January 5th - January 9th, 2009
Gerson Calls for Auditor to Review Projects
January 5 – City Councilman Alan Gerson is calling for an Auditor General to oversee work at the WTC, 130 Liberty Street, Fiterman Hall and the Fulton Street Transit Hub. In a report in Real Estate Weekly, Gerson said the Auditor General would monitor safety, progress and spending at construction sites, as well as watch out for delays and cost overruns on projects. Gerson added all agencies involved in the rebuilding effort downtown – the Port Authority, MTA, LMDC and LMCCC must be required to open their books and plans to the Auditor General.
Construction Unemployment Expected to Rise
January 5 – Lou Colletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association has been meeting with reps contractors in an effort to reduce labor costs by 25%. Real Estate Weekly reports that salary freezes, cost-effective work schedules and other ideas are being considered. Colletti predicts unemployment in the construction sector could go as high as 40% in 2009 as current projects are completed and new ones don’t come online.
New DOB Regulations Begin
January 5 – There are new regulations at the Department of Buildings designed to increase high-rise construction safety and prevent fires. According to NY1, standpipes will now be inspected every week to make sure there are no breaches throughout the building; water connections will be inspected every day. The changes were put in place more than a year after the deadly Deutsche bank building fire, which was blamed n a dismantled standpipe. In addition, the new regulations require that site safety logs be kept. The DOB also instituted new elevator inspection rules, requiring signoff now by four individuals- the building owner, agency director, agency inspector and the agency director of the inspector who witnessed the test.
Crane Safety Measures in Effect
January 5 – 2009 brings new licensing requirements for hoist operators. A report in New York Construction News says crane operators must now submit to a background check, have experience in an urban environment and be licensed to national standards. Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said, “These new requirements will better ensure individuals have the necessary skills and knowledge to safely operate the most advance mobile cranes available.”
DA Issues More Charges
January 7 – More charges were announced in connection with the deconstruction of the Deutsche bank building. The Manhattan District Attorney announced the indictment of the former purchasing agent at the John Galt Corporation, which is the subcontractor working on 130 Liberty Street. Robert Chiarappa allegedly stole more than $1 million by filing false invoices. The indictment claims he used the money to buy expensive vacations and luxury cars. The DA said Chiarappa shared the money with the vendors who submitted the false invoices. Chiarappa faces up to 15 years if convicted on all charges.
Security Contractors Sought
January 7 – The Army Corps of Engineers is looking for contractors to perform security improvements on the bridges connecting Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. According to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the project could cost $500 million and include construction of gates, forced-entry door and window treatments, access ladders and platforms and anti climb barriers. The government is also looking to set up backup electrical power systems and security systems.
Big Projects Account for Construction
January 8 – The latest McGraw-Hill Construction report says if it weren’t for several big-ticket projects including the WTC site, construction spending in the City would have been worse. The report says construction spending in New York rose a mere 2% in 2008; without the three massive projects, the value of construction starts would have declined by 22%, according to a story in Real Estate Weekly. The other massive projects are the No. 7 subway extension, the Catskills Disinfection Facility in Mount Pleasant and the Newton Creek project in Brooklyn. The report estimates 2009 will see construction starts plummet about 19%.
Leasing Activity Down in 2008
January 8 – The most recent statistics on sublease space in Manhattan from FirstService Williams shows the availability rate for Lower Manhattan is up to 10.5%, an increase of 0.8 for the quarter and a 2.1 percentage increase for the year. According to Real Estate Weekly, leasing activity Downtown fell by 23.4% in 2008; the vacancy rate is now about 7.4%. Downtown is also seeing the biggest drop in asking rental rates. Class B rents fell to $41.73 from $45.94 in the third quarter of ’08. Also, just 2.9 million square feet of commercial space was signed by the 3rd quarter of 1008, a 16% drop from a year earlier.
Memorial Steel Rising
January 9 – Chief Executive of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Joseph Daniels told Crain’s New York Business he thinks work on the memorial could be wrapped up a year ahead of schedule, in time for the 10th anniversary. Daniels says 80% of the contracts have been awarded and all the steel will be in place by the end of the year. However, the Port Authority is not predicting any change in the schedule, adding its doubtful the project will be completed in 2011.
PA to Release Inspection Records
January 9 – The Port Authority announced it will make its inspection records public to help emergency responders. The PA will release the compliance status of its bridges, tunnels, airport terminals and high rises. The Department of Buildings applauded the move, saying it will provide first responders with information about the condition of a structure in an emergency. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called for the change after 2 firefighters were killed in the Deutsche bank building in August of 2007.
Site Safety Plan Released
January 9 – Milstein Properties released its long-awaited safety plan for Sites 23 and 24 in Battery Park City. According to The Downtown Express, Milstein will enclose the buildings in full-height vertical netting and hire two independent concrete safety managers. Milstein said it would also try to avoid working near the ball fields after 3 pm on weekdays and on weekends.