Question for readers: Construction

Question for our readers this week: Is the city too easy on construction infractions like lack of permits and higher than allowable noise levels? We welcome readers’ insight at editor@townvillage.net or in comments on this post. Please specify if you would like to remain anonymous.

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Construction worker injured in fall at Asser Levy Center

July12 Asser Levy rescue

Rescue in progress at Asser Levy Center

By Sabina Mollot

A construction worker was injured after falling at the Asser Levy Recreation Center on Thursday morning and taken to Bellevue Hospital.

The fall happened at about 8:30 a.m. and The Department of Buildings later issued a partial stop work order at the site.

Notes in the stop work order said the worker fell two stories from the roof to the sidewalk, sustaining “moderate injuries,” citing an Office of Emergency Management report. However, a spokesperson for the DOB told Town & Village the fall was from a second level of a supported scaffold to the base of the scaffold. A complaint entered on the DOB site said the worker fell 10-15 feet and had pain in his shoulder and was unable to move.

A spokesperson for the department said the workers were doing minor façade repairs, which don’t require a permit.

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Letters to the editor, Dec. 28

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

New initiative for teaching teachers

Have you ever wondered how schools are preparing our students from kindergarten through high school to understand climate, how it affects us and what we can do about it?  One solution that has been suggested is to reach out to the teacher training colleges who prepare the adult students to be teachers before they enter the children’s classrooms. Here in New York City, Teachers College, Columbia University and New York University are both participating with the New York CityDepartment Of Education (DOE) Office of Sustainability, to increase environmental and sustainability education for teachers and students. There is also an initiative from NYC DOE to strengthen the sustainability coordinator position in each public school.

We were delighted that State Senator Brian Kavanaugh was able to speak at the recent meeting of the Environmental Education Advisory Council (EEAC) dealing with the aforementioned issues. The senator spoke about initiatives on the environment that he sponsored when he served in the State Assembly before he won a spot in the State Senate recently. He also offered suggestions for helping to improve environmental and sustainability education in the schools.

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Work to start soon on Stuy Cove ferry landing

Rendering released by Economic Development Corporation in May 2016 of what new ferry landing will look like

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Winter is coming and so is construction on a ferry landing at Stuyvesant Cove. Construction on the 20th Street stop will likely begin this winter and finish by spring in order to be functional on the new Lower East Side route launching next summer.

Representatives from the Economic Development Corporation, the city agency that controls NYC Ferry, offered the information on the new landing at a City Council hearing for the economic development committee last Thursday.

EDC executive vice president Seth Meyers said that the work needed to be done during the winter because of restrictions that prevent construction from parts of spring into summer.

“There are times of the year, due to what’s called a fish moratorium while fish are breeding, that we can’t do work in the water,” he said.

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Fire at NYU Langone Medical Center

NYU Langone Medical Center’s main campus at 550 First Avenue (Photo courtesy of NYU Langone)

NYU Langone Medical Center’s main campus at 550 First Avenue (Photo courtesy of NYU Langone)

By Sabina Mollot and Maria Rocha-Buschel

A fire broke out at the NYU Langone Medical Center on Wednesday at around noon, on a construction site at the facility.

A spokesperson for the hospital said it was not a patient area and no patients were injured in the fire, which was extinguished by 1 p.m.

The fire started on the seventh floor rooftop where a new hospital building, scheduled to open in 2018, is under construction.

According to spokesperson Lisa Grenier, the fire was confined to this area. However, as a precaution, some patients in rooms on the north side of Tisch Hospital facing the construction were moved to the south side of the floor.

“They have since been located back to their rooms,” Grenier said. “Currently we are investigating cause and the extent of damage.”

An emailed alert from the city said area residents should expect smoke, traffic delays due to the presence of emergency responders. Neighbors were advised to close their windows and not linger outside.

The hospital is located at First Avenue and East 30th Street.

