Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

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…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…