Monthly Archives: May 2020

NYC On Track for Construction to Restart June 8

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that New York City is on track to begin Phase I of reopening on Monday June 8. Phase I includes nonessential construction and manufacturing.
“We know where the hot spots are in the city, we want to focus on them next week, be ready to open,” Cuomo said.
All reopened businesses must follow health guidelines. Phase I includes retail stores for curbside pick up and in-store where proper distancing is possible. Cuomo signed an executive order this week mandating masks in stores. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, gardening and landscape businesses can also reopen in Phase I.

Marina Project Plans to Revitalize Pleasantville Waterfront

The marina in Pleasantville, NJ, hasn’t been a destination spot in recent years. But the $30 million Lakes Bay Marina project hopes to change all of that—and soon.

If developers get approval on their plans, they could finish dredging the marina this summer so that customers could house a boat in one of the 50 slips that will be available.

But the slips are just part of the bigger plan to revitalize the area on the 25-acre site. The project calls for the construction of 180 one- and two-bedroom apartments, a clubhouse, and pool. There will be a public space near the water, which could display artwork and host events like street fairs and festivals. If this project is completed and attracts interest as hoped, there is the possibility it would launch more development nearby, including residential housing, commercial retail and restaurants.

The planning board received the final plans and is reviewing them for completeness. No public meeting has been scheduled yet.

Cuomo to Fast-Track Infrastructure Projects Across NY

In his Tuesday press conference, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will expedite infrastructure projects as a focus of its plan for economic recovery. He specifically mentioned the new Penn Station and LaGuardia projects, saying that not only does the state need to create jobs, with commuter and air passenger volume down, this is the perfect time to take on those projects with limited disruption.

“There is no better time to build than right now,” Cuomo said.
With a battered budget, the state can’t take the lead on all projects, of course, so Cuomo is going to Washington, DC, on Wednesday to discuss funding with President Trump. Projects that would require federal support include the next piece of the Second Avenue Subway, the AirTrain at LaGuardia and, of course, the new Hudson River tunnel.
On Tuesday, he also talked about pushing forward on renewable energy projects like a cross-state power transmission line and a Canada-to-New York City power line to deliver clean energy.
“Let’s stop talking and let’s start doing,” he said. “Let’s do something creative. Let’s do it fast.”

NY Construction Restarts in Mid-Hudson Today, Long Island Tomorrow

Nonessential construction and manufacturing can resume today in the Mid-Hudson region of New York as Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Ulster counties enter Phase I of reopening after the ordered shutdown to attempt to contain the novel coronavirus.

In Phase I, nonessential construction and manufacturing can resume along with wholesale businesses, retail for curbside or in-store pickup and agriculture, forestry and fishing. All businesses are required to follow new public health guidelines and have safeguards in place. Social distancing must be adhered to where possible and masks worn, as well as following more stringent cleaning and hygiene protocols.

Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties will enter Phase I tomorrow.

Officials will be watching the number of positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths closely. If the numbers stay on track and any outbreak is contained through contact tracing and isolation, the regions could enter Phase II in about two weeks. Testing facilities are now open across the mid-Hudson region and Long Island.

The PAUSE order limiting which construction sites and businesses can be open remains in effect in New York City where the needed metrics for reopening have not yet been met. There is no estimated date for the five boroughs to enter Phase I but the mayor has said he hopes it can happen early- to mid-June.

RWJBarnabas Health & Rutgers Cancer Pavilion Faces Legal, Local Obstacles

It would be the first free-standing cancer facility in New Jersey. The $750 million RWJBarnabas Health & Rutgers Cancer Pavilion in New Brunswick is set to be 510,000 square feet with 12 stories. It will house an inpatient hospital with surgical suites, an outpatient center, an urgent care, and research labs. The joint project of Rutgers Cancer Institute and New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) is projected to create 1,500 jobs. It is a joint project from RWJBarnabas Health. If all goes as planned.

