Skip to main content

Details, comments, questions emerge about the falling parapet at the Ward Bakery

The city's Department of Buildings has issued a violation to Forest City Ratner for failing to maintain the exterior wall of the Ward Bakery, though no shed was required. Meanwhile, more than 300 people from the adjacent homeless shelter had to evacuate, and questions remain about how and why the 200-foot stretch of the parapet fell yesterday, and what oversight agencies will do.

According to NY1:
"Parapet walls exposed on both side over many years, and we had heavy rains, so it very well could be a residual effect of the heavy rains that we had,” said FDNY Assistant Chief James Nichols.
In response to the incident, Forest City Ratner vice president Bruce Bender said:
“At the time of the purchase, (in March 2006) the building was already in a state of disrepair. We will of course work very closely with the Buildings Department and other agencies to determine the cause of the collapse and to ensure public safety."


[Update: The purchase was in March 2005.]

There's a difference between disrepair and unsafe, and the developer last year got permission to demolish buildings deemed unsafe by its own inspectors.

FCR speaks... to some

While Forest City Ratner has not posted any statement nor responded to my inquiries, its spokesman did speak to others in the press.

The Times reported, in an article headlined Parapet Falls From Building to Be Demolished for Atlantic Yards that Forest City Ratner said its workers did not cause the incident:
Loren Riegelhaupt a spokesman for Forest City Ratner... said the workers on the roof were using “hand-held chippers” to remove asbestos, but were not working on the parapet.

As for the citation, the Times reported:
Such citations are not unusual, and property owners are often able to avoid fines or other penalties by demonstrating that repair work has been completed.

It will be interesting to see if such repair work obviates a fine for an incident that could have caused significant harm had anybody been walking nearby.

What about the shed?

And why was the shed gone?
[Riegelhaupt]said the removal of the shed was necessary to allow access to sewer lines under the sidewalk that the city will require to be blocked before demolition of the building is begun.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn took aim at Riegelhaupt's claim that "Our focus is on the safety of the community," suggesting that the sidewalk shed should have been replaced before asbestos abatement began.

Newsday and AM NY ran an article, headlined Building at Atlantic Yards site collapses that quoted Council Member Letitia James about the lack of oversight and a "developer running amok."

The article stated:
A sidewalk shed was removed from the sidewalk in front of the Ward Bakery in March. A new shed was being constructed yesterday, but a shed was not required for the asbestos abatement, [Department of Buildings spokeswoman Kate] Lindquist said.

Other coverage

The New York Post ran a short article, headlined ATLANTIC YARDS BLDG. COLLAPSE, that cited James's call for a halt to demolition. The New York Sun article, headlined Part of Roof Collapses At Atlantic Yards Site, didn't quote any individuals.

Metro's article, On the street: Collapse at Atlantic Yards site forces evacuation, quoted the Empire State Development Corporation's statement that it was on the job.

The Daily News ran a more substantial article, in its Brooklyn edition, headlined Homeless flee building collapse: Mishap comes weeks before Ratner wrecking ball. It cited the effort by preservationists to maintain the terra cotta-covered building and quoted opponent Patty (actually Patti) Hagan as saying, "That building was extremely sturdy. I'd call what happened an awfully odd coincidence."

A piquant detail:
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whose name is scrawled on the building in graffiti form that reads "Hakeem [heart] Ratner," stopped short of calling for a demolition freeze or an independent monitor.
"This incident further highlights the need to proceed with extreme caution," said Jeffries (D-Fort Greene), who has been criticized for his support of the project.


The Daily News noted that the ESDC wouldn't say whether it would halt upcoming demolitions, as James has requested.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…