Skip to main content

Judge agrees FCR contractor pursued unsafe demolition, levies fines

Forest City Ratner's promises of safe practices at the Atlantic Yards site have suffered a setback. A contractor working for FCR has been assessed two $2000 fines for unsafe demolition of two Pacific Street buildings last June, as an administrative law judge (ALJ) has agreed that a backhoe, rather than hand demolition as promised, was deployed to demolish a wall adjacent to a residential structure.
(Photo copyright David Gochfeld)

For the demolition of 620 Pacific Street and 622 Pacific Street, the contractor had not applied for a mechanical demolition permit,which would not have been issued for 622 Pacific.

At a hard-fought hearing on 3/12/07, a lawyer representing Forest City Ratner acknowledged that the backhoe was used on 620 Pacific, which was adjacent to unoccupied buildings, but said there was no proof the backhoe was used to demolish 622 Pacific, adjacent to the occupied apartment building at 624 Pacific.

That lawyer, Jeffrey Braun, elicited testimony from a representative of Solomon Oliver Mechanical Contracting, who claimed that 622 Pacific was demolished only by hand. However, David Gochfeld, whose fiancee lives in 624 Pacific, took pictures that clearly showed the backhoe being used to demolish 620 Pacific and strongly indicated similar activity at 622 Pacific (photo right and above). A Department of Buildings inspector testified that the evidence backed up that claim, and Gochfeld offered eyewitness testimony.
(Photo copyright David Gochfeld)

Judge's decision

Administrative Law Judge Helaine Balsam of the Environmental Control Board (ECB), the administrative tribunal that oversees violations issued by city agencies, apparently agreed with the latter arguments. According to notices posted on the ECB web site, she assessed $2000 fines for 620 Pacific, as expected, and also for 622 Pacific, the subject of the hearing.

As I reported, attorney Braun pressed hard in the hearing, and had it been a criminal case, he might have planted reasonable doubt. But there's a lesser standard of proof in such administrative cases, "preponderance of the relevant evidence."
(Photo from December 2005, by Norman Oder; 622 Pacific is the one-story building.)

The text of Balsam's ruling was not available yesterday; it should be made available in about two weeks, I was told by the ECB. Will Forest City Ratner appeal? I asked Braun that question yesterday via email, but didn't get a reply.

Larger issues

The judge's decision has a symbolic value beyond the total of the fines. In sending a leading land use lawyer to defend the contractor, Forest City Ratner undoubtedly spent more money on legal fees than the fines at issue. In most cases, defendants choose to cut their losses.

However, given the contested nature of Atlantic Yards--and, this was before the fall of the Ward Bakery's parapet in April--the developer apparently wanted to avoid the taint of a violation.

Also, Gochfeld's fiancee and other tenants at 624 Pacific and another Forest City Ratner-owned building have filed suit challenging the state's use of eminent domain in "friendly condemnations," arguing that a slower state process regarding rent-stabilized tenants should prevail. Their suit was dismissed earlier this month; they will appeal.

The 13 plaintiffs are also challenging the state's relocation offer, calling it inadequate. Meanwhile, Forest City Ratner is in the process of demolishing the building on the other side of 624 Pacific.

(December 2005 photo by Norman Oder)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …