News Wrap: Liberty Island Makes Progress; N.J. Sets Aside Sandy Funds; DOB Permits Up; Bloombergs New Projects
Liberty and Ellis Islands May Reopen in Summer
It may be a few more months before visitors can walk around the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island again. The National Park Service (NPS) says it hopes to partially open the Liberty and Ellis island parks this summer, a few months shy of a year after the Oct. 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused massive damage and forced their closures.
Officials says that docks, the promenade and structures surrounding the statue were among the most severely damaged, as well as the electrical systems, wastewater treatment and security screening equipment.
The Federal Highway Administration provided NPS with $28 million in emergency funding last month to repair New York and New Jersey roads and bridges in federal parks and recreation areas damaged by Sandy. The Statue of Liberty National Monument is slated to receive some of that funding.
Emergency responders initially assessed damages at $59 million after the storm, but a complete cost estimate is yet to be determined, says Linda Friar, a spokeswoman at the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island.
Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corp., Pine Brook, N.J., under contract with NPS, is heading up recovery work and has already removed Liberty Island's 7,060-sq-ft timber service dock used for equipment and emergency transport access.
Plans are in place to replace the service dock, but the agency is still assessing how to handle the second dock, which is used as the main visitor dock, Friar says. Even after the dock work is completed, however, other significant infrastructure projects—including power and communications restoration and a security screening facility installation—must be done before the parks can reopen, Friar says.
Christie Sets Aside $40M in Sandy Funding
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced his $32.9-billion proposed state budget late last month that includes a measure to set aside $40 million in contingency funding for expenses not reimbursed by the federal government for post-Superstorm Sandy work, including road and bridge repairs and shoreline restoration.
"This will ensure that we can move ahead with maximum speed, and that those things that fall through the cracks do not bankrupt families, businesses or local governments. This will allow us to get small businesses back on their feet without delay," Christie said in his Feb. 26 address announcing the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Federal lawmakers, who approved a $60-billion Sandy aid package for the region in January, were facing forced spending cuts at press time. Many state and local officials expressed concern that this might affect some of that aid.
New York City
NYC Residential Building Permits Rise 19%
The New York City Dept. of Buildings (DOB) issued residential permits for 10,599 units in 1,011 buildings last year, up 19% from 2011, when 8,936 units were authorized in 997 buildings, according to a New York Building Congress (NYBC) analysis of U.S. Census data.
Since reaching a post-recession low of 6,057 units in 2009, the number of residential permits that the agency issued has increased 75%, NYBC says. Even so, residential permits remain far below levels attained between 2005 and 2008, when the DOB issued permits for more than 30,000 units. At its 2008 peak, permits were issued for 33,911 units in 2,434 buildings.
"The residential market is steadily climbing back from the doldrums of 2009 and 2010," Richard Anderson, president of NYBC, said in a statement. "While we are likely to remain well below the peak attained in the middle of the previous decade, the latest data is encouraging nonetheless."
Meanwhile, the residential market dominated the region's ranking of the top 25 construction projects to break ground last year (p. 13).
New York City
Bloomberg Lays Out Roster of New Project Plans
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out big plans in his final State of the City address last month, including several initiatives that would call for industry-related services. These include a proposal to amend the city's building codes to require that up to 20% of new parking spaces in private developments be "wired and ready" for electric cars.
The mayor also called for raising the city's sustainability goals and doubling its recycling rate to 30% by 2017 by, in part, increasing the types of plastics that the city can accept for recycling. To that end, he mentioned the new plastics recycling facility set for completion this spring at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park. The mayor says the plant will be the largest household recycling plant in North America.
Among the other projects he spotlighted were 1 World Trade Center; the No. 7 subway extension to Manhattan's Hudson Yards area; and the third and final phase of the High Line, the elevated former railway on Manhattan's West Side.
The mayor also mentioned the city's post-Superstorm Sandy rebuilding efforts, including work under way to determine how to better protect the city from extreme weather events.