Sunday, February 28, 2016

73-Story Residential Tower Planned for Downtown Brooklyn

Two developers have submitted plans for a 1,066-foot building in Downtown Brooklyn, which would be almost twice as high as anything surrounding it. The complex, at 9 DeKalb Avenue, would also bring the current surge in super-tall towers across the East River from Manhattan.

The 73-story structure, to be built by JDS Development Group and the Chetrit Group, would be more than double the height of the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, which was once the tallest in the borough.

It will house a total of 556,164 square feet, with the residential portion 463,470 covering square feet, and the commercial portion will occupying 92,694 square feet at the base.

The four lowest floors will include a mix of retail and office space, with a lounge and outdoor terrace on the fifth floor.

The 417 apartments will begin on the seventh floor, with 12 per floor, deceasing on up to the 68th floor. The 69th and 70th floors will have just two units each.

The members of the land-use committee for Brooklyn Community Board 2 unanimously approved the plan, drawn by SHoP Architects, whose portfolio includes another of the most recognizable new buildings in Brooklyn, Barclays Center.

The architects drew inspiration from the limestone-columned Brooklyn Dime Savings Bank, which sits next door to the site of the tower and would be incorporated into the property. The bronzed ribbons running up the tower’s glassy sides draw on details of the bank, and its hexagonal shape echoes the bank’s footprint.

Part of the tower would rest on a rear portion of the bank, which the developer hopes to demolish; this could become a sticking point, since the bank is a New York City landmark.

The bigger issue for many would seem to be the height, even in a neighborhood and city marked by tall towers.

In 2014, JDS and Chetrit spent $46 million on the 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension, a five-story midcentury building that covers about a third of the triangular site and would be demolished to accommodate most of the tower.

In December, the developers acquired the bank building for $90 million. They plan to use its soaring Beaux-Arts spaces for shops as well as incorporating roughly 300,000 square feet of air rights that would make the tower’s spire possible.

A 1,066-foot tower can be built along Flatbush Avenue without any special approvals from the city, but since the exterior and interior of the bank building — opened in 1908 and expanded in 1932 — are protected, alterations to the bank must be approved by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. A hearing before the commission is scheduled for March 15.

The members of the land-use committee for Brooklyn Community Board 2 were impressed, though the board will play only an advisory role. “It’s a beautiful project and a great opportunity to save the bank,” Hazra Ali said.

Unlike the Manhattan towers rising more than 1,000 feet, the Brooklyn structure, with nearly 500 units, is planned as a rental apartment building, according to the plans.

The developers also applied for the 421-a program, which provides tax breaks for including subsidized apartments in luxury buildings, before it expired last year, and would set aside at least 20 percent of the units as affordable housing.

Such an investment shows the continued strength of the Brooklyn real estate market, where prices in some neighborhoods have already surpassed those in Manhattan.

The proposed tower would be near one of the borough’s most important intersections, the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and the Fulton Street Mall, and would rise beside one of Brooklyn’s unofficial landmarks, Junior’s Restaurant.

For a time, the 1950s diner known for its cheesecake was up for sale in the hopes of facilitating a similar tower project, though the owners eventually decided not to sell, or even to give up their air rights.

The developers already have considerable experience with tall towers. JDS is constructing a 1,428-foot condominium at 111 West 57th Street that rises from the former Steinway Building.

Until last year, the Chetrit Group, based in Brooklyn, was the owner of Willis Tower in Chicago, the second-tallest building in North America, behind 1 World Trade Center.

Since the neighborhood was rezoned in 2004, Downtown Brooklyn has seen a swell of activity. There have been 6,758 apartments built since then, with 5,254 under construction and an additional 7,790 in the planning stages, according to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

The development has a completion date planned for 2019.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Developers Plan Giant Office Tower Near Barclays Arena

Brooklyn's largest construction site may soon begin rise at 580 Atlantic Avenue, a site directly across Flatbush Avenue from the Barclays Center. Greenland Forest City, the developers behind the $5 billion, 22-acre Pacific Park complex, once known as Atlantic Yards, are seeking to transfer development rights to Site 5, located across the street from the arena, in order to construct a 1.5 million-square-foot building – which would be the largest office tower ever built in Brooklyn.