While the healthcare world and cancer patients might eagerly await the dedicated facility many people the community oppose the project. The 1.6-acre site is currently the home of the Lincoln Annex Middle School, which has about 750 students. Part of the construction plan allocated $55 million to build a new three-story, 135,000 square-foot middle school. It would be a mile away and take three years to complete. In the meantime, students would be sent to a converted warehouse. Parents object not only to the interim setting but that the warehouse is outside of the neighborhood.

Governor Phil Murphy was asked about the project at his daily coronavirus press conference on Friday. Asked his opinion on the situation and if he would guarantee a new school would be built before the project started, Murphy touted New Jersey’s public education system before saying the proposed cancer center “is going to be a game-changer for a lot of things, including jobs and education. Beyond that, I’ve got not comment on that.”

State health commissioner Judith Persichilli, who received her nursing degree at Rutgers, was also asked about the situation and did not comment beyond saying that she had a lot of fond memories of her alma mater but “the bricks and mortar are not them.”

Demolition of the current school is targeted to begin in October with a projected completion of the cancer center in Fall of 2023.

But this week, in an effort to derail the plans, a lawsuit was filed by LatinoJustice on behalf of the school’s parents and students. It says the deed for the property requires that any construction on the land be a public school or administration building. Rutgers is part of the project, and a public university, but LatinoJustice lawyers do not believe that qualifies the cancer center as a “public school.”

The New Brunswick Board of Education approved plans for the proposed new school building and location in April, but opponents say it was done during the novel coronavirus pandemic and the public was left out of the process, unable to voice their opinion. A second legal action has actually been taken by the editor of New Brunswick Today against the Board of Education for violations of the Open Public Meetings Act. In January, the 4000-member local teachers union passed a unanimous resolution opposing the plan.

Some opponents might support the project if the new school is built first, however, that would obviously delay construction of the cancer center by years. For now, developers continue to target this fall to begin but for the project to continue at this site, the legal issues must be resolved.

Gowanus Station Water Treatment Facility, Some Changes and Further Delay

Part of a much larger initiative by New York to clean up local waterways, the old Gowanus Station in Brooklyn, and its adjacent canal have been the subject of some controversy and proposed change in recent and even distant years. The latest, though this is a project still several years old, has to do with the construction of a water treatment facility where the Gowanus Station building was once prominent. 

Many issues were added to the list of possible checklist items to finish this long-lived project from multiple EPA studies to new undertakings like tunnels and the preservation of Gowanus Station’s original brick facade. Despite well-documented knowledge of the canal’s polluted state and a need for ongoing cleanup efforts, the historical landmark status of certain buildings in the surrounding area, but not this one, has drawn ire from residents. 

This leaves the project in a constant state of further development, and the different jobs involved that would ultimately complete the new facility continue to evolve. 

Gowanus Canal and Gowanus Station: Still Cleaning Up

The new water treatment facility is part of an effort to clean New York City’s waterways and move away from an outdated combined sewer overflow (CSO) system that flushes most wastewater into NYC’s nearby rivers and coastlines. Gowanus Canal is one such site where the effects of this antiquated system are apparent to the point of being notorious

While other buildings in the Gowanus area are slated for historical landmark status as symbols of the area’s industrial history, Gowanus Station narrowly missed being saved itself and was instead taken by the city of New York through eminent domain. 

Some concessions were made between locals, the EPA, and the New York City once the 234 Butler St. building was slated for demolition, with the promise that the original bricks from the facade would be used. In March, just before construction and much of the city shut down due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the city attempted to go back on this promise and replace the facade with faux-aged bricks in order to save on costs and time. 

Nearly everyone at every level disliked this. In late April, federal authorities, including the EPA, stepped in to state that the original plan would be kept: the original bricks from Gowanus Station must be used to construct the new corner facade. The new building in question is going to hold one of the two tanks that aim to stop sewage from entering the Gowanus Canal. 

What Remains to Be Done on the Water Treatment Facility?

As essential construction work continues and some non-essential projects continue as an exception, the water treatment facility near the canal means ongoing work for local construction firms and tradespeople for another nine years. 

