July 13th - July 17th, 2009
Fraud Investigation into Construction Companies
July 13 – The Manhattan District Attorney has launched an investigation into alleged fraud by several construction companies working on the WTC site. The New York Post reported Bovis Lend Lease and Tishman Construction allegedly paid employees off the books and failed to contribute to the worker’s pension funds.
PA Offers Silverstein New Deal
July 13 – The Port Authority has put a new deal on the table. It’s offering to guarantee financing for both of Larry Silverstein’s office towers; however, Mr. Silverstein would have to raise $625 million from investors or lenders, according to a story in The New York Times. A source in Silverstein’s office told the paper they do not think this is a credible offer. The Mayor’s office would say only that the proposal is a step in the right direction but it falls short because Mr. Silverstein will probably not be able to raise that amount of money in the credit markets. If the Port Authority and Mr. Silverstein do not reach an agreement by July 17th, the dispute will go to a three-person arbitration panel. Meanwhile, Joseph Daniels, president of the 9-11 Memorial is warning that the dispute could endanger the10th anniversary commemoration. Daniels told The New York Post he wants immediate verification from the Port Authority and Silverstein that construction of the Memorial won’t be delayed because of their dispute.
DOB Reprimands Inspectors
July 13 – The NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) is taking disciplinary action against two employees involved with inspections at the Deutsche Bank building leading up to the fatal fire of August 2007. DOB said Robert Iulo, who supervised DOB inspectors, failed to ensure that they received proper training to adequately perform their duties and inspections. The Department also issues letters of reprimand to Thomas Connors and Christopher Santulli who were aware the inspectors were not properly training but failed to follow up to ensure they received training; Connors and Santulli are no longer working on the Deutsche Bank Building.
Rector Bridge Work Begins
July 13 – For the next 10 weeks, the Rector Street bridge will be closed. The NYS DOT is working to reconfigure the stairs on the east side so they fit into the rebuilt Tour 9A. The Downtown Express reports that during the closure, pedestrians will be able to cross West Street at grade at Albany St. and West Thames Street.
West Thames Park Work Underway
July 13 – West Thames Park will be shutdown starting in October for seven months of reconstruction. According to The Downtown Express, the new park will include a playground, an open lawn, basketball courts, a community garden and a dog run.
Concrete Investigation Underway
July 14 – Another concrete testing company is under investigation. The New York Times Reports American Standard Testing Laboratories, hired by the MTA to test concrete on the Second Avenue subway project, is suspected of falsifying reporters. The company was hired after Testwell Laboratories, NY’s largest concrete testing company, was found to be falsifying its test results. American Standard denies any wrongdoing, but the story says the Manhattan DA will present its findings to a grand jury in the next few weeks.
Chase Plaza May Soon Be On Market
July 15 – There are reports that One Chase Manhattan Plaza may soon be on the block. The New York Observer reports JP Morgan is preparing to sell the 2.2. million square foot tower as part of a portfolio of 22 buildings. JP Morgan had no comment.
WTC Dispute May Face Arbitrator
July 15 – Silverstein Properties is prepared to demand a significant damage award from the Port Authority, if their dispute goes to binding arbitration later this month. The warning came Monday evening from spokesman Janno Lieber to Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee. Lieber told the committee his company would seek to recover at least some of the $2.75 in ground rent Silverstein has paid since 9-11. The Tribeca Trib also reports Lieber indicted it was unlikely that Silverstein would accept the PA’s offer to back financing for Tower 2 if Silverstein comes up with $625 million on his own. Lieber said, “I think everyone knows that that’s just not available.”
1 World Trade Center Continues to Rise
July 15 – Quentin Brathwaite, a Port Authority spokesman, told Community Board 1, 1 World Trade Center is now about 105 feet above grade. He pointed out the height of the building grew about 20 feet since the last report to the Board. The Battery Park City Broadsheet Daily also reported Brathwaite said construction of the Vesey Street bridge extension is about nine months to a year ahead of schedule.
9-11 Ceremony Announced
July 15 - Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson announced that this year’s 9-11 commemoration will be similar to last years. The 9-11 families and volunteers will read the name of the victims and they will be allowed onto the WTC site, despite all the construction underway. The gathering will take place in Zuccotti Park next to the site and families will be allowed onto a newly built upper level of the Memorial site.
Walder to Head MTA
July 15 – The new head of the MTA is Jay Walder, who’s credited with helping revitalize the subway system in London. Governor Paterson nominated the 50 year Walder to serve as both Chairman and Executive Director of the MTA for the next six years. He’ll replace Elliot Sander, who according to several published reports, was forced to resign earlier this year. The nomination will need Senate confirmation.
Downtown Rents Drop
July 16 – The latest report from Cushman and Wakefield on the Manhattan office market shows a dramatic change from last year. It says average rents in the Financial District dropped to $54.63 per square foot in May, compared to $71.25 a year ago according to Real Estate Weekly.
PAC Relocation Feasibility Study Underway
July 16 - The long-delayed Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center might be built at Tower 5, which is where the Deutsche Bank building currently stands. According to The Downtown Express, there’s a new proposal from Assembly Speaker Sheldon. He told those attending a private meeting on the subject that moving the PAC to Tower 5 has many advantages. In addition to the Tower 5 site being available sooner, the PAC could reuse the Deutsche Bank building’s foundation, saving time and money. Building the PAC on Vesey St., on the other hand, would be more difficult because of the subway running beneath it, along with the other belowground infrastructure. The LMDC is currently studying the feasibility of moving the PAC to the Tower 5 location; it is unclear whether the PAC would be a stand-alone building or whether it would go in the base of a mixed-use tower. A change to the W.T.C. site’s master plan would require approval from many parties, including the Port Authority, which owns the Trade Center site. Port Spokesperson Steve Sigmund said the Port would look into the move. The city has not been briefed on the potential PAC move, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said.
Mixed Numbers for Construction Activity
July 17 – There’s good and bad news in the latest report on activity in the construction industry. The New York Building Congress (NYBC) said new construction starts in May just about equaled the numbers for the first four months of 2009. However, the January-April new starts were off more than 80% when compared to the same time period in 2008. NYBC President Richard Anderson said, “The May numbers off the first sign of encouragement for the construction industry in 2009. “
Apartment Prices Fall in Second Quarter
July 17 – Prices of apartments in Lower Manhattan fell in the second quarter, according to a report from the Real Estate Board of New York. The average price of a condo or co-op unit was down about 21%. Battery Park City, however, experienced an uptick due in part to the new Visionaire where average prices shot up about 155% from last year.
St. Georgeâ€™s Syrian Landmarked
July 17 – It took preservationists six years, but the City Landmarks Preservation Commission finally decided to landmark the former St. George’s Syrian church at 103 Washington Street. The architecture is one of the sole remaining pieces of the thriving Syrian immigrant community that dominated the area in the early 20th century, according to The Downtown Express.