Monday, April 04, 2016

At B2 modular tower, unresolved construction violations and $12,000+ in unpaid fines

As we wait for the (delayed) lottery for affordable housing at the B2 modular tower (aka 461 Dean Street) to open, it's worth noting that building has unresolved construction violations--one said to be "immediately hazardous"--leading to $12,000-plus in unpaid fines.

My query about the violations to developer Forest City Ratner--this building is theirs, not part of the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture for the rest of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project (excepting the Barclays Center)--did not get a response.

That said, the "immediately hazardous" violation may no longer be hazardous. It regarded a standpipe which supplies water for firefighters in a high-rise building, said to be unready at the 16th floor.

More recently an inspection did find a standpipe functional at the 28th floor. Still, both violations require a re-inspection by the Department of Buildings (DOB) to certify compliance.

I queried Marisa Senigo, spokeswoman for the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), which oversees the Environmental Control Board (ECB), which hears DOB violations. Her response:
In both of these cases, the respondent did not appear at the scheduled hearing and the legally mandated default penalty was imposed. After 45 days of the penalty not being paid, OATH docketed them as unpaid judgments in NYC Civil Court. The judgment is in collection, so the jurisdiction is now under the Department of Finance, which is the agency responsible for collecting monies owed to the City of New York. DOF will begin to add interest and begin formal collection activities. The respondent can either pay the penalty to DOF or they have the option of requesting a new hearing at OATH since all respondents have one opportunity to request a new hearing after a default. However, only if the request is received by OATH within 45 days of the missed hearing will the request for a new hearing be granted automatically. In this instance, more than 45 days have passed so the requests for new hearings on these two summonses/notices of violation would go to a hearing officer who would determine if OATH can legally reopen the case. Read the NYC Rule that governs when a request for a new hearing can be legally granted by the ECB Hearing Officer.
An $8,000 fine, with interest, is now $8,181.48, while a $2,500 fine, with interest, is now $2,688.63.

Standpipe unready

According to a DOB violation found in July 2015, an inspector's visit found a standpipe "not in a state of readiness," thus generating the $8,000 fine. The site safety manager told inspectors that the standpipe was being tested.

Neither the penalty has been paid nor a certificate of correction apparently submitted, as the September 2015 hearing is listed as "default" status, meaning the respondent didn't show up.

According to the DOB, such Class 1 (Immediately Hazardous) violations require immediate correction, which must be certified: "Failure to certify correction will result in the issuance of a DOB violation with a $1,500 civil penalty. The civil penalty is in addition to penalties assessed by ECB Court."

Indeed, such a $1,500 failure to certify penalty is pending, issued October 2015:

The fine must be paid before the DOB can sign off on the building.

Lack of approved plans

In an even earlier inspection, in December 2014 the DOB found a violation involving the failure to provide approved plans at the job site, and imposed a $2,500 penalty, which, after a January 2015 ECB hearing that ended in default, remains unpaid. 

This is a Class 2 Violation, considered a Major Violation, which "affects life, health, safety, property, or the public interest but does not require immediate corrective action."


A standpipe, found

Just in the last month, on 3/10/16, the Fire Department of New York requested an "inspection for unsafe conditions due to the standpipe not located near the working floor."

On 3/31/16, a standpipe was found in readiness at the 28th floor, meaning no violation was warranted. As noted, that suggests that the earlier violation may have been functionally resolved.

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