Author Archives: Chris Colabella

Queens Plaza Park (Sven) Residential Tower Passes Halfway Mark in Construction

The 25th tallest structure forming in the metro area, Queens Plaza Park (also dubbed Sven) passed its halfway mark in recent weeks, finally beginning to resemble the signature curved shape that’s appeared in concepts since the project first made news as far back as 2015

Were it not for delays, it would have been the first supertall skyscraper outside of Manhattan. Originally conceived as a hotel an economic downturn led to the site’s multiple changes of hands. Its current holders include the Durst Organization as developers and Handel Architects as the main designers. 

Sven at a Glance: Taking Shape in Long Island City

Located at 27-29 Queens Plaza North and one of several buildings that will rise in the complex, Sven’s design includes a curved, concave appearance. Its unique role will be to frame the landmarked Long Island City Clock Tower, presently undergoing renovations that include 50,000-square feet of commercial and retail space. Sven curently stands a dizzying 67 stories, with a glass curtain wall rising over the structure in recent reports as construction continues at a steady pace. When finished, the semi-circular skyscraper will include, among other things:

  • Nearly 1 million square feet of space in total.
  • Over 950 residences, more than 200 of which will be designated as affordable housing. 
  • Design choices by Selldorf Architects, deciding the interior’s aesthetic from the ground floor to the penthouse. 
  • An outdoor pool and a 20,000-square foot fitness center.
  • A private residential library for all tenants to use, as well as a children’s playroom and a demonstration kitchen.

According to the architect’s website, other notable features include a facade at the main residential entrance that directly echoes the look of the Clock Tower, as well as half an acre of park area to the north of the building. 

What Remains Before the Project is Completed?

With a year at the most left to finish, much of the buildings outer facade has yet to be completed. Views from Roosevelt Island and elsewhere show the general shape is visible, but the many windows catching light from every angle are only beginning the installation. Structurally, the skeleton is there, and this should imply that the interiors, with all wiring, surfacing, and other smaller projects to be finished, are near to commencing. 

Along with interior and exterior features to finish, the park area to develop, as well as parking, forming the swimming pool, landscaping, and other demands are going to call for a number of hands and a litany of tradespeople. 

This particular arm of Queens Plaza Park should be wrapping up construction sometime in 2020. However, this is only one building among several area transformations on the horizon, as a 2001 rezoning opened the area up for development, as reported back in 2015. What further projects are in store for the area have yet to be announced, but new developments may bring still more residents and jobs in with them. 

 

Construction Firms Sue New York and MTA for Unfair Contractor Regulations

A set of “emergency regulations” for New York construction firms and contractors happened to find their way into a city budget proposal earlier in the year (N.Y. Senate Bill S1509c, January 18, 2019) and extended twice by Mayor Cuomo, and the reception has boiled from cold and reserved tension to heated contempt for some builders in the state. 

The apparent aim of the regulations is to penalize firms and contractors for delays and expenditures that go over budget for infrastructure projects. In late November, the Alliance for Fair and Equitable Contracting Today (AFFECT), a not-for-profit organization that represents engineering and construction firms, filed suit against the state and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, alleging the unconstitutionality of the new regulations. 

The Emergency Regulations and the Issue, Explained

The regulations in question create a debarment statute, which would obligate the MTA to enact 5-year bans on contractors from bidding on future projects if the firm in question didn’t finish the project in what is deemed a “timely manner” or if production costs exceed their budget by greater than 10 percent. 

As outlined in the full text of AFFECT’s suit, the issues with the regulations are as follows: 

  • The regulations in question, despite two renewals, were not published until November 6, 2019. This adds up to nearly a year of these rules being legally enforceable, with no public commentary or debate before they were even proposed, a possible violation of Due Process. 
  • The regulations affect contracts signed and established before they were legally in effect, which allegedly violates the Contract Clause. 
  • Debarment becomes a possibility if contractors don’t complete a project within a proposed timeframe or appears they might fail, when budgets are exceeded by 10 percent, or when a contractor only tries to claims costs that exceed that 10 percent. 
  • AFFECT cites that there is no discretion granted in the application, even if there’s evidence that the firm “acted in good faith, or that the debarment would be unfair or contrary to public interest.”
  • Debarment can also affect any affiliates of the firm, even if they had absolutely nothing to do with what brought about the issue in question (another possible violation of Due Process).

AFFECT states that debarment is a “death penalty” to contractors because it doesn’t just affect their work in the state of New York; it can also blackball them from projects nationwide. Project bids are frequently considered alongside a bidder’s debarment history, which means a firm banned from further bids in New York might be unable to secure public works projects anywhere. The group further argues that these regulations substantially harm construction firms’ First Amendment rights by making it dangerous to petition their government and make claims in good faith without repercussion. 

Is There a Ready Solution?

As CISLeads discussed and reported in early October, delays and budget overages are more likely to be the case for open-ended infrastructure projects, which:

  • Have no set deadline and are to be completed with as much time is needed;
  • Are shown to take an average of 500 days to complete;
  • On average, can finish up at nearly double the proposed budget; and
  • Despite these long timelines often have set bids and budgets. 

The findings reported suggest that structuring infrastructure projects around single and bundled projects can reduce costs and are likely to finish in a more timely manner. Mayor Cuomo also suggests that a “design-build” policy for future projects, which privatizes not only construction but also the designs for infrastructure projects, will save money, though there is some argument that it is not more effective. 

The data might be suggesting overall, however, that stopping budget overages and completing projects in a timely manner begins in the planning stages before firms even step in to make their bids, yet the first legislated solution to this issue has been to punish the firms. They will have to wait and see if the courts agree with this move. 

 

Long Island Update: Belmont Arena Development Commences, Defeats Temporary Restraining Order

Back in September, CISLeads reported with some optimism that the forthcoming Belmont Arena, the soon-to-be new home of the Islanders hockey team, would bring business and sports back to the area. Along with plans for a 19,000-person capacity arena, a 250-room hotel, and 350,000 square feet of retail space, the project itself was projected to create 3,500 jobs. 

Breaking ground a month later, the project has seen at least two lawsuits in the hopes of halting construction, first in the area of the planned hotel, and now more recently from the citizens of nearby Floral Park. Previous suits claimed that environmental impact reports filed for the project failed to take into account noise and traffic for nearby residents. 

What Were the Details of the Restraining Order, and What Happened?

In October, sources revealed that the citizens of Floral Park filed for a temporary restraining order for certain aspects of Belmont Arena construction with the potential to halt or severely delay completing parts of the project on schedule. 

Their suit hoped to bar developers from doing the following: 

  • Constructing underground walls on-site or “sheet pile driving.” 
  • Stop using the east part of the north lot in Belmont Park for staging construction and other project-related equipment and vehicles.
  • Stop using Plainfield Avenue (in Floral Park) for moving construction vehicles.

Attorneys for the village argued that the above issues have led to a number of adverse impacts on the local environment for citizens, including upsets to traffic and noise pollution from constant work. They believe the environmental impact report skipped over key hurdles and ignored these potential outcomes. 

Project overseers, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), state that their environmental impact study took place over a period of two years and insist that it was more than thorough enough. A state Supreme Court justice ruled to agree with ESDC in early November, denying the restraining order. Judge Roy Mahon ruled that local construction was not proven to be causing “irreparable harm” as their suit is quoted to have alleged. 

Belmont Arena – The Progress So Far

To the relief of developers and contractors on the project, no halting, even a temporary one, appears to be in the cards. Sterling Project Development’s managing partner Richard Browne stated in court papers that had the judge not ruled as he had, even a small delay would have prevented construction from finishing in time for the Islanders 2021-22 season. “Every day counts,” he said.

As of right now, Belmont Arena’s development has been running on a tight schedule. Just two months since the official groundbreaking on September 23rd, most official news since then has involved season ticket holders and locals celebrating the event. 

As of the writing of this article, live cam footage of the site shows a vast area teeming with construction vehicles and a landscape swiftly changing in preparation for the complexes that will rise in the next couple of years. 

The project continues ever-on, and with enthusiasm from Islanders fans cheering contractors on and an eye constantly on their efforts, curious onlookers can watch the planned arena unfold in real-time, with no scheduled delays in sight.

