Author Archives: Chris Colabella

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The new water treatment facility is part of an effort to clean New York City’s waterways and move away from an outdated combined sewer overflow (CSO) system that flushes most wastewater into NYC’s nearby rivers and coastlines.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. 

 

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. 

 

Major Long Island Rail Road Connection Among 250+ Construction Projects Still Active Through MTA

It was a year ago that New Yorkers first saw a significant leap forward for the ongoing East Side Access project when Governor Cuomo took an interest. Optimistic eyes looked to a 2022 completion date for a longed-for addition to the metro area’s mass transit system that would connect Long Island commuters directly to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Some people have wondered whether the project would be stopped due to restrictions 

The East Side Access project, alongside more than 250 other major Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) undertakings, still maintains its forward momentum. This steady uptick in work comes with the MTA’s assurances that infection rates among their workers are low and that measures are taken at every job site to maintain healthy, safe standards. 

How the MTA’s East Side Access Project Continues to Move Forward

The first stirrings of ideas for this connection date all the way back to the 1950’s, and the current East Side Access project certainly takes some inspiration from that. With more than eight miles of tunnel, according to the MTA, its full scope stretches to work sites in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. It is one of the largest active transportation infrastructure projects in the entire country, and once completed, it stands to serve over 160,000 customers each day. 

The question is when completion will happen, and how the MTA intends to get there given current regulations. No official new deadline has been announced, giving the impression that 2022 is still that year to look forward to. 

In the meantime, workflow and management has changed significantly to afford a safe but productive work environment, including:

  • Re-organizing staff and working crews to keep them separate during working hours. 
  • Arranging shifts in such a way that a sufficient set of contractors can be on site without too close proximity. 
  • Daily disinfecting of tools and equipment.
  • Strict, stringent policies on temperature checks and reports of any unusual symptoms. No one who is sick is permitted to work. 
  • Site visits conducted via GoPro, allowing safety and other inspections to continue unabated without increasing the number of people present.

Final, Encouraging News: Low Infection Rate Among MTA Construction Workers

The standards the MTA holds to its firms appear to be effective if the numbers are to be believed. MTA chief development officer Janno Lieber has gone on record stating that only 95 out of 5,400 consultants and contractors working for the MTA in their construction department have tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been no deaths in this department, either. With rising concerns among workers regarding risk of sickness and spreading it to others, even as an asymptomatic carrier, it is important and encouraging to see places where social distancing and other safety measures are working. 

Regardless of whether those numbers will change in the future, progress on East Side Access, as well as other major endeavors, carry on throughout the metro area. As a number itself, 2022, continues to look like a hopeful one.

 

Some Essential New York Construction Projects Pausing Amid Safety Concerns and Rising Debts

The number of construction jobs that continue in the New York City metro area, despite the stop order on non-essential work, with government records shows over 1,000 projects still in progress when CISLeads reported on this topic at the start of the month. The map shown in that April 6th publication has ballooned to over 4,000open projects. Key among these are affordable housing ventures, a stipulation that has kept many residential projects going despite the shutdown. However, a growing trend that’s beginning to crop up is that, for safety’s sake, several affordable housing contracts are either slowing or pausing in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. There is also a growing concern that delays are going to cause rising debt problems for construction firms as lenders eye upcoming deadlines.

Why Are These Essential Construction Projects Still Shutting Down? 

Affordable housing is considered an essential part of construction, where other forms of residential construction are not, because it serves an already existing, but growing, demand for housing at a time of financial crisis. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, below-market-priced housing remained a primary concern for New Yorkers and found its way into the blueprints of many a project, as you can see in these four posts from the past year: (1) Making Every Floor Count (2)  Manhasset Square Redevelopment, (3) Bronx Point Complex and (4) Transforming Flushing. This need can only increase in a time of economic anxiety and massive shutdowns to contain the spread of coronavirus. 

