New York City

Work Starts on Second Hudson Yards Tower

A Year after ground was broken on the first tower at Hudson Yards, work on the second tower has begun and plans call for starting the tower's platform over a rail yard in January. By this time next year, the entire Eastern Rail Yards portion of the 26-acre redevelopment on Manhattan's West Side is slated to be under construction, including four towers, a retail podium and a public plaza.

"Hudson Yards is well on its way to redefining 21st-century development in New York City and forever altering the New York skyline," said L. Jay Cross, president of Related Hudson Yards, in a Dec. 4 statement announcing the groundbreaking of the 80-story North office tower, renamed 30 Hudson Yards. Related Cos. and Oxford Properties Group are co-developers of the entire $15-billion redevelopment.

The Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed 30 Hudson Yards, located on the southwest corner of West 33rd St. and 10th Ave., will include an observation deck and ballroom.

Like the 52-story South tower, or 10 Hudson Yards, already under way at the site, the latest tower will aim for Gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system. Work on 10 Hudson Yards is progressing and is set for completion in 2015, says a Related spokewoman.

The 10- to 12-year Hudson Yards redevelopment project is expected to provide more than 23,000 construction jobs. Gary LaBarbera, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York president, praised the project in the Dec. 4 statement, saying that more than 1,000 skilled laborers will be working on it next year.

New York City

List of DOB's Stalled Sites Shrinks 12%

Growing demand for luxury residential towers, particularly in Manhattan, is a key driver behind the 12% decline this year in New York City's list of stalled projects, according to the New York Building Congress (NYBC).

Some of the luxury developments that have been shelved since 2009, when the Dept. of Buildings (DOB) began tracking stalled sites, "have come roaring back to life," says NYBC, which analyzed the DOB's stalled projects data from November 2012 to the present. These include the 60-story 56 Leonard Street and the 20-story 5 Franklin Place residential buildings, both in Tribeca.

The city has so far this year added 88 stalled sites to its list, which stands at 610. More than half of the 610 have been delayed for at least three years, NYBC says. In 2009, there were 166 sites on the list.

Residential projects account for 67%, or 232 projects, on the list. Among those are 115 multifamily apartments and 94 one- or two-family homes. Another 23 are mixed-use projects that contain residential components, says Richard Anderson, NYBC president.

"While the numbers are certainly moving in the right direction citywide, there's still plenty of work to do in terms of activating construction at hundreds of long-dormant sites, especially in the city's outer boroughs," Anderson adds.

New York City

Work Starts on Tallest Residential Tower Downtown

Construction began earlier this month on the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, a 926-ft hotel and residential tower at 30 Park Place in Manhattan's Tribeca district. When completed in 2016, the structure will be the tallest residential high-rise in downtown Manhattan and one of the tallest in the city, according to a Dec. 3 statement from developer Silverstein Properties.

The limestone tower, which media reports peg at $950 million, will include a 185-room luxury hotel and 157 private residences. The project will also feature a public plaza and restaurant.

SLCE Architects is the architect of record for the building and Tishman Construction is the project construction manager.

New York City

Amtrak Tunnels Upgrade Gets Sandy Funds

Some $86 million of Superstorm Sandy recovery funds will be used to improve infrastructure on Amtrak's four East River tunnels that carry more than 300,000 Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuters a day to and from Penn Station.

The aging single-track tunnels, which Amtrak owns and maintains, have been the source of numerous LIRR delays due to track issues, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a Nov. 18 statement and at a broadcast press conference held at the Mineola LIRR station.

He says he pushed Amtrak to develop the tunnel improvement program following an LIRR service disruption last August caused by a third rail malfunction in one of the tunnels.

"We've provided Amtrak with $86 million in Sandy relief funds and much of the money for that [improvement program] work will come from that pot," Schumer says.

The planned program includes replacing old track segments that are connected by steel plates and prone to failure. It also includes implementing a new policy to prioritize upgrading the aging infrastructure, increase the frequency of tunnel inspections and install new software to detect, predict and respond quicker to problems.

Work will be carried out in three phases, with the first phase targeting high-use assets approaching the end of their useful life. Some of these assets are already identified and will be replaced in the next 18 to 24 months, Schumer says.

Phase 2 will tackle assets that carry less rail traffic than those in Phase 1. The Phase 2 completion target ranges from August 2017 to May 2019.

Phase 3 involves ongoing infrastructure management using asset management software to capture asset life data, inspection results and corrective work orders to better predict and avoid failure, Schumer adds.

The announcement follows news of a $37.5-million plan for five storm mitigation and resiliency projects at LaGuardia Airport, which took on about 100 million gallons of seawater from Sandy last year.

The plan includes installing flood barrier berms around the West Field Lighting Vault, a building that houses critical runway and taxiway lighting systems; building concrete floodwalls and two gravity drains; replacing generators with larger, more efficient emergency back-up units; and rehabilitating the monitoring and control system for the airport's power distribution grid to enable the airport to more quickly monitor and address electrical issues.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who announced the plan Nov. 17, said that $28.1 million of the total cost is expected to be covered by federal funds through a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey disaster recovery and mitigation award. He adds that these projects are consistent with recommendations in his NYS 2100 Commission Report that includes calls for improving protection of critical airport infrastructure.

"Hurricane Sandy forced us to reevaluate how we prepare for and respond to a major natural disaster in New York," Cuomo said. "The question is not if another storm will hit, but when, and the state is doing everything it can to ensure that New York's infrastructure is strong and durable when the time comes."

New York City

In B2 Tower Suit, Date Set for Oral Arguments

Two trade groups and the New York City Dept. of Building (DOB) are scheduled to give oral arguments on Dec. 17 before a state judge in a case involving the prefabricated building units of Atlantic Yards' B2 tower.

A factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is making the units for developer Forest City Ratner Cos.' $117-million modular high-rise, the first residential tower at the Atlantic Yards site. But the trade groups—Mechanical Contractors Association of New York (MCANY) and the Plumbing Foundation City of New York (PFCNY)—charge that the prefab work is being done without licensed tradespeople and sued DOB in July.

Work on the units should not be conducted off site and without supervision of DOB-licensed master plumbers and fire suppression contractors, says Stewart O'Brien, PFCNY executive director. Allowing such work violates the NYC construction code, he says.

A DOB spokeswoman says the agency has no comment.

"Our argument is not with Forest City Ratner; it is with the city," Stewart says. "The [construction] code says one thing, but rather than getting the code changed, [DOB] allowed fire suppression and plumbing and gas work without using licensed individuals as required by the code."

Stewart adds that MCANY and PFCNY are in favor of modular construction as a means to save construction costs. "What we don't understand is why you would want the safety work, including gas work, to be done in the factory by unlicensed individuals when the rate that they are paying those unlicensed individuals is the same that it costs for licensed personnel," he says.

Justice Eileen A. Rakower of the State Supreme Court, New York County, is assigned to hear the oral arguments.

Meanwhile, the factory is expected to begin shipping the finished modules to the B2 site in January. FCRC announced in its quarterly earnings report last September that the tower is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2014.