Thursday, June 09, 2011

Modular construction and Atlantic Yards: legitimate tactic or feint? At the least it's a harbinger, given concerns about construction costs

The New York Observer's Matt Chaban beat me to coverage of my own question at a panel on the cost of construction in New York City, in which I asked if Forest City Ratner's reported effort to consider modular construction is a legitimate tactic or a feint to coax union concessions.

Chaban reports the answers:
Jeff Levine, chairman of Douglaston Development, was telling. “It should act as a warning bell,” he said. “Just as our elected officials are telling us that the high cost of oil is beneficial to alternative sources of energy, whether it be wind or nuclear. But the reality is, we cannot build the perfect cost scenario, as evidenced by the lack of product going up. Having said that, alternatives are being sought. At some point, if it’s not non-union, then it’s modular. A solution will be found. We have to live somewhere.”

...Even the unions are reluctantly gearing up for it, said Robert Ledwith, the business manager and financial secretary for Metallic Lathers Local 46. “We are already in discussion about modular construction,” he said, referring to recent meetings among the union leaders. “We are aware of the technological change, we want to grasp it and make it work for ourselves. So that whatever Bruce Ratner does regarding modular construction, we are prepared for it.”
Those were the only two responses from panelists.

Brinksmanship?

I had informal conversations with some other attendees, and they leaned more to confirming my thought that Ratner's announced effort--called a "research project" by a Ratner executive--was closer to brinksmanship, just as Ratner halted construction midway through the Beekman Tower to renegotiate terms with the unions.

But, as they say, time will tell.

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