 

MTA and Midtown Manhattan Tuck in for 20-Year Infrastructure Project

Midtown, one of Manhattan’s most active and tumultuous neighborhoods in the area of Grand Central Station, will at last see much-needed infrastructure repairs beginning May of 2020. 

What has everyone talking is the size and breadth of the project, which is not projected to come to a close until 2040. While there is some concern regarding closures due to the construction both above and below ground, developers have assured that this will be done “a few blocks at a time” to keep obstructions to a minimum. Locals, especially those working and living along Park Avenue, will likely want to keep abreast of developments as they come and adjust their routines accordingly. 

The Basics of the Project

In total, the project has a budget of around $2 billion, before any considerations for inflation

This, over a period of two decades, is expected to cover a number of necessary repairs and updates. This will include:

  • Repairs to the MTA train shed. This is a matter that’s been under serious discussion for at least the last year. The two-story underground terminal for Grand Central’s Metro North cars has been victim to water damage from leaking water and salt. A major challenge in updating this beyond simple patches that delay a larger repair is that it sits directly under Park Avenue. Tishman Construction Corp is slated to handle phase one of this portion of the project.
  • The tunnels will be overhauled for connections to Grand Central. These are specifically those that run under Midtown East, including a 1.8 mile viaduct through Park Avenue. 
  • Bridge repairs. Bridges that support the thoroughfare’s side streets, running from East 45th and East 57th, will, at last, see some needed TLC. 

More details have yet to be released regarding what else this will entail, but readers can expect to see them unfold as groundbreaking approaches in the coming months. 

Besides 20 Years, What Will It Take to Finish? 

It’s difficult to predict where two decades of construction will go, in full, but while some are wringing their hands over the protracted timeline, it’s good news for developers and contractors. While it is doubtful that any one company or group of companies will helm every phase, it means 20 years of competitive bids and the potential for structured, steady work ahead for everyone involved. 

The train shed repairs, which is likely to be the most forthcoming of the different project phases, looks to be challenging in its own right in the number of different disciplines that may be called for. There’s talk of taking up parts of the road above, so demolition is likely. 

Repaving is likely only one small part of the kind of work that will need to be done with concrete, brick, and masonry both above and below ground. It is likely that addressing the tunnel and bridge repairs will come with similar issues, but it’s not just the stone that makes up these places. Electrical, plumbing, drainage, and track will also come into the equation. 

Whatever the case, keep a weather eye out for new developments for the foreseeable future.

Smithtown Park Areas and More to See $10 Million in Major Refurbishes

In Suffolk County, the community of Smithtown is hoping to see incoming improvements in the next couple of years. Their hope, says Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim, is that phase one “incrementally” addresses some standing projects that have been waiting a long time to get underway. 

Among many projects awaiting completion (or even just updating) include the local water manes, Flynn Memorial Park, the town’s senior center and animal shelter, and more. This comes on the back of efforts in recent years to fund and refurbish other park areas in the Suffolk area, including Nesconset’s Joseph Andreoli Park and Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James, both of which just celebrated grand reopenings after over $1 million in funding. 

What Are the Main Details of the Budget?

The major buzz about this latest budget proposal centers mostly around its increase in comparison to previous years. Compared to last year, the city would be seeing a $4 million increase, and this is said to feed a number of municipal needs, including:

  • At least $1.5 million in the operating fund tax levy is going toward absorbing spikes in health insurance costs for city employees.
  • $4 million is split into two packages goes toward Flynn Memorial Park. 
  • Another $2.4 million will fund water main replacement at St. James’ Lake Avenue. 
  • The senior center in town, as well as the animal shelter and nearby properties at Jericho turnpike will receive about $850,000 in landscape and structure updates that should give the area have a more communal, “campus”-like feel. 

A vote on the funds is expected to come late November 2019, according to the most recent sources available.

Flynn Memorial Park’s Facelift

The updates to the Daniel J. Flynn Memorial Park come with a goal in mind, something reflecting its richer history in community development. Once a stop for the region’s top ball teams, it has fallen into more significant disrepair over the years, with no major changes made since its dedication in 1979. The plan is the restore this hub for sports fans to its former glory. 

Some immediate improvements developers have planned are:

  • Regrading and resurfacing all four of the park’s fields;
  • LED field lighting;
  • New fencing and a new drainage system so that games can resume more quickly after rain;
  • A hub building containing bathrooms and concessions stands on the ground floor; and
  • A new playground in a central location will be erected to replace the one recently demolished.