If successful, the builders could erect a 1.5 million-square-foot office tower across from Brooklyn's largest transit hub at Atlantic Avenue, where nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road converge.

The tower, at 580 Atlantic Avenue (Site 5), would use up to 1.1 million square feet of air rights currently controlled by the developers in front of the Barclays Center — where the subway station, plaza and distinctive “oculus” feature on the arena are now located — combined with 439,000 buildable square feet currently allowed on Site 5

The plan hinges on securing state approvals to transfer the development rights from the triangular plaza framed by Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in front of Barclays Center to a site across Flatbush Avenue that is controlled by the developers and is now occupied by Modell's Sporting Goods and PC Richard stores.

P.C. Richard & Sons recently filed a lawsuit against Forest City Ratner over the eminent domain condemnation of its location. Greenland Forest City currently has the right to build a 440,000-square-foot office property on the site.

The plan for the office building will require an amendment to the General Project Plan for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, to be approved by the Empire State Development Corp., the state agency that oversees the project. An environmental impact statement for the building will be needed before construction can begin.

Greenland Forest City has presented its plan to both neighborhood and state economic-development officials as a way to preserve the open plaza space in front of the Barclays Center. The office tower already has the support of Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a major local business group.

Another possibility is a lot at the southwest corner of Atlantic and Sixth avenues directly behind the arena known as B4. Right now, the site is zoned for residential and some retail. But if the state allows commercial rights from another Pacific Park building — 461 Dean Street on Flatbush Avenue — to be shifted to the site, a large office building could be built.

If the 1.5-million-square-foot tower is approved, it would bring a Manhattan-like aspect to the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. Similarly sized buildings include 10 Hudson Yards (1.8 million square feet), One Vanderbilt (1.7 million square feet) and 250 South Street (1.3 million square feet).

Office tenants have increasingly streamed into Brooklyn. Real estate investors and developers have rushed to convert former warehouse buildings into commercial space and construct new office space to accommodate the demand.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Contractor Sentenced to 3-Years for Construction-Safety Fraud

A building safety consultant was sentenced to one to three years in state prison for sending hairdressers, cooks and hotel bellhops to impersonate licensed site safety managers at several New York City high-rise construction sites, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance
Richard Marini, president of Avanti Building Consultants, offered construction sites the high-priced inspection services of qualified safety managers all over the city’s prime Real Estate Locations.

He deployed his highly-trained safety experts to construction sites in the Financial District; in Gramercy Park, on the Upper East Side. No dowdy digs for these guys and gals. They were pros. Or were they?

You see, the joke was on Mr. Marini’s customers; only no one is laughing.

The company listed an impressive list of specialties as construction consultants with credentials providing support for, among other things - Engineering; Architectural; Environmental; Local Law 11 Inspections; Scaffold Inspection; Construction Inspections; Site Safety Managers, Hazardous Waste Mitigation; Asbestos Lead Abatement; Air Sampling; Noise & Vibration Monitoring; Construction Management; and Sustainable Design.

The catch was that Avanti Consulting chose a more frugal –and completely illegal route. They hired and coached a collection of hairdressers; short-order cooks; bellhops; amateur interior designers, musicians, window treatment specialists, e-mail vendors and plain old unemployed to impersonate inspectors of various types to conduct phony inspections, tests and interviews.

NYC’s Department of Investigation and the New York County District Attorney’s Office found that between 2012 and 2014, Avanti and the associated NYCB Engineering Group falsified more than 450 documents, ultimately wreaking havoc at scores of multi-million-dollar construction sites all over Manhattan.

Marini resorted to trawling Craigslist and other websites to find impersonators, who were neither licensed nor qualified to conduct the life-or-death safety inspections necessary on major construction projects.

He then instructed his “interns” to go to construction sites and sign in using their names or provided names of licensed site safety managers in the safety log. Often, the managers did not realize their names were being used.

In some instances, they would sign the name of a deceased site safety manager, according to court documents.

The scheme occurred from 2012 to early 2014, when a Department of Buildings inspector noticed a log was signed by a man who had died the year before.