Former Gramercy police precinct to be auctioned off

June30 21st Precinct

327 East 22nd Street, originally home to the 21st Precinct (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Two years ago, a Gramercy building that was once home to the NYPD’s 21st Precinct was sold to developer Sam Suzuki, who planned to convert the building to luxury condos.

However, the building, located at 327 East 22nd Street, is now scheduled to be sold at a public auction on Thursday, June 30 at 11 a.m. The upcoming sale, which was mentioned in a public notice in the New York Times, will take place at the New York County Courthouse and is being facilitated by Mission Capital Advisors. In the notice, the property is referred to as “SCPD Gramercy 1 LLC.”

In April, 2014, Suzuki bought the four-story building between First and Second Avenues for $11.5 million, securing an $18 million mortgage. As a condition of the sale, Suzuki also got 7,000 square feet of air rights. In February of 2015 the owner got a permit to demolish the property. However, today it still sits — at least the outside of it — boarded up and covered by a scaffolding. The permit to fully demolish the building expired this February, and the owner hasn’t since filed for a new one.

Prior to this, the building was used as a home for LGBT young people, and run by Green Chimneys, a nonprofit based in Brewster, New York, that owned the building.

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Stuy Town woman gets partial rent abatement for construction noise

The new Stuyvesant Town management office, now complete, was a source of torment to one woman at 276 First Avenue, who lived directly above the months-long construction. (Pictured) Workers on the roof in April as seen from 272 First Avenue

The new Stuyvesant Town management office, now complete, was a source of torment to one woman at 276 First Avenue, who lived directly above the months-long construction. (Pictured) Workers on the roof in April as seen from 272 First Avenue

By Sabina Mollot

When construction was underway on Stuyvesant Town’s new management office, for residents in the building housing it and the others closest to it, this of course meant months of constant noise and a lack of access to the walkway and playground between the buildings. Afterwards, CWCapital provided the impacted residents with $200 gift cards to local establishments as a way of thanking them for their patience.

But for one resident, the daily jackhammering and other noise that would start as early as 7:30 a.m. as well as the debris that would fly into her windows was so unbearable that she started withholding rent.

Naturally, she ended up getting taken to court, where a judge decided that she was in fact entitled to a partial abatement.

The resident, Caryn Chow, lives on the second floor of 276 First Avenue, which was so close to the construction that when it was ongoing, she said she could feel the walls vibrate. Considering that she’s a happiness coach and communication strategist who works from home, this meant making calls or doing other work-related tasks for long was impossible. Her daily routine of meditation was also of course disrupted.

“They’d start as early as 7:30 and the building is shaking,” said Chow, in a recent interview with Town & Village. “They said, ‘We’re in compliance,’ and they did prove that,” she added, of when she called management to complain. But, meanwhile, for her, the noise had become her new alarm clock, and an effective one at that. “They ousted me out of my apartment. I’m used to hearing sirens, but this was making everything shake and it was like being up against your ear.”

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Former ST leasing agent says she was fired over sick days

Annette Beatrice said she started suffering from respiratory issues and migraines after construction began at the leasing office. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Annette Beatrice said she started suffering from respiratory issues and migraines after construction began at the leasing office. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A former leasing agent working for Stuyvesant Town filed a lawsuit against CompassRock on Friday, saying she was wrongly fired after becoming sick during a construction project at the First Avenue leasing office.

The former employee, Annette Beatrice, said she’d been working at the property since getting hired by Tishman Speyer in 2009. However, it was during February of 2013 when a project to expand the leasing office caused her workplace to be “filled with dust, pungent smells and the constant ear-piercing sounds of drilling and hammering.” As a result, Beatrice said that she started to suffer from migraines as well as respiratory issues and was vomiting at work.

Beatrice said that in an attempt to recover, she was out of work for three weeks. She’d discussed the matter of her health problems stemming from the office environment, but then nothing was done about it, she said. Meanwhile, her condition left her unable to focus at work.