For now, a major concern remains the preservation of the historic Gowanus Station in what ways it can be. The city wished to nix the use of the original bricks due to time and money concerns, and this in itself promises a sizable workload for those that can work with and maintain the integrity of vintage brick. 

They call this a facade for a reason, though: it will sit outside just a part of all the new equipment and housing for a water treatment facility that may be Gowanus Canal’s only hope of getting cleaner and staying clean. 


Non-Essential Construction Can Begin Again Monday, May 18

Today, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that non-essential construction can resume at 6 a.m. on Monday, May 18.

Construction sites can resume work with the following safeguards in place:

  • Clear posting of safety protocols
  • Preventing overcrowding
  • Prohibiting non-essential visitors
  • Staggering work hours and breaks
  • Ensuring proper sanitation

Murphy reiterated what he has said all along that the data will drive the re-opening process for the state. The state is “not out of the woods yet,” he said, sharing a chart that showed New Jersey is the most impacted state in the country right now. Social distancing and face-covering must continue. If the numbers of illness and hospitalizations go up, he will step back and restart the stay-at-home orders and once again shut down non-essential businesses.

Residents and Workers to Gov. Cuomo: Make Residential Construction Essential

While Governor Cuomo recently announced that reopening would begin in New York, starting upstate, it is looking as though some of the harder hit parts of the state, including Manhattan and Long Island, might be waiting for a good deal longer. This news came to some displeasure for local residents and officials in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, especially with regards to construction and construction jobs. 

Locals report the need for home repairs and unfinished projects to be finished, with contractors and construction firms unable to take on non-essential work. As a result, laborers and local residents alike are demanding that Cuomo declare residential construction an essential business so that work can continue. 

Long Island Reopening Vs. Upstate Reopening: Why the Disparity? 

On Friday, officials in Long Island discussed the possibility of a reopen and return to business as usual remaining at least as far as seven weeks away, at the end of June, at least an entire month after other parts of the state will resume business operations. The main issue, they say, is that the criteria laid down by the state to be eligible for reopening will take at least that long for Nassau and Suffolk counties to meet. These include criteria such as a documented, 14-day decline in both coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths on a rolling three-day average, a rise in available hospital beds in the region, and a 90-day stockpile of PPE. 

The metro area is one of the hardest-hit locations nationwide, much less in the state. The communities in Long Island have a much longer road ahead of them than areas upstate, and with another possible seven weeks ahead, the urgency for essential residential construction work in the area is that much direr. 

Residential Construction and Job Dependency

Over 8,000 residential construction jobs are presently on hold in Long Island, something Suffolk County town supervisors and mayors are seeking to rectify in their recent letter to Gov. Cuomo. The letter acknowledges the severity of the need to help stem the tide of COVID-19 but underscores that the housing crisis did not vanish in that time. 

One of the main reasons demand for Cuomo to reclassify residential construction is a matter of nationwide precedent. No other state in the union has made residential construction non-essential. Meanwhile, projects to build houses, apartments, and senior living remain shuttered. Long Islanders are awaiting homes or watching their current, unfinished homes deteriorate while construction stalls and laborers wait to return to their careers and care for their own homes and families. 

Essential Residential Construction: The Work That Comes with It

The number of available jobs has the potential to skyrocket provided that residential construction is deemed as essential as officials insist that it is. These would include:

  • New construction. There is, of course, new construction that seeks to help alleviate an ongoing housing crisis. Everything from houses to apartments and condos for people at all income levels remain a need, but not all can be deemed an affordable housing project. 
  • Senior living. While affordable housing is deemed essential, as are senior health care facilities, senior residential facilities are not. 
  • Remodels and rebuilds. Many currently-standing homes with set plans for remodels and major refurbishments (such as roof installation) have been on hold for months and exposing properties to the elements. Although not deemed fit for emergency construction, despite that high-rise and other urban construction projects receive exceptions to prevent the same kind of structural deterioration and damage. 