What Will It Take to Complete These Projects?

Along with all the changes to take place in Flynn Memorial Park over the next two years, laborers will also have to contend with the water main installation and the exterior updates to the locations near Jericho Turnpike. Those that take on the upcoming projects will have several jobs to complete. 

  • Landscaping appears to be one of the most notable projects coming up in most areas: whether it’s resurfacing ball fields, updating the scenery, or simply covering over any installations made underground, it will be present at virtually all sites in early and late stages of the projects.
  • Building exteriors around the senior center and nearby sites, in keeping with a “campus” feel, will likely be resurfaced to reflect a similar aesthetic. Working with concrete and bricklaying is definitely likely to come up.
  • The drainage and water main changes call for similar expertise—pipes and drainage will be installed, and this will call for excavating old systems in need of replacing and temporarily displacing anything that sits on top of it. 

Teams that can tackle all of these and more should be looking forward to another 1 to 2 years of steady work in the future.

 

Steinway Tower Taking Its Final Shape as World’s Most Slender Skyscraper

With a long and troubled road since it broke ground in 2014, Steinway Tower, at last, approaches its finish line in the looming year of 2020. This unique skyscraper takes its name and inspiration from the historic landmark Steinway Hall, a building that the developers both moved for the construction of this high-rise and then fully restored. At the site of 111 West 57th Street, where once the manufacturers of pianos once walked, Billionaire’s Row now gazes up at the thinnest skyscraper ever constructed, and in the next year, it will be fully complete.

Steinway Tower and Its Residences at a Glance

“He has the entire floor,” a New Yorker might say to a friend casually, as a way to tell someone just how well-to-do a person is. To occupy an entire floor of a high rise, with no neighbors through the wall— it’s something to dream of, certainly. For tenants taking up residence in this unique West 57th Street fixture of Billionaire’s Row, it’s not just the fantasy: it’s the standard. Reported to be twenty-four times taller than it is wide, there is only one residence per level.

Developers allowed the press to preview one of the finished condos last month, revealing a number of the features and fixtures that future tenants can look forward to. The 43rd-floor condominium, while not listed yet for sale, is of a similar size to the next unit up, which is listed at $29.5 million.

  • Press entered by way of private elevator entrance, and while it lives in a building famed for its slender shape, it sports a massive 4,500 square feet of living space. 
  • The three-bedroom residence featured an open concept kitchen and living area, with a full, symmetrical view of Central Park. 
  • In fact, if the room has a window, then it’s floor-to-ceiling and has a unique, expanded view of the city around it. 
  • Each bedroom, including the master has its own ensuite, and there is also an additional powder room for guests. 

The developers also promise amenities for future residents, including 24-hour concierge and doorman, a shared terrace, and an 82-foot swimming pool.

What Remains To Be Done?

At the end of October, the main structure of the building finally reached its final height of 1,428 feet. However, the upper floors, including residences and unfinished amenities, remain to be completed. 

Finishing the project will call for any of the following: 

  • For one, expect the same level of boutique luxury present in every other aspect of the building so far.
  • The building’s unique terracotta and bronze facade, a stark contrast from an area congested with steel and glass, will continue to its pinnacle now that the supports are set. 
  • Much of the above point will help to house the structural wonder that helps to keep the building stable in spite of its slender shape, namely the mass damper in the mechanical penthouse, weighing 800 tons, that keeps vibration and movement to a minimum. 

Any residences that remain to be finished in the upper floors will reflect similar, opulent features, and with plans even to add onto the lower levels of the structure for shopping, recital space, and more amenities, a 2020 deadline for the first tenants to move in will likely not be the end to construction.

Long Island: Private and Public Sectors Come Together to Save Stony Brook Creek from Environmental Disaster

The beautiful natural landscape around Stony Brook Creek is finally looking forward to some long-needed rehabilitation. The hope, as private property owners, the communities of Brookhaven and Smithtown, and the governing bodies in Suffolk County join forces to improve this location, is to help local species of flora and fauna to flourish again and to make the waterways safe for recreational activities like boating and fishing. County legislature at present is looking to forward half the cost of the revitalization, which is estimated to total just over $500,000. 