Beatrice said it was on or around July 12 of 2013 when she spoke with a supervisor to request taking a few days off to try and recover from her ongoing symptoms. She was then told she could, as long as she provided a doctor’s note upon her return. However, after 10 days passed, CompassRock’s human resources manager, Hope Gause, called her to inform her she’d be terminated if she didn’t “immediately” provide the note, the suit said. Gause is named in the complaint as a co-defendant. The next day, Gause fired her, Beatrice said.

In the suit, the former employee accused CompassRock of not engaging in a “good faith” process, adding that her symptoms, such as migraines and respiratory issues, constitute disabilities under the law. She claimed her request for time off constituted “a reasonable accommodation under the (New York City Human Rights Law).”

Beatrice is suing for a total of $2,500,000 ($500,000 for lost pay and benefits as well as $2,000,000 in damages including “pain and suffering, anxiety, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, physical injury and emotional distress and medical expences”).

Beatrice’s attorney, Douglas Lipsky, declined to comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson for CWCapital also declined to comment.

According to Beatrice’s LinkedIn profile, she currently works for Stellar Management. An email sent to a company email address requesting comment wasn’t returned.

TA meeting to focus on management office construction

Rendering of the new management office as seen in 276 First Avenue (Photo by Kent Howard)

Rendering of the new management office as seen in 276 First Avenue (Photo by Kent Howard)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Stuy Town Tenants Association is set to host a meeting to discuss the construction of a new management office as concern over disruption caused by the project continues to rise.

The TA is primarily concerned about quality-of-life issues, including the removal of walkways and benches, loss of greenery and possible noise.The original management office on Avenue C was swept away by Hurricane Sandy . There are plans to turn what’s left into a children’s facility.

The new management office will border 272, 274, 276 and 278 First Avenue and while CW Capital met with residents to discuss the project last October, there has been little communication since then. Local elected officials — City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Brad Hoylman — sent a letter to CW Capital vice president Andrew MacArthur last Friday asking for transparency about the project.

The Department of Buildings is to conduct an audit of the site in order to ensure compliance with the Building Code and Zoning Resolutions.

The letter from the elected officials was in response to a meeting held by tenants of 276 First Avenue that was organized by building resident and former Community Board 6 chair, Mark Thompson.

“Seniors especially are really stressed out because now the park is gone,” he said. “(Stuyvesant Town) is being marketed as this green oasis in the city and they’re cutting all the trees down.”

Kent Howard, of 276 First Avenue, told T&V that he started the website StuyTownBigDig.com to keep track of what they see going on.

“It’s hard to tell at this point but it looks a lot larger than I originally anticipated,” Howard said.

“Tenants are concerned,” Thompson added. “That’s the bottom line.”

The TA meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 18 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at PS 40, 320 East 20th Street.

Doors will open at 5:45 p.m. Representatives from CW Capital and CompassRock will be there, in addition to local elected officials Senator Hoylman, Assemblymember Kavanagh and City Councilmember Garodnick.

CW talks plans for new management office

The Avenue C management office will be converted into a children's facility. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The Avenue C management office will be converted into a children’s facility.
(Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In anticipation of major construction work to be done on the First Avenue Loop for the new management office, reps for CWCapital quietly met with residents in buildings along the loop last week to discuss the planned project and their concerns.

The meeting was held on Monday, October 7 at the auditorium of the Simon Baruch Middle School and was also attended by leaders of the ST-PCV Tenants Association. TA Chair Susan Steinberg said buildings where tenants may be affected by the construction and noise were fliered, though there wasn’t any promotion beyond that. However, one resident, who lives at 274 First Avenue, where the new management office will be built in the current Oval Concierge space (274-276), said he didn’t recall seeing any notices.

Still, there didn’t appear to be shortage of interest from tenants, with at least 100 people in attendance, said Steinberg.

Leading the meeting was Andrew Cain, an asset manager for CWCapital and Claire Hackney, vice president of construction for the company, who answered the bulk of tenants’ questions.

