Skip to main content

DOB says Ratner should've anticipated Ward Bakery danger & also used shed; violations assigned

Forest City Ratner and its contractors should’ve been much more careful. That’s the conclusion of a report by the Department of Buildings (DOB) on the April 26 collapse of a 200-foot section of the parapet of the 100-year-old Ward Bakery on Pacific Street. The fallout was alarming, as the 55-foot drop spread terra cotta and rubble around a sidewalk not protected by a shed, but fortunately was not fatal.

(Photos from DOB report except as marked.)

DOB’s report, dated “July 2007,” first surfaced in a Daily News exclusive this morning, headlined Building's collapse no surprise: Ratner knew of damage to Ward building, but didn't halt demolition - report. (The headline is overstated, because it was the parapet, not the building that collapsed, and it was asbestos abatement rather than full-scale demolition.) The Daily News says the report was issued July 25.

The department’s Forensic Engineering Unit concluded that the parapet had suffered extensive structural deterioration:
Forest City Ratner had been apprised of the deterioration of the façade and the parapet, but the extent of the deterioration and the risk of collapse had apparently not been communicated to the crew that had been assigned the task of removing tar and asbestos coatings from the rear of the parapet. As a result of the deteriorated conditions, even the relatively passive construction activities involved in removing the coatings precipitated the collapse of the terracotta tiles and the bricks on which they were mounted.

Violations

[Updated] The DOB reports the following violations:

(Owner) Forest City Ratner Companies, LLC: Failure to maintain the exterior building wall. Approximately 200’ long by 7’ high section of parapet wall at Pacific Street side of building collapsed and fell approximately 55 feet to grade level. DOB Forensic Engineer Report dated July ’07 shows that collapsed parapet structure and related building area was deteriorated and structurally defective before the collapse and contributed to the collapse. Chipping hammer observed at ground near collapsed debris.

(Owner) Pacific Vanderbuilt Development Company, LLC: Failure to maintain exterior building wall. Approximately 200' long x 7' high section of parapet wall at Pacific Street side of building collapsed and fell approximately 55 feet to grade level. DOB Forensic Engineer Report dated July '07 shows that collapsed parapet structure and related building area was deteriorated and structurally defective before the collapse and contributed to the collapse. Chipping hammer observed at ground near collapsed debris.

(Demolition Contractor) Gateway Demolition Corporation: Failure to safeguard persons and property during building work. Work to remove asbestos-containing material with scrapers and electric chipping hammers observed to be 90% complete. Approximately 200' long x 7' high section of parapet wall collapsed and fell approximately 55 feet to grade level. DOB Forensic Engineer Report dated July '07 states that collapsed parapet structure and related building area was deteriorated and structurally defective before the collapse AND no steps were taken to secure already compromised structure before the parapet work began.


It's not clear from the DOB's violation page what the maximum penalty is, but it's typically a $2500 fine. The penalty will be determined by the Environmental Control Board, according to DOB.

The Daily News quoted an opponent:
Forest City Ratner "should be heavily fined for this," said Daniel Goldstein, a member of the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. "Ratner's negligence is stark evidence that the community desperately needs the ombudsman promised by [state officials] over 93 days ago."


An FCR spokesman was quoted:
"Our contractors were engaged in necessary predemolition asbestos-abatement work," [Bruce] Bender said. "We believed at the time that all safety measures were being taken."


What about the shed?

[Updated] It wasn't clear to me that the report says the developer was cited for removing the shed. DOB spokeswoman Kate Lindquist had said in April that a sidewalk shed was not required for asbestos abatement, the report suggests that the failure to reinstate the shed was wrong:
Given the deteriorated condition of the façade and parapet, the asbestos removal should not have proceeded without protective measures in place.


Lindquist today confirms that both her previous qoute was correct and that a violation was issued:
The Building Code does not require a sidewalk shed to be installed during asbestos abatement work. However, the Code does require the contractor to safeguard the public and property during construction work and the property owner to maintain his or her building in a safe and lawful condition. Knowing the condition of the parapet and façade, as outlined in the engineering report prepared by Thornton Tomasetti, Gateway and the owners were made aware of the condition but failed to take appropriate action to safeguard the public and property during construction operations.

