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Towers planned or rising throughout the boroughs, and an audit uncovers inspection issues.

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75 Nassau Street; image by ODA

One Seaport Reaching Toward 60th-Floor Pinnacle

One Seaport, a residential tower on Maiden Lane near the waterfront in the Financial District (EW, August 2014 and December 2014), is reaching toward its 60th-floor pinnacle, with construction at the 24th floor as of June, New York YIMBY reported. Designed by Hill West, the tower is being developed by Fortis Property Group, with Pizzarotti LLC handling construction. Becoming the tallest waterfront tower in the city, the 670-ft.-tall structure will have 80 condominiums within 200,000 sq. ft. Residents will enjoy expansive views and a 27th-floor amenities lounge with an outdoor pool. Completion was originally anticipated in the spring, but onsite delays, including the death of a construction worker, extended the timeline.

Report Finds Major Problems With NYC Inspections

A report released on June 6 by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli says an audit of private elevator inspectors in New York City (NYC) found that many of them are missing hazardous violations, putting the public at risk. “In a vertical city, with tens of thousands of elevators carrying millions of people, it is unacceptable that New Yorkers should have to worry about false inspections or hazardous conditions,” said DiNapoli. “Even in a limited group of inspections, we found nearly every one missed violations that could pose risks to safety. While the Department of Buildings (DOB) deserves credit for taking steps to address the concerns and recommendations we’ve made in our audit report, the agency needs to ensure that all inspections are complete and thorough so that New Yorkers can feel confident that the elevators they ride in are safe.”

DiNapoli’s audit looked at work done by certified elevator inspectors who worked for companies contracted by the NYC DOB. While the DOB had 48 staff inspectors as of July 2017, it regularly uses private companies to perform the annual inspections required of the city’s 71,000 elevators. Auditors and DOB inspectors accompanied the non-DOB inspectors as they examined 12 elevators in nine buildings. Among the findings:

  • Two non-DOB inspectors falsely certified that they had inspected 15 elevators in 14 buildings before they had actually performed the inspections. (Several of these were not in the audit sample.)
  • Violations were missed or overlooked in 11 of the 12 elevators in the sample.
  • Three non-DOB inspectors failed to spot that door interlocks were defective in elevators at three different buildings. The problem is considered an imminent hazard, which requires the elevator to be shut down for repair. A fourth non-DOB inspector did catch the problem at another building, but he decided it was not an imminent hazard and allowed the elevator to remain in service, saying his company’s policy did not require a shutdown. A DOB inspector later took the four elevators out of service.
  • At four of the nine sampled buildings, non-DOB inspectors did not inspect the car tops or pits, which is required by the city’s contract and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers elevator code. When asked why they did not inspect the roofs or the pits, the inspectors said they were concerned for their safety and that such inspections are prohibited by their companies. One of these inspectors, who also falsely signed off on inspections before they had been performed, was terminated for unprofessional behavior.
  • DOB inspectors pointed out 29 violations overlooked by non-DOB inspectors, including a non-working emergency phone, an expired extinguisher in a machine room, and missing maintenance schedules and records. In some cases, the violations were not identified because the non-DOB inspectors were using less strict procedures than DOB’s own inspectors.
  • Inspectors found hoist cables in two elevators in two different buildings that showed signs rouging. The problem was missed at one building and noted at the other, but the non-DOB inspector didn’t have the right tool to measure the cable thickness, which would have determined the seriousness of the problem. The inspector was subsequently terminated by his company for unprofessionalism.
  • 6,741 (11%) of the 63,314 annual elevator inspections DOB required to be completed by non-DOB inspectors in 2016 were not done.
  • 8,807 (13%) of the 62,166 annual elevator inspections DOB required to be completed by non-DOB inspectors in 2015 were not done.

DiNapoli’s audit recommended improvements to the inspection process, including:

  • Reinforcing with elevator inspection companies the required procedures for proper elevator inspections and for identifying elevators that need to be taken out of service
  • Mandating that non-DOB inspectors comply with DOB procedures when performing elevator inspections
  • Ensuring the DOB communicates upcoming inspections with building owners
  • Establishing specific deadlines by which building owners should respond to no-access inspection attempts
  • Using more forceful measures, including fines, against building owners when elevator tests are not performed.

DOB officials agreed with eight of the nine audit recommendations and noted they have already taken steps to implement changes to improve oversight of inspections.

The full report is available on the Office of the State Comptroller website, www.osc.state.ny.us.

Tree-Topped Tower Poised to Rise

Demolition of five buildings at 75-83 Nassau Street in the Financial District wrapped in May, making way for a 40-story, 498-ft.-tall mixed-use building designed by ODA for Lexin Capital (EW, July 2015), New York YIMBY reported. Distinguished by a “forest-like” multilevel rooftop amenities terrace, the building will have 229 apartments within 190,000 sq. ft. and 39,200 sq. ft. of commercial space on the bottom four floors: two retail topped by two office floors. There will be lounges on the fifth, 22nd and 25th floors, as well as a fitness center and space for more than 100 bicycles. Completion is anticipated by 2022.

Developers Decide to Go Taller in Brooklyn

Plans for a 19-story office building at 540 Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn, have been scrapped in favor of a 43-story, 511-ft.-tall mixed-use tower, City Realty reported in May. The new plan would bring 327 apartments within 236,869 sq. ft., along with 96,592 sq. ft. of commercial and office space on the first eight floors. Resident amenities include storage, bicycle and package rooms; a business center; a gym; two lounges on a ninth-floor terrace; and a rooftop deck. The office floors will have access to two terraces and a bicycle room. Marvel Architects, designer of the original structure, is on board for the redesigned project.

Foundation Work Begins on NYU Expansion

Foundation work has begun for a huge expansion of New York University (NYU) in Greenwich Village, New York YIMBY reported in May. The 1.9-million-sq.-ft. project at 181 Mercer Street will include a 23-story building housing a sports center and a 556-seat performing-arts facility. There will actually be two adjacent structures totaling 588,000 sq. ft. and a landscaped public plaza. The complex will have an indoor pool, a track and fitness rooms. Both buildings will include office space and dining facilities. The expansion was designed by Davis Brody Bond with KieranTimberlake. Construction of the new facility is expected to be complete by 2021.

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