CW’s plans have yet to be approved by the Department of Buildings and there were also no designs available for tenants to view.

“It would have been nice to see drawings, but unfortunately they didn’t have them with them,” said Steinberg.

As T&V reported in June, CWCapital has said with the new management office in the Oval Concierge space, Oval Concierge would go elsewhere on the First Avenue Loop, but it wasn’t said exactly where it would go at the meeting.

Currently, the only readily available ground commercial space is being used by the Community Center, and said, Steinberg, “I would be really shocked if they did away with the Community Center.”

What CW did say, recalled Steinberg, was that the company hopes work can be done throughout the winter “when there’s less activity and less people walking by.” How long the project will take is uncertain, but what does help is that no jackhammering is anticipated due to a lack of bedrock under the building.

“It’s mostly fill,” said Steinberg, “so there’ll be trucks removing earth and pretty much that side of the building (the First Avenue) side will be impassable,” she said. “People will have to use the loop side.”

Part of the project however includes upgrades for a nearby Playground 8, including the addition of a water feature. Steinberg added that management conceded some trees will have to come down in order to extend the back part of the building. (First Avenue is considered the back.) The extension will also include a green roof over a landscaped area.

In June, management said in a newsletter to tenants that the new management office would be designed with future disasters in mind so it could function as a command center, and that work was expected to be completed by spring of 2014. (There wasn’t a timetable given at the meeting.)

As for residents’ concerns, Steinberg recalled that there was some mention of a lack of access due to the fact that there would be a staff of 100 people doing this work and a staff-only entrance.

“So the character of the whole area is going to change,” said Steinberg. “It will be less residential in character and more commercial.”

However, some residents seemed relieved that management would once again be onsite and this time not all the way on Avenue C. “There are going to be tradeoffs,” said Steinberg. “So we’re not 100 percent overjoyed or annoyed.”

Steinberg said she didn’t believe there could be an MCI for this type of project.

Following the meeting, when asked for comment, a spokesperson for CW would only say there would be an announcement about the plans soon.

As for the old management office on Avenue C, CW has said part of the space will be converted into a facility for children. Talks are currently being held with potential vendors.

Following the space being flooded during Hurricane Sandy, Avenue C in Stuyvesant Town has since been declared a flood zone. CWCapital and management company CompassRock moved management operations to temporary spaces in the Oval for a few months and then moved offsite. Since then, as T&V has reported, residents have found that it’s gotten harder to reach management.

Letters to the Editor, Feb. 14

Barriers blocked access on East 20th Street

To the Editor:

On the fifteenth of January when I went downstairs to find my car, parked in its usual place, the loading zone in front of 430 and 440 East 20th Street with my handicapped permit prominently displayed, it was all alone in the always full area and adorned with a notice giving the usual threats, towing etc. Large wooden blocks had been placed along with metal gates the whole length of the area from the parking garage to the corner Loop exit.

Since I am in my eighties and use a walker, having my car so available is extremely important for the conduct of my life. The barriers have forced me to park at some distance and to struggle along, sometimes with a shopping bag to get into my building.

Finally, since no sort of work is being visibly conducted I called the management office and was told that something or other will be done to my building at some future date. The supervisor I spoke to seemed rather confused about the project. I asked why they have taken the space two weeks ahead of the actual work, causing myself and other residents, some in wheelchairs, extraordinary problems. The five or six doctors’ offices in my building are surely receiving complaints from patients keeping their appointments while family members wait in cars. As for the delivery trucks, including the USPS one can easily imagine a lot of strong language in reaction to the loss of loading zone.

How long will this outrage go on until it gets worse?

H. Zwerling, ST

This letter was forwarded by T&V to a rep for management last Tuesday and the author said work began on 440 E. 20th later that day. CWCapital spokesperson Kara Krippen said the work was being done on the 20th Street Loop to stay in compliance with Local Law 11, which relates to facade inspections.

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