(Top two photos by Robert Guskind of the Gowanus Lounge. Bottom photo by Jonathan Barkey. Composite by Lumi Rolley of No Land Grab.)

In April, I noted that a shed had existed for years—18 months, the DOB clarifies--but apparently was removed at some point after March 3. On March 21, the developer filed for a permit to build a new shed, but it had not been installed, as sewer work took precedence.

New measures

The asbestos abatement work resumed in early July. That announcement promised "new protective measures, such as additional site safety engineers to oversee demolition operations and the installation of sidewalk sheds and netting at all abatement and demolition sites." Also, "the developer has revised its means and methods plan for abatement and demolition operations to ensure the sequence of both types of work do not interfere with one another."

The new report states:
Based on the parapet failure, the owner’s engineer and demolition contractor are now “front ending” removal of the remaining portions of the parapets prior to the remaining asbestos abatement. This procedure should have been adopted earlier. The remainder of the building can be safely demolished with usage of standard demolition techniques and safeguards.
(Emphasis in original)

This isn't the first unsafe demolition performed by Forest City Ratner contractors; the use of a backhoe last year, when use of hand tools was mandated, was the first.

Building history

The report explains that the 4- and 5-story "through block" building has multiple sections and wings, serving as Pechter’s bakery for 90 years. Constructed from steel beams and columns supporting cinder concrete slabs, the complex was ornamented with white glazed terracotta blocks, clay made to simulate cut stone.

The report states:
Based on Italianate architecture, the bakery was designed to have a monumental appearance when viewed from afar. Ornamental white glazed terracotta blocks were used to frame the large windows. Steel angle frames were placed behind the 7’ high parapet to support signage announcing the bakery.

Indeed, a photo from 1955 shows that sign proudly proclaiming the building’s identity.

Deterioration

Though preservationists have called for saving the building, slated to be razed for interim surface parking, and developer Shaya Boymelgreen was said to have plans to turn it into a hotel, DOB cites “long term structural integrity problems with the exterior walls” and says “structural deficiencies with the façade date back at least to the early 1990’s.”

A report developer Forest City Ratner commissioned and submitted to the New York State Office of Historic Preservation in August 2006 said a majority of the façade’s glazed terracotta is damaged and would have to be replaced, not repaired. With the cost of lowering window sill heights to meet current code requirements, a renovation would be technically feasible but “impractical and unrealistic.”

The report calls 800 Pacific Street “a vacant and deteriorated warehouse;” that may be so, but a segment of a connected structure at 808 Pacific--a warehouse, according to DOB--still operates as Pack It Away Mini Storage.

Causes of collapse

The report explains that that structural steel became corroded because of “long term water infiltration through the terracotta and brick.” The development of rust led to an increase in volume, pressuring the adjacent brickwork, eventually snapping the exterior brickwork.

Such deterioration “is frequently encountered (and repaired) with similarly constructed steel framed buildings in New York City,” the report states. However, “parapets and cornices are especially susceptible to failure” because they experience weather effects “on both interior and exterior faces.”

Should've been foreseen

The report concludes:
Based on the steel and concrete building’s nearly one hundred years of exposure to the elements, the corrosion of the roof support steel, and the building’s decades of deferred maintenance, it is not surprising that the entire 200’ length of the Pacific St parapet fell to grade under the stress of the relatively passive construction procedure of removing tar and cementitious coatings from the parapet’s rear. The potential for an imminent failure of the parapet and façade should have been apparent to the owner and the demolition contractor from the façade’s deteriorated condition and/or from the Thornton Tomasetti report that documented the condition of the façade and the parapet. Review of the asbestos and tar abatement procedure leads us to conclude that even the light loads of the scrapers and chipping guns were sufficient to propagate losses of large areas of the façade.

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 …