Marini and several of those he hired were arrested in July 2014. Marini pleaded guilty in October 2015. He is also ordered to pay $610,000 in restitution.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Developers Plan 25-Story Condo Project in Soho

Bizzi & Partners and developer Michael Shvo are planning a 25-story residential building across from the Holland Tunnel entrance plaza in Soho.
The building, which will occupy the vacant lot at 100 Varick Street, between Broome and Watts, will feature 115 luxury units, 17,000 square feet of retail space on the first and second floors and a 750 square feet community facility.

The development is the largest ground-up project in Soho, and is expected to be complete by 2018.

The development team has raised $455 million for the 290-foot tall building, including a $320 million construction loan from Bank of China and a $135 million stake in the project purchased by Cindat (the U.S. branch of Beijing-based China Cinda Asset Management). 

The 320,000-square-foot, Renzo Piano-designed condominium, will house eight apartments on each of the third and fifth through 10th floors, while the fourth floor will have 10 apartments. Four duplex units will be spread across the 11th and 12th floors, while the 13th through 22nd floors will get four apartments each.

The 23rd and 24th floors of the project will house two apartments each, while two penthouses with roof access and a single apartment will top off the 25th floor. Building amenities will include a swimming pool, an exercise room and a 39-car garage.

The tower, which will have two spires, will overlook the Holland Tunnel entrance plaza just north of Canal Street, and will have views to the Hudson River, Empire State Building  and the 435-foot-tall Trump Soho at Spring Street, just two blocks away.

Renzo Piano is the architect who designed the new Whitney Museum in the meatpacking district.

The development site spans eight parcels, consisting of townhouses and vacant land along Varick Street from Broome to Watts streets.

The partners acquired Hudson Square parcel through a joint venture for $145 million in January 2014. The purchase included the main site – also known as 565 Broome Street – along with four residential buildings at 58-64 Watts Street and 94,000 square feet in air rights from 555 Broome Street. Demolition plans for the site were filed last June.

Bizzi teamed with Shvo last year on the acquisition and residential development of 125 Greenwich Street in the Financial District.

Last month, SVHO leased 12,000 square feet at One World Trade Center, with plans to use it as a sales office for the firm’s planned condo building at 125 Greenwich Street.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New 79-Story Tower to Dominate Queens Skyline

A new residential project is threatening to take the title of Queens’ tallest building from Long Island City’s iconic 50-story Citigroup tower.

Flushing-based developer Chris Xu plans to build a massive 79-story, 774-unit building at 23-15 44th Drive, next to the CUNY School of Law, directly across the street from Citigroup’s 1.4 million-square-foot, 50-story One Court Square tower.

The building, which is slated to stand 964 feet tall, would loom over Citigroup tower – the tallest building in the city outside of Manhattan.

It will also be 50 feet taller than a skyscraper planned for 29-37 41st Avenue near Queens Plaza, which made headlines last year for its potential to become Queens’ tallest tower at 914 feet.

Flushing developer, Chris Xu, purchased the Court Square site from Citigroup last summer for $143 million.

According to United Construction and Development Group, Xu’s development company, the project will be called “Court Square City View Tower.”

Located in the most desirable neighborhood in Long Island City, and with its proximity to the 7, E, G and M subway lines, as well as the East River Ferry, the development will provide unprecedented convenience for its occupants.

Midtown Manhattan is less than five minutes away by subway or by car. The residential tower will be surrounded by a vibrant dining scene with some of New York’s most innovative eateries and taverns; lush riverfront parks with playgrounds, fishing piers and running paths; and notable art galleries and studios, including MoMA PS1 and Sculpture Center.

The 79-story high rise will contain 774 luxury residential units and 100,000 square feet of commercial space, covering a total of 999,664 square feet. The architect firm is Goldstein, Hill & West Architects.

Plans indicate that 20,000 square feet of retail space and a residential lobby will occupy the ground floor, with parking for 103 vehicles located on the second floor.

The number of apartments varies from 32 units on the fifth floor and 24 units on the sixth, to 11 units each up to the 60th floor.

The three highest residential floors will hold just three apartments each.

Citigroup had originally planned to build a third Court Square tower on the 36,000-square-foot site, but put the site up for sale over post-recession concerns.

The project is expected to break ground in early 2017.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Electrician Catches Deadly Crane Collapse on Cell Phone

A 565-foot crawler crane being used to install generators and air-conditioning units atop 60 Hudson Street collapsed in Lower Manhattan Friday morning, killing at least one person and injuring several others. 

