Author Archives: Chris Colabella

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.

Hell’s Kitchen Condo, The West, Tops Out and Approaches Completion

Adding a unique silhouette to the skyline, a new condominium project appears to be edging toward a finish line, with construction topping out in February and its first renderings released to the public only a month prior. Dubbed the West, its design comes from the revered dutch architectural firm, Concrete, and this is reported to be their first condo development in the New York City area. Good press has surrounded a number of their other designs, including the Urby residents in Jersey City and Staten Island, as well as the first Virgin Cruise ship. 

What Are the Basic Details of the Project? 

Helmed by the joint efforts of CB Developers, SK Development and Ironstate Development under the name CBSK Ironstate, the finished, 12-story building will feature modern amenities akin to their Urby developments, but also going beyond them. The overall design aims to bring to mind the area’s historical ties to industry, with large windows, Dutch brick on the facade, and a clean, modern aesthetic, with features (and 25,000 square feet of amenities) that include:

  • 219 homes, ranging from single studios to sprawling 3-bedroom condos (the latter of which will have their own outdoor spaces).
  • A communal kitchen, cleverly called Hell’s Kitchen
  • A dog run for pet owners as well as a pet grooming station
  • A children’s play area
  • Bookable guest suites for visitors.
  • A rooftop swimming pool
  • A yoga studio
  • A gymnasium, and more. 

Most notable, and the aspect that most recently topped out, is the Cloud, the upper five stories of the building, which are distinct from the lower portion in their appearance of a geometric, floating living space. The all-glass facade is home to the condominium’s largest residences. Many of them have their own private terraces and will probably command the largest price tags. Starting prices are at $820,000 for a studio

What Remains to be Completed? 

Photos in late January showed the mere skeleton of the entire structure, and against the earlier-revealed renderings, it may be easier to visualize its image on completion. Construction continues as the facade, and the many interiors are assembled. With the bones of the Cloud in place and the building at its final apex, the complete picture can now begin to take shape. This will not just include wiring, windows, and walls that passerby can already see coming into view, but also the extensive level of landscaping, plumbing, and top-of-the-line materials and fixtures that condominiums of this value can be expected to have. 

Construction is expected to finish this year. Sales are set to begin in the Spring, ideally when enough units have been finished to offer a clearer picture of what the majority of units will look like. Since it is likely that the larger, more luxurious homes are situated up in the Cloud, they may wait to unveil until the upper floors are nearer to finished. New residents will be able to move in starting in early 2021.

Hicksville Downtown on Long Island Primed for Renovations

While many small villages and hamlets in the Long Island area have been undergoing massive upgrades, in Oyster Bay on Long Island, the downtown area of Hicksville has long awaited its opportunity for similar updates. A mixture of development delays and a lack of funds have left the most active railroad hub on the island locked in a bygone time, with crumbling facades and outdated buildings. It seems that at long last, Hicksville’s day has come, and several sources have come together to begin an overhaul that aims to transform the face of Hicksville’s downtown area for the better. 

A Template for the Future Downtown Hicksville

In late February, CBS reported that Hicksville marked the establishment of what they called their first “smart-growth” development in the downtown area. The previously vacant building had been reworked into a mixed-use space that has become popular in communities all over the metro area: shared workspace, with 18 new apartments situated above. Officials stated their belief that this would be the template for the renovations to come: a downtown area that is lived and worked in and alive. 

What Is Contributing to the Funding of the Hicksville Renovation?

Much of Hicksville’s upgrades are tied to its proximity to the Hicksville Long Island Railroad Station, so not surprisingly, part of this funding is coming straight from the Metro Transit Authority, including roughly $132 million invested in the station itself. Other sources report that Oyster Bay is in talks with the MTA to construct commuter parking near the station. 

This is not all, however. The Nassau County Office of Community Development has provided a $150,000 grant for “transit-oriented” improvements. Another, larger grant is coming from the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) nearing $10 million will help to fund the project going forward. 

What Are Some of the Major Details on This Project?

The renovation as it kicks off is going to call for a number of different, smaller projects that are needed to create the community vision that leaders and residents share alike. 

  • At least 10 new buildings are to be constructed in the area. 
  • One property adjacent to the Hicksville LIRR has recently been offered up as a space for potential “residential transit-oriented development.” 
  • The overall plans will incorporate increased access to transportation, including the upgrades to the transit areas like that proposed commuter parking, a “walkable” downtown map, and residences closer to the train station. 
  • New housing opportunities are attached at nearly every level of this, whether through mixed-use properties or the pressing for more homes for rent rather than for sale. 

In all of this, locals have emphasized a desire to maintain a more suburban look to the place and are generally averse to high raises and other new developments that feel more like what you find in larger nearby cities. For those firms pulled in to take part in the planning as they go forward, this may call for a little creativity. 