The fact that some of even these essential projects are pausing indefinitely is an understandable reason for concern. Around the 12th of April, it was reported that at least 28 affordable housing ventures have volunteered to shut down. Ron Moelis, CEO of L+M Development Partners, stated that protecting his workers from undue exposure was at the height of his concerns, and it was for their safety that he chose to pause his firm’s tasks. Leaders at the New York Building Congress noted that the struggle is similar for many companies in the field. One must decide between finished sites that provide much-needed resources to the people of New York and the health and protection of their laborers, and a balance must be maintained. 

As deadlines continue to loom for some of these projects, with lenders keeping a close eye, some experts have speculated a potential danger for the construction industry in general. While Bloomberg reports that most banks acknowledge that now is not the time to turn antagonistic about debts, questions of timely return of investment remain. 

How Are the Remaining Open Projects Handling The Workload in Pandemic Conditions?

It is important to note that the earlier-mentioned reporting suggested around 30 stopped projects, but this is 30 out of more than 300 still open. Related Corporate Properties, for instance, is one such firm with projects still running, most notably Hudson Yards, and their example seems to be common. A representative from the firm reported that the site has fewer than 12 workers on site, all of whom submit to regular screenings for fever, wear protective gear, and sanitize the work area regularly. A staff of this size may seem untenable to the casual onlooker, but it is the price of progress while maintaining safe social distancing and cleanliness at this time. 

Whether more firms will press toward their deadlines or choose to pause for safety’s sake remain to be seen. The landscape for essential construction work will likely be ever-changing in the coming weeks. 

 

Construction Comes to a Close for the Cove in Long Island City

At the hind end of March, just ahead of the stop-work order for all non-essential construction, at least one major project managed to beat the clock, with only a few finishing touches needed for the entrance, sidewalk, and a few interiors. The Cove, situated at 43-12 Hunter Street in Long Island City, has reached its full height. 

With 30 percent of its rental units listed as affordable housing, it is very likely (though as of this publication unconfirmed) that the remainder of its needs for full completion will be met. Construction projects involving affordable housing are among those deemed still essential as COVID-19 continues to keep many ventures closed, including residential developments. 

A Timeline for the Cove’s Ongoing Construction

The Cove’s long journey to completion truly began three years ago, when plans by Rockrose Development were first announced in April of 2017. The seeds for this project were sown when Rockrose purchased the property for $1 million back in 2006, with plans to develop new rental space across the street from another Rockrose-developed property, the Hayden, a luxury rental property. When the plans were officially announced, SLCE Architects was the firm attached to the design, who further report that interiors are by Slade Architecture

Ground broke in early 2018, with excavation complete by July of that year, which is also when the first renderings of the Cove, previously dubbed “the Triangle,” were revealed to the public. Reports at this stage show that it was conceived as a mixed-use space early in its development, featuring luxury amenities but also retail space on the ground floor. No mention of affordable housing is present in reports made by March of 2019, when roughly half the structure’s curtain wall had been fully assembled. 

News that 30 percent of the apartments would be affordable housing would not come until September of 2019, when reports began to officially refer to the project as the Cove, likely owing to the growing demand for such initiatives in the metro area. 

What Can Be Found in the Finished Cove? 

The Cove, fully completed, rises 18 stories of reinforced concrete, spanning roughly 90 thousand square feet and some change. Within that structure, the following will be found:

  • 4,000 square feet of retail space;
  • 123 rental units; 30 percent of them (about 37 units) will be designated as affordable housing;
  • Studio, 1-bath apartments averaging 505 square feet;
  • 1-bed, 1-bath apartments averaging 705 square feet;
  • 2-bed, 2-bath apartments averaging 815 square feet;
  • A residential lounge for simple public gatherings;
  • An outdoor rooftop terrace; and
  • A fitness center.

In the Cove, while there are some smaller projects still yet to finish, most have to do with services that might not be deemed essential, such as retail and fitness centers. Currently, open rentals in the space are still pending, but this may be subject to change in the near future as the need for housing continues in spite of a pandemic.