What Created the Current State of Stony Brook Creek? 

The main troubles that the project aims to tackle are twofold: The first involves the current drainage system. According to local sources, this has led to stormwater from nearby Stony Brook Harbor emptying into the area, leading to siltation. 

Siltation is an often humanmade form of water pollution that harms the local ecosystem, an over-accumulation of silt (or mineral) deposits that can harm local fish and wildlife, change coastlines, raise water temperatures, shrink wetlands, and even increase flooding frequency. Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) remarked on concerns regarding changes to water quality that have been noted, including the presence of blue algae in local ponds, one example of “all sorts of discharge” that the runoff has caused. 

The second issue is that of an overgrowth of phragmites, a form of watergrass classified as invasive in this part of the world. Brought over from Europe, it outperforms local flora and chokes it out, thus shifting the balance of the local ecosystem and native biodiversity. Biodiversity ensures that every living organism in an area plays a role in maintaining and sustaining the environment. Without plant biodiversity, the needs of local organisms are thus left in the hands of a more limited supply of resources. Human hands doing their part to maintain local ecosystems keeps local parks and forest areas healthy. This underscores how important it is that so many local bodies have come together to help Stony Brook Creek thrive.

The Plan for Cleanup: Trimming Back Phragmite Growth

It was reported that the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) will be helming this part of the project. Suffolk County has awarded them a grant to tackle a pilot program for clearing away around 12,000 square feet of harmful concentrations of phragmite. Their innovative new method promises completion without the use of harmful chemicals or mechanical equipment. 

In fact, the entire process is done by hand, and WMHO has reported that in tests in smaller areas, there is very limited regrowth, giving local flora a fighting chance against an otherwise robust competitor for soil and nutrients.

The Plan for Cleanup: The New Drainage System

Probably the more costly arm of Stony Brook’s revitalization, installing a new drainage system will likely begin with disconnecting the four drain pipes that feed into the creek. The intent is to create a new system that will divert drainage away, and handled through crews of laborers and contractors hired by the Brookhaven Town Highway Department. Their jobs will be to: 

  • Construct 32 catch basins.
  • Install 2,300 linear feet of new drain pipe around town rights of way.
  • Use these drain pipes to divert runoff away from the creek and into more environmentally safe places, such as the wetlands that can naturally filter and distribute new sediment without impacting ecosystem. 

Both arms of the project are expected to commence in the winter of this year and continue through to completion by the summer of 2021.

ABC to Hold NJ Apprenticeship Seminar November 22 in Atlantic City

As of May 1, 2019, contractors who apply for or seek to renew their New Jersey public works contractor registration face a new and potentially game-changing requirement: mandatory participation in an apprenticeship program approved by the United States Department of Labor. Without it, a contractor will not be registered and will not be eligible to work on the vast majority of work subject to the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act. This means, without a valid registration – you CAN NOT bid public work.

This plain English, high-impact seminar will help your business prepare to continue doing public construction projects. Littler Shareholder Russ McEwan, who counsels extensively on state and federal prevailing wage compliance, will moderate our event and lead the discussions concerning this new law and its anticipated regulations. Kevin Triplett, of the NJ Department of Labor, will attend and take part in a 30-minute Q&A after the seminar.
The event will be held at Harrah’s Resort and Casino in Atlantic City NJ on Friday, November 22, 10:00 – 11:00 am, with registration beginning at 9:30. Attendees can expect to walk away from our program with a definitive understanding of what they must do to protect this aspect of their business.

Contact Lynn Bradley 609-439-2211 or email lbradley@abcnjc.org for more information

Lionsgate to Open Base of Operations to the East Coast with New Studio Complex

The Sixth Borough will soon be home to a production complex for Lionsgate, the movie mega-giant behind popular series like the SAW franchise, the Hunger Games, and many more. The space chosen sits along the Hudson River, close to the Yonkers train station. Working with Great Point Capital Management, a known media investment firm, Lionsgate is slated to become another major anchor tenant for the foreseeable future in Yonkers. While the firm has ties to other known studios like Hallmark Entertainment, Lionsgate will maintain naming rights as a minority investor. Projected to break ground in November, its planned completion time is late 2020. 