 

Mentoring Tomorrow’s Skilled Laborers and Business Owners

Year after year, the face of construction changes with aging infrastructure and buildings demanding attention from the contractor community and skilled labor force. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that 61,000 more construction jobs were open in 2018 over the same period in the previous year.

In 2017, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the largest network of craftsmen, innovators, and problem-solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities, conducted a survey and discovered 82 percent of respondents believe the availability and cost of labor will be an issue. 

Fast-forward three years to today, and NAHB membership was not mistaken. The challenge to meet the demand for skilled laborers, at an affordable cost, is nearly impossible, and the industry is feeling the effects, presenting an obstacle that requires a solution. 

Arthur Corwin, President of Railroad Construction Company, Inc., (RCC) in Paterson, NJ, states, “Our country has to repair its infrastructure. However, the construction industry lacks the capacity with both skilled craft labor and qualified contractors and subcontractors to safely complete the magnitude of work that is demanding our attention. What better way to fill this void than with an outreach program to MWSDVOBs. We all need this program to be successful if we are going to rebuild our nation.”

RCC is tackling this roadblock head-on, recognizing the answer far surpasses a quick fix. Established in 1926, RCC has developed from a railroad track construction and maintenance contractor into a complete turnkey operation, providing civil construction of facilities, bridges, highways, site work, and utilities. With nine decades in the industry, RCC is familiar with adversity and prepared to do what is required to provide the industry with skilled laborers who are equipped with the necessary resources to be successful.

After months of brainstorming and planning, RCC, along with coordinating and managing partners AEC Business Strategies and LDA Consulting, Inc. established the RCC “Training”-Express Mentor Program. 

The goal of the program is to foster effective long-term business relationships between women, minorities, and service-disabled owned veteran businesses in construction. Furthermore, promoting a diverse workforce. The team believes creating entrepreneurs and skilled laborers will foster new business and meet the demand to provide skilled laborers at a reasonable cost. 

Benefits of Diversity in Construction

Construction relies heavily on teamwork, and studies show that diverse teams are more engaged with one another. With the workforce becoming more diverse, companies will be ahead of the trend.

“There is a lot of competition in this industry, and there are many qualified people who perform a commercially useful function that struggle to compete with companies that have been in the industry for 20 years,” states Catherine Best. 

The goal of any company is to hire the best people. It is imperative that construction companies hire the most qualified workers, but why not create a pool of people from which to choose? 

According to a Gallup report, removing bias from the interview process and hiring on talent or skill alone, leads to 41 percent less absenteeism, 59 percent less turnover, and 70 percent fewer incidents.

Diverse Skills of Diversity Hires

Construction workers need to utilize critical reasoning skills to assess and fix problems. 

Diversity hires bring diverse skills to the team, different perspectives, and multiple problem-solving approaches.

If the goal is to complete work on time and budget, companies will benefit from Diversity hires, ultimately presenting additional opportunities to finish the project successfully. 

Catherine Best has worked with women-, minority-, and service-disable owned veteran businesses for several years and in varying situations, including the suppliers of goods and services to mentor-protégé programs. She can attest to the difference in skillset or ability when compared to non-MWSDVOB vendors is minimal. As Chief Compliance and Diversity Officer, Catherine supports and reinforces RCC’s dedication to performing a good faith effort through all phases of any construction project, allowing qualified subcontractors and suppliers the opportunity to work with an established contractor.

The RCC “Training” Express Mentor Program Process

RCC believes finding skilled talent starts at the high school level. College is not for everyone and mastering technical and interpersonal skills offers high school students alternative options and an employment advantage. 

“In order to secure the future of qualified MWSDVOBs, companies like RCC, who are committed to fostering the growth of MWSDVOB suppliers and subcontractors, have to be involved in providing the proper tools, training and internship opportunities. Without the contractor community support, new sustainable and diverse businesses will struggle to meet the demand, and the entire industry will suffer,” said Best. 

RCC has secured partnerships with the Paterson Charter School, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Bridging the Gap and the GI Go Fund to assist in recruiting students and veterans to fill the craft worker positions. Each session will include a program designed to target a Union Delegate presentation, interpersonal skills, and potential internship and employment opportunities.

The MWSDVOB will follow a similar program format, including presentations from utilities, contractors, and advocacy groups with the potential option for coaching sessions.

Chris Colabella, President of CISLeads, is one of the presenters, training companies to find the right projects to bid. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to help companies improve their skills and grow their businesses” said Colabella.

Applications for students, veterans, and MWSDVOBs are now available at Railroad Construction. The number of participants is limited. Should you have any questions, please contact the Program Coordinators.