The crew operating the crawler took note of the wind gusts accompanying the falling snow and decided they needed to lower the crane to a secure level.

At around 8 a.m., they began to bring down its boom, which stretched 565 feet toward the sky.

But instead of a steady, controlled descent, the crane began to topple over suddenly before plunging into a free fall and crashing onto Worth Street in TriBeCa.

Two electricians who were working down the block from the deadly caught the incident on cell phone video.

Glenn Zito and Chris Andropolis were on the 46th floor of 56 Leonard Street when they were warned of strong winds and told to move to lower floors. Then, as they were headed down, they stopped after noticing a crane that was swaying.

"We noticed that they decided to start lowering it down across the street," Zito said. "We decided to start videoing it, and as we were videoing it, it actually lost momentum as it was coming down. It gained speed, and then it flipped over."

"It was shocking," Zito said. "I mean, we didn't expect it to happen, but we were videoing it just in case."

A man walking on the street was killed by the falling crane, and the surrounding blocks were littered with debris and stricken by panic as people who had been headed to work fled from what some thought was a bomb exploding.

“It shook the building,” said one witness, who heard an enormous crash from his office on Worth Street and then saw the crane on the street. “You could feel the vibration.”

Three other people were injured. Two of them were hospitalized with serious injuries from debris tossed off by the collapse, which left tangled wreckage stretched over roughly two full blocks.

More than 140 firefighters converged on the scene, along with scores of police officers and utility workers dispatched to handle gas leaks and other damage caused by the impact.

For all the commotion that shook the neighborhood, not far from City Hall and the state and federal courthouses, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was remarkable that the human toll was not worse.

“You can see how powerful the damage was,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference near the scene, “but you can also see, again, that it was something of a miracle that there wasn’t more impact.”

“Thank God,” he added, “we didn’t have more injuries and we didn’t lose more people.”

The authorities identified the man killed on Friday as David Wichs, 38, who lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Mr. Wichs was born in Prague and immigrated to the United States as a teenager, and later received a mathematics degree from Harvard University.

A 45-year-old woman injured her leg and had a cut on her head, and a 73-year-old man sustained a head wound, officials said. Both were in stable condition at Manhattan hospitals. A third person had minor injuries.

The crane, known as a crawler, was being used to install generators and air-conditioning units atop 60 Hudson Street, the former Western Union building, and had been inspected by the Buildings Department on Thursday to approve an extension to its present length, officials said.

With the capacity to carry as much as 330 tons, the crane was “very, very large,” said Rick Chandler, the buildings commissioner. Mr. de Blasio said it was rated to withstand wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour, but as the wind neared 20 M.P.H. on Friday, the crew decided to secure it.

The crane was being operated by Galasso Trucking and Rigging, in Maspeth, Queens.

As a precaution, officials ordered that 376 other crawler cranes currently operating in the city, as well as 43 of the larger tower cranes, be secured, the mayor said.

The damage from the fall caused leaks in a water main and in multiple gas lines, though officials said those leaks had not reached dangerous levels. Nonetheless, gas service in the immediate area was shut off. Many streets were also closed, and subways lines skipped nearby stops. Officials said the disruptions were expected to continue at least through the weekend.

The Police Department and the Buildings Department have opened investigations into the collapse.

The episode comes amid a construction surge in New York that has made the long booms of cranes ubiquitous fixtures across the skyline.

There has also been a spike in construction fatalities in the city over the past two years. An investigation found that the rise in deaths as well as injuries had far exceeded the rate of new construction over the same period, that supervision at building sites was often lacking, and that basic safety steps were not being taken to prevent workers from falling.

With construction accidents a growing cause for concern in recent years, the city has responded by hiring more building inspectors. The mayor said crane safety had improved significantly since 2008, when several people were killed in crane accidents on Manhattan’s East Side.

“I want people to hear me loud and clear: We’ve had some construction site incidents that are very troubling,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We have more and more inspectors who are going to get on top of that. We’re going to be very tough on those companies.”

“This is a totally different matter,” he added. “This was a company that was putting their crane into the secure position as we would have wanted them to.”

