Monday, March 12, 2012

Forest City takes firm steps toward modular plan, but first building stalled, for now, at Department of Buildings (and what about the unions?)

When Forest City Ratner last November announced dramatic plans to build the first Atlantic Yards tower--and the rest--using innovative but risky modular construction, I suggested reasons for skepticism, notably that the documentation on file at the time indicated conventional construction.

Last month, however, the developer took firm steps toward a modular building, filing several documents with the Department of Buildings (DOB) that indicated modular plans.

However, the DOB has so far rejected the plans, including construction equipment, plumbing, and mechanical/HVAC. It's unclear whether the DOB's rejection is based on substantive qualms or less critical procedural issues.

Keep in mind that DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri is a fan of FCR's modular plan, and the Bloomberg administration has an obvious interest in having housing delivered.

Latest documents

The latest documentation, filed in the first week of February, indicates that the building would be built with structural steel, rather than, as suggested last year, steel (encased in concrete), a sign of conventional construction.


Another document states that plumbing work would be performed off-site at a modular facility.
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Plan on hold?

However, the plan, and its elements, lack DOB approval.


In the DOB's glossary, a Job Status Code of J means that the plan exam is disapproved. We don't know how serious it is. Nor do we know, for that matter, if the various construction unions that fought for Atlantic Yards based on expectations of significant employment have signed on.

Looking more closely

The DOB web site (screenshot below) offers more detail on which plans have been sent back, but again, does not explain what's wrong and why. The work types listed include:
  • EQ = construction equipment
  • NB = new building
  • OT = other construction equipment
  • PL = plumbing
  • MH = mechanical/HVAC


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