LIC’s Urban Lab & Research Conversions

It might come as a surprise to some that there is an increasing demand for usable space for science labs in the New York City area, particularly space for life sciences. While it is easy to assume that this manner of work will take place largely in hospitals or on college campuses, in an area such as this, with community-wide efforts to improve human quality of life as well as the environment centered around human life, continuing research and more space to do it has come into very high demand, and rather than build new labs, converting existing structures has been the more common move. 

Just across the river from Midtown Manhattan, Long Island City is the site of one of the latest endeavors of this type, InnoLabs Life Sciences Facility. JLL Capital Markets has secured $156 million in financing for 45-18 Court Square, intending to refit it into a suitable property for a full life sciences lab and research facility. 

What Can You Expect of a Project Like 45-18 Court Square?

Currently, the Court Square property includes a 6-story office building with a freight elevator and a basement large enough for storage and equipment. It has more than 160,000 square feet of usable space, as well as another potential 100,000+ square feet of usable space. 

The intent is to convert this into a “purpose-built” lab facility with a few significant changes, such as:

  • Building a 4-story addition above the 2-story annex; and
  • Two ground-up additions on top of vacant parking lots, each 6 stories in height.  

Are There Certain Qualities a Building Needs to Be Suitable for Lab Setups?

A number of properties like 45-18 Court Square need upgrades and adjustments to be safe spaces for lab areas, to include improved electricals, making available loading areas, proper and safe ventilation, and more. The Court Square location, sources report, has several of characteristics going for it that already make it an attractive spot to start building, including: 

  • Quality and type of floor plates already present in existing structures;
  • The freight elevator setup, which makes transporting sensitive equipment and specimens much easier;
  • Its sizeable basement for storage; and
  • Ample square footage of developable space. 

Its central location in Long Island City is another characteristic that investors are hoping will make the finished property especially useful as this industry continues to boom. 

For Completion, What Remains to Be Done?

For bidders considering this or similar projects, the nature of the various tasks to be completed is present in the relevant details: Any firm taking this on can expect some refurbishing of existing systems, such as electrical and plumbing, including the need to ensure that sources of backup power can be secured. Multiple-story additions that meet the same standards as the rest of the facility are also on the docket. Firms are encouraged to keep a weather eye on the horizon for further updates. With continuing demand for lab research space in the metro area, Court Square will come up again, and so will similar opportunities. 

With the New Decade, East Side Access Project Edges Toward Completion

In recent weeks, protracted infrastructure updates have been a significant point of discussion in breaking construction news for Manhattan. In the face of major undertakings that will carry forward with ongoing work for developers and laborers for the next twenty years, there’s some optimism in knowing that another long-standing project in Manhattan may finally see an end in sight. With the 2020s underway, the East Side Access project, aiming to link Grand Central Terminal to the Long Island railroad, may, at last, be on its way to completion. In interviews this year, Governor Cuomo has boldly sworn to this, even if he has to pick up a shovel and do it himself. 

Why Have There Been So Many Delays on East Side Access? 

The East Side Access project has been in development since the 1990s, but the inspiration for it came in the late 1960s. With its completion predicted for 2009, this deadline has been missed by more than a decade now. According to City & State, the project, which would build train tunnels under the East River, has readjusted its deadline at least six times, and the budget has nearly tripled in this time. The hope, when finally finished, is that the new connection will reduce congestion on the LIRR side of things, where demand for steady transportation is growing (with 90 million riding every year), and they struggle to keep up. 

Sources attribute this tardiness to unexpected delays and budget constraints, which are issues that have been discussed at length here at CISleads that tend to sit further and further outside of developer’s hands the longer a project goes on. They are some of the major shortfalls of your average open-ended project, and the East Side Access project, in terms of project length, is not an average anything.

What Remains to Be Done?

Since at least February, sources have been reporting that the hard deadline for completion is December 2022 and not a day later. At that point in time, journalists were given a tour of the progress far beneath the streets of Manhattan, where laborers have been hard at work round the clock. Seven months later, it was reported that still more funding was sought. At the end of the year, then, what will fill the coming two years? 

Thus far, laborers are moving toward the completion of: 

  • The new tracks running under the East River.
  • The new platforms under Grand Central Station.
  • A new entrance to Grand Central Station at 48th street, as well as repairing a rail connection in Queens that has gone without refurbishment for some time.

The MTA assures that the deadline is in place, and the budget at $11.2 billion, will not go a penny over. Once open in 2022, the new connections are expected to reduce congestion in LIRR and show at least a 50 percent increase in commuters from Long Island and Queens into Manhattan.

New York Solar Panel and Green Roof Legislation Goes Into Effect

In November of 2019, the City of New York enacted new laws that will affect all roof construction in the metropolitan area. Aiming to attack issues of sustainability, including clean air and power conservation, laws 92 and 94 state that any major construction on a roof must be covered in either solar panels or a green roof system. 