In 2012, one person was killed and four others were hurt when a 170-foot crane collapsed at a construction site for the extension of the No. 7 train. Last year, a crane dropped an air-conditioning unit 28 stories to the street in Midtown Manhattan. Seven people suffered minor injuries in that episode.

Roughly 300 large cranes are in operation in the city at any given time, said city comptroller, Scott Stringer.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Tishman Speyer Plans $3 Billion Spiral Tower by High Line

At the northern end of the High Line, Tishman Speyer is aiming to extend the park's wild, natural beauty 65 stories into the air. The developer plans to build a $3 billion office tower in the Hudson Yards district that will feature cascading terraces decked with foliage, atriums with ceilings as high as 23 feet and a glass facade. 

The Spiral will rise 1,005 feet at 66 Hudson Blvd., filling the block between West 34th and West 35th streets and Tenth Avenue and Hudson Park and the boulevard.

It will have 2.85 million square feet, with about 27,000 square feet devoted to retail shops.
The tower will sit one block north of Related's Hudson Yards, at the northern terminus of Manhattan’s High Line Park, once an abandoned train trestle.

Designed by renowned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, the skyscraper has an outdoor terrace on every tenant floor with an adjacent atrium. A glass wall will separate the spaces.

In all, The Spiral will have 2.85 million square feet, of which 27,000 will be devoted the retail. Tishman Speyer has already secured $1 billion in equity from international investors, and is looking to pre-lease about 30-percent of the tower.

At 1,005 feet, The Spiral will stand exactly as tall as One57, and will become the fourth largest tower in the Hudson Yards neighborhood.

The tower is Tishman Speyer’s entrant in the race to extend the Midtown business district west toward the Hudson River.

Related Cos. is leading development in the area with its 28-acre Hudson Yards project, built mostly over a railroad yard that serves nearby Pennsylvania Station.

Three skyscrapers are rising at that site. Moinian Group is planning a tower close to Tishman Speyer’s site, to be called 3 Hudson Boulevard.

Tishman Speyer—which operates Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, Chrysler Building and MetLife Building—said it’s obtained more than $1 billion of equity for the project from a group of international investors. The company intends to use the funds partly to acquire additional development rights.

Ingels, 41, is one of the world’s most sought-after architects, with New York projects including a pyramid-shaped apartment tower on 57th Street near the West Side Highway and 2 World Trade Center.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Construction to Begin on New Jersey’s Tallest Tower

Currently, 99 Hudson Street is a parking lot on the Jersey City waterfront, dwarfed by skyscrapers on two sides. In about two years, the parking lot will be replaced by a 900-foot skyscraper that will tower over every building nearby. 

The 79-story tower, to be located at Greene and Grand streets on the Jersey City Waterfront, will be the tallest building the state and one of the tallest residential towers in the nation.

The state's current tallest building is the nearby Goldman Sachs tower at 30 Hudson Street, which rises 781 feet and 42 stories.

The 99 Hudson Street project will help create a skyline to rival the one across the Hudson River in Manhattan.

"This building will literally have the best views in the world," said Cindy Xiu, president of China Overseas America, which is behind the $500 million-plus tower, which is expected to be completed in 2018.

The new limestone tower, designed by Perkins Eastman Architects, will house 781 condos, at least 15,000 square feet of commercial space and 609 parking spaces. The project will receive no tax abatements from the city.

99 Hudson Street will be located just two blocks from the Exchange Place PATH station, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station, and the ferry terminal, offering residents short a 5-10 minute commute to Lower Manhattan.

Hartz Mountain Industries originally planned to develop two towers on the site, but sold the parcel to China Overseas America in 2014.

Mayor Steve Fulop said China Overseas' investment, especially for a condominium project, is a significant sign of optimism about Jersey City and yet more proof that this is a "global city."

Once completed, 99 Hudson will give city residents a sense of pride. "It's going to remake the New Jersey skyline and the Jersey City skyline with a new, iconic building," said Mayor Fulop.

If built today, 99 Hudson would be the sixth tallest residential/mixed-use building in the nation, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the group considered the international arbiter of skyscrapers. 99 Hudson would edge out 900 North Michigan Avenue, an office/residential tower in Chicago that tops out at 869 feet.

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