Why New York? 

According to the New York Times, over 300 movies were filmed in New York in the last year, triple the number filmed in 1980. Coming on the heels of other major studio moves (such as Steiner Studios, Robert DeNiro’s Wildflower Studios, and Netflix soon to follow), Lionsgate and other companies have a chance to save money with cheaper shooting locations and tax credits that they can’t find out in LA. In part, this has been spurred by the growing popularity of streaming services and high demand for content. 

Lionsgate is only one of several companies to move into the area, creating new and unique construction projects as they set up their bases of operations, and more are coming. 

Lionsgate Studios (Yonkers): The Plan So Far

Less than half an hour from Midtown, this will be one of the nearest studio locations to the heart of Manhattan. In the next year, the $100 million project calls for a number of unique spaces within the full complex. This will include

  • Three 20,000 square foot stages and two 10,000 square foot stages. 
  • A full studio backlot for expansive outdoor shots and locations.

As yet there are plans to leave space for further developments, and with an industry that has made millions and created tens of thousands of jobs in the last couple years, the sky is really the limit for what Lionsgate can do with the space. 

What Will It Take to Complete This Project?

For an undertaking of this size, a single-year deadline might seem tight, and much needs to be completed for the developers and tradespersons involved in this Great Point project. 

  • The five stages, for all their square footage, may represent the smallest part of the labor involved. If they’re designated as sound stages, then these open warehouse-like

Central Park’s North End to See $150 Million Restoration

The north end of Central Park, just past the 11-acre Harlem Meer is due for a little updating. Totaling a $150 million budget that will replace the vastly outdated Lasker Rink and Pool, this will be the largest restoration project the park has had to date, according to the Central Park Conservancy. Situated between Harlem Meer and the Loch, the Lasker Rink and Pool opened in 1966 and has remained a fixture of the area for over 50 years. In the long winters, the rink offers two ovals for skating, one for hockey and the other for all-ages skating, but during the summer, the outdoor venue becomes an admission-free swimming pool.

What Are Some of the Major Changes Coming?

Lasker Rink and Pool will be seeing several much-needed updates that developers hope to marry it with the surrounding areas and create more spaces for year-round use. As it currently stands, it serves as a concrete wall between the Meer and the ravine. Other changes are to include: 

  • A free-flowing, natural landscape and a re-established watercourse. Waterflow into the culvert under the Lasker rink, as it currently stands, presents problems with overflow and congestion during inclement weather. The parking lot behind the rink subsequently floods often and this change will bring a welcome end to this. 
  • Pedestrian paths will be restored around the area of Huddlestone Arch.
  • Boardwalks will be built around the watercourse to small islands and over a freshwater marsh, allowing visitors to enjoy every inch of it. 
  • Lasker Rink will be demolished and rebuilt, with the new pool and ice rink, including a recreational building with a green roof that blends into the surrounding area. The green roof will have the added benefit of helping to create more oxygen, absorbing excess rainwater, and insulating the establishment below. 
  • Materials from the old Lasker establishment will be recycled wherever possible, and the stairs and walkways will finally be brought up to ADA-compliant standards. 
  • The intent is to complete all of this with locally sourced and environmentally friendly materials. 

What Will It Take to Complete the Project?

The restoration project is set to begin in the Spring of 2021, after the Trump Organization’s 32-year contract for the run of the skating rink comes to an end. At present, the full completion of the north end will take a total of three years, expected to finish fully in 2024. With a project slated for a LEED Gold standard certification, there are a number of points to consider going forward for any developers and contractors that jump on board: 

  • For one, a LEED Gold certification means lower use of energy, water, and other resources, as well as higher resale value, greater health for tenants and environment, and more. 
  • The use of locally sourced materials helps local businesses and makes the community part of the project. 
  • Recycled materials from the older structures reduces waste and maintains part of the local history of the area. 
  • In this three-year undertaking, the landscape around the current rink and pool will have to change drastically, including reworking natural streams, introducing new vegetation, and more.
  • For the new structures and walkways, the aim will also be to use all of this to create walkways and places for people to frequent that make the area and the park as a whole more widely accessible.

 

With a little less than a year until ground breaks, bids are still coming in, and there may be more to come in terms of what the final plans will be.