and on Theodore Roosevelt Park, its addition must be approved by various city agencies, including the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Cultural Affairs Department and the parks department.

But the city’s preliminary support is already reflected in $15 million included in the city’s capital budget for the addition.

Richard Gilder, a stockbroker and longtime donor to the museum, is contributing another $50 million; a third of the cost has already been raised from these and other sources.

For its architect, the museum has selected Jeanne Gang, a MacArthur Fellow and founder and principal of Studio Gang, whose projects include Aqua Tower and the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo — both in Chicago, where the firm is based.

Ms. Gang said it was too early to discuss how the addition would interact with the existing complex, which encompasses about 25 buildings constructed at different times in styles including Romanesque, Victorian Gothic and modern glass and steel.

The museum chose Ms. Gang, Ms. Futter said, because she designs “on a human scale” and has demonstrated “an acute sensitivity and sensibility about the relationship of nature to the built environment in an urban setting.”

With the expansion, the museum also wants to better accommodate its swelling visitor numbers — attendance has increased to five million visitors a year from three million in the 1990s — and a collection that has grown to include more than 33 million specimens and artifacts.

Founded in 1869 and chartered by New York State as a museum and library, the institution today employs 200 research scientists who each year conduct more than 100 expeditions around the world.

The museum also has the largest free-standing natural history library in the Western Hemisphere.

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