As far as locals, laborers, and officials in Long Island are concerned, there is everything to gain for their respective communities from making residential construction essential. Provided proper social distancing guidelines are followed and enforced just as they are in other essential construction jobs; they believe there is little reason to differentiate them. 


Rockefeller Plaza Reconstruction, Plan Approval, and the Future

One of the most well-known locations in New York City has been going over possible plans for a little revitalization. With proposals going through the Landmarks Preservation Commission over the last few months, the main aim was to improve foot traffic and overall flow to the area. Many submitted their plans in the hopes that their creative vision would be the one to transform the famed landmark. It was in late April that the LPC finally approved a plan from developer Tishman Speyer and architectural firm Gabellini Sheppard Associates. The project’s approval status was up in the air for a while, especially since it went back for some changes in January, but all appear to be ready to move forward. 

Rockefeller Plaza: A History

Rockefeller Center spans some 22 acres with almost 20 commercial buildings, and the famous plaza is the home to the iconic statue of Prometheus by Paul Manship, an ice rink, and a seasonal Christmas tree whose lighting is a major event drawing thousands every year. The site was home to several notable locations before Rockefeller Center existed, including botanical gardens before ownership ceded to Columbia University. The Metropolitan Square Corporation formed in the 1920’s, involving John D. Rockefeller Jr. 

Plans were to move the Metropolitan Opera there, but the stock market crash dashed these plans. Rockefeller instead brought in RCA, NBC, and RKO to start a mass entertainment complex. His efforts were memorialized when the official name of the site changed to Rockefeller Center in 1931. Today its legacy as an entertainment mecca continues, and the approved plans to revitalize the location will allow more visitors to enjoy what it has to offer. 

What Will the Current Plans Take to Finish? 

The plans, as the developers have revealed, will connect the concourse and the sunken plaza once again, helping to improve the flow of foot traffic. Still, it aims to increase the available seating in the area, as well as landscaping. The John D. Rockefeller Jr. monument is also going to be relocated to the southern part of the Channel Gardens and the pools. As a result, its current location hopes to see less congestion. 

The scope of the changes will call for expertise from a number of trades. This will include:

  • Increased greenery. Plans cover the inclusion of multiple planters all over the plaza, including both permanent, tiered installations that will outline the plaza and seasonal, removable ones for warmer seasons. Contractors will need to construct new installations and also re-purpose or completely remove existing ones. 
  • Storefront restorations. Along the seasonal skating rink, developers intend to return to the historic storefronts that line the area, increasing line of sight and natural light for patrons inside and a more stylish curb appeal for passerby. 
  • A seasonal, fanning stairway. The current impression is that in the spring, summer, and early autumn, there will be a wide, open stairway to allow for an easier flow of traffic that can be removed once cold weather sets in and the ice rink opens. How this is to be implemented has yet to be revealed. 
  • New seating construction and new accessibility. Seating in the sunken plaza will be increased along its northern edge, and an enclosed elevator will be installed near here to take pedestrians to the street above. 

There is no official start date yet, but with construction resuming in many parts of the metro area, bids should be opening very soon. It will be any firm’s game once the race to groundbreaking begins. 


World’s Largest Gene and Cell Therapy Facility Planned in PA

Plans are underway for Center for Breakthrough Medicines (CMB), a 680,000 square-foot gene and cell therapymanufacturing facility at the Discovery Labs in Upper Merion Township, PA. CBM would be the largest gene and cell therapy manufacturing facility in the world. The $500 million Discovery Labs include customizable lab space. The campus, which is being used by some companies during renovations, is expected to add a hotel for visiting scientists and medical collaborators, as well as a restaurant and other amenities.

Used for research, development, and commercialization of therapies, the ambitious CMB requires $1.1 billion in funding. When the plan was announced, some believed raising that amount of money was unrealistic, but there will no doubt be more interest in medical research and development thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic. And the interest and need for such work will require more facilities.

The CBM will be built in the former GlaxoSmithKline lab space. Plans call for the hiring of 2,000 people over the next two and a half years.