Part of the City Council’s Climate Mobilization Act, these are single steps in the city’s campaign to move toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in renewable energy sources. 

What Is the Extent of the New Laws?

Laws 92 and 94 come together to establish the legal requirements and exceptions for new construction and the inclusion of solar panels or green space when building new roofs or improving old ones. 

Specifics include: 

  • The laws together affect new construction, new roofs on expansions and additions for existing buildings, as well as roofs that are being fully replaced. 
  • “Replacing the entire existing roof deck or roof assembly will trigger compliance with these new laws,” reports Hoffman Architects. 
  • Affected buildings and construction types are required to install either solar paneling, green roofs, or a combination of the two. 
  • There is a certain size that a contiguous roof area must meet before it is required to create a sustainable roof zone. For residential spaces, the requirement is 100 square feet or greater, and for all other buildings, it is 200 feet. 
  • Overly steep rooftops are exempted from the green space requirement, as they would be nearly impossible to plant vegetation on. 
  • Apartment terraces and schools will not be affected by this legislation.
  • Property owners are required to buy and maintain the solar panels, but legislators expect that energy savings will make up the cost. 
  • All new filings on or after November 15th, 2019, for building permits are required to certify their compliance with the new laws. 

How Will This Affect Future Construction Projects?

There are several ways in which these new laws are going to affect future endeavors, some of which homeowners and property owners have begun to voice since the legislation’s passing. Homeowners and developers have expressed concerns about the additional cost inherent in the addition of solar panels or green roofs, not just from the installations themselves but also the loss of interest from potential buyers with skeptical views of sustainable technology. For new construction, it will always mean that consideration for these new systems will go in at the planning stages, just as electrical and other utilities might. 

While property owners building or expanding their dream home must bear the financial burden of installing and managing their solar panels, to the tune of an average of $30,000, legislators believe that the savings in energy costs will make up the cost. Some say this is not happening quickly enough, and question a lack of tax incentives to help in this manner. For developers of larger structures, that savings may become more quickly apparent. However, it is still an additional cost to consider in the planning stages, just like mandated bird-safe glass on high rises, reported here at CISLeads in 2019.

A Waterfront Oasis: East Midtown Greenway Underway

As temperatures plummet and holiday shoppers swell in the shopping districts, so too does one of Manhattan’s latest projects kick-off, aiming to beautify the area and expand on local park space. As of late November, contractors in Midtown commenced construction on the new East Midtown Greenway, a $100 million project that will stretch over 1.5 acres of waterfront park space along the East River. Parallel to FDR drive and stretching from 53rd to 61st streets, Mayor de Blasio views the undertaking as a major step toward “returning the waterfront of New York City to New Yorkers.”

The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway: The Story So Far

This is a single leg of a much larger foreshoreway along the island of Manhattan, stretching a full 32 miles of pedestrian space separate from motorways. The aim of a greenway is to add more undeveloped space in urban areas, creating more green space as a way to benefit the environment but also provide natural surroundings and recreation space for pedestrians. The East Midtown Greenway is just one more step toward adding more flora to a living city. Right now, the planned and developed portions of the overall Manhattan Greenway include three major prongs:

  • The Hudson River Greenway. The longest greenway of all three, this one stretches along the West Side, from Battery Park in the south to Dykman street further north. 
  • The Harlem River Greenway. This one at least in part follows the path of the old Harlem River Speedway, running uninterrupted from Dykman street all the way through Lower Highbridge Park at 155th Street.
  • The East River Greenway. The last portion runs from Battery Park all the way down to 125th Street, but there is a 1.3-mile gap where this latest project will be coming in at long last, narrowing it if not filling it completely. Funding for this has been in the works since at least 2017, according to the New York Times. 

What Remains of the Current Project, and What Is Still to Come?

For now, ground has only just been broken, so most of the East Midtown Greenway project remains to be done. Current plans include the following:

  • Creating a 40-foot wide esplanade along the whole of the waterfront for pedestrians and bikers. 
  • Renovating and extending Andrew Hasweel Green Park that will touch the greenway’s northern border. 
  • Adding a new pedestrian bridge that will be accessible for any visitors with disabilities. 
  • Developing a widened area for environmental programming near 53rd street that will also include an art installation by Stacy Levy.

The full scope of labor that will go into this will involve Skanska USA as construction manager, with engineering consultation firm Stantec in charge of landscape architecture and the full gamut of waterfront, electrical, structural, and civil engineering. 

The project, expected to be completed by 2022, promises to further the City of New York’s goal to create an uninterrupted path through Manhattan for bikers and pedestrians, but until then should provide a steady flow of jobs dedicated to completing their proposed vision. The project, once completed, will be maintained by the New York Parks Department.

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.