Hudson Yards Construction – An Update, Latest Progress

First breaking ground in 2012, the 28-acre Hudson Yards project remains New York City’s single largest private real estate venture in the metropolis and even the nation at large. Its progress in the ensuing eight years has been incremental, coming together through multiple single projects. It presently stands near the end of its first phase, with the final half to follow. 

In the last year, CISLeads posted previously about the opening of the final phase of the High Line, a floating oasis that connects via the Coach Passage to this ongoing, monumental project, where recent developments give us a new look into Hudson Yards’ future and the future of its projects. 

Two Major Hudson Yards Structures Continue to Rise

In late March, it was reported that 450 Eleventh Avenue was finally reaching street level. The proposed 531-room hotel at its completion will rise to a height of just over 480 feet, and as with many skyscrapers, a steady base is needed, and this is the part of this particular construction project that is beginning to come to a close, at long last. Walls for the foundation appear to be finished, and work on the ground floor slab, as of the 21st of March, seems ready to begin. 

Perhaps the second most notable new structure taking shape in the Hudson Yards project is that of 50 Hudson Yards, significant because it is the final part of phase 1. Set in midtown, 50 Hudson Yards is set to far outpace 450 Eleventh Avenue’s apex at a gargantuan 1,011 feet in height. This project is coming together quickly, with it almost doubling in height since December. Construction will center around shaping this giant into 2.9 million square feet of leasable commercial space.

While both buildings are set to be completed in 2022, the city’s recent stop work order on all nonessential construction work may change this; either project may be continuing labor for the sole purpose of finishing any phases that would be dangerous to leave undone

The Related Company Seeks Federal Funding to Complete Second Half of Hudson Yards Project

With phase 1 set to finish in the next two years, eyes are already turning toward a smooth transition into phase 2. Stephen Ross, a real estate developer best known for the Time Warner Center development with The Related Company firm that he chairs, has been rallying in the hopes of securing federal money to bolster phase 2 of this extensive project. A loan to the tune of a little more than $1 billion is needed to kick off this last part of the project, which promises a multitude of construction projects extending into the next decade. It is moving forward in conjunction with Amtrak. At present, sources suggest that this is because the funding they are seeking requires cooperation with the local railroad in order to be viable. No official reports have been released since the stop work order on nonessential construction.

The Future: Years of Potential

Phase 1 is set to finish after 10 years of hard work, from groundbreaking to the final plate of glass installed. While many of these smaller projects promise to carry forward for at least another couple years, they are part of a larger whole that, if phase 2 is as extensive as the first, may show up to another ten years of additional work for New York construction workers. With recent orders to halt nonessential construction, interested parties will have to listen for updates on this long and ongoing project.

New York Construction – What Remains Essential?

While the coronavirus epidemic began with hopes to return to normal operations at the start of April, the deadline continues to be pushed back as the reality of its spread throughout the US became more and more apparent. The state of New York has reported 123,000 cases and 4,259 deaths as of this writing, according to Worldometers. At the tail-end of March, Governor Andrew Cuomo added to his PAUSE program by issuing an order that all non-essential construction labor come to an immediate halt, with violators potentially liable to up to $10,000 in fines. 

What Counts as Essential Construction?

The new order would suspend most commercial and residential construction, with a few noted exceptions. This has left many firms and laborers wondering what projects will remain open, as this is likely to shape the face of the New York construction scene for some time to come. Essential projects would include any of the following: 

  • Infrastructure projects including roads and bridges, utilities, and transit systems like the subways.
  • Affordable housing and homeless shelter projects are permitted to continue. 
  • Emergency sites, such as hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare facilities in development can continue. 
  • Construction projects that would typically be deemed non-essential but count as emergencies, ie, to halt construction and leave it unfinished would be unsafe in its current state. Work may continue until it is safe to shut down the site.

