Monday, January 15, 2007

The Great Abyss. A Glimpse Into 2007

The back yard garden of 391 16th Street. Reminder: It's still not too late to plant your spring flowering bulbs.

ere's a suggestion. When the Department of Buildings starts receiving multiple 311 "failure to protect property" complaints concerning a particular construction