Sites that are not equipped to maintain health and social distancing guidelines, even when they meet the criteria of an essential project, must also close. The government mandate also specifies that single workers, or people who are the “sole employee/worker on a job site” do not fall under construction work under these rules. There is no official confirmation that this means they are banned, but if it is not deemed construction work, then it can’t be deemed essential construction work. 

Major Projects in New York City Still Underway, Plus New Developments

Those curious about what ongoing projects remain essential can consult a map provided by the state’s Department of Buildings. Presently, over 1,000 essential projects are still running and can be navigated on the map by project type and location. 

Most notable are new developments underway, approved to help extend healthcare to New York’s most vulnerable at this time. Multiple temporary hospitals are in the works throughout the state, including the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on Staten Island. It will add 750 hospital beds to care for patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Additional locations are coming together to handle non-COVID-19 affected patients in order to handle overflow, creating more space within hospitals to house the infected. 

Construction in New York City – Moving Forward

With only essential projects remaining open, construction work is taking a sharp turn away from largely residential and commercial projects for the time being. Laborers on open sites are still expected to social distance, and observe all precautions regarding cleanliness and personal health. 

Senate Approves Relief Package to Include Paid Sick Leave to Workers

Late this afternoon the Senate passed the bill sent from the House with overwhelming support 90 – 8.  Read more about this and the status of the promised stimulus package on The Washington Post

To help you understand exactly what this bill will mean to workers and employers of all sizes, take a look at this straightforward article in Business Insider

The Nassau Hub—Years in the Making and Still Taking Shape

BSE Global and RXR Realty have been hard at work for some time now, creating their vision of a “new suburbia”around the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The land waiting to transform presently makes up around 70 acres of parking lots, and the dream is a mixed-mixed use, walkable downtown area. 

RXR Realty is behind a number of major developments in the New York City metro area. The firm manages a wide array of commercial properties and investments, as well as numerous multi-family residential developments. BSE Global specializes in innovative entertainment venues, overseeing properties like Barclays Center, NYCB Live, and LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre. Combining their joint efforts, investors and locals alike hope to see the area around the Coliseum booming with economic activity among visitors and residents alike. 

What’s Been Keeping the Nassau Hub Project So Delayed?

There were previous attempts to develop the land, most notably the Lighthouse Project in 2004, just one effort by Nassau County in the ensuing years to revitalize the area, so the forward momentum in the current project is encouraging. 

The current plan helmed by BSE Global and RXR Realty first took root in September of 2018 when the initial plans were released to the public. The ball did not begin to roll, however, until December of that year, when the Nassau County Legislature passed the development plan agreement. The efforts to fund the project since have been the work of just over a year, all told, with the latest news showing the first major kickoff will be the construction of parking garages, recently funded from the state. 

The Nassau Hub: The Vision and What Remains

The finished site, presently dubbed the Hub Innovation District, will leave the heart of Nassau County with more than just the Coliseum that these efforts will grow around. It will combine housing, retail, and outdoor green space, placing new residents and businesses within mere steps of local sports. The 2020 master plan includes the following features

  • Two parking garages with 6,000+ spaces total, as well as around 6,000 offsite parking spaces for Hub patrons. 
  • Additional entertainment venues including an 600-seat multiplex, multiple restaurants, and a 57,000 square foot performing arts center.
  • An 850-room hotel complex. 
  • An anchor tenant in Northwell Health, who will construct a research and development center. 
  • Multiple retail and office spaces. 
  • Three residential spaces, totaling 500 housing units, each measuring around 1250 square feet, aimed at keeping millennials and working-class locals in the county.
  • Outdoor green space for leisure and pedestrian travel.

Reports in the last month have suggested that one of the next major steps in the Nassau Hub development is to pass its town review. Developers are seeking permission to rezone, finishing an environmental assessment, and presenting multiple blueprints. BSE and RXR are hoping to break ground a year from now at the latest and as soon as the end of this 2020. There are plans even beyond completion to continue building to bring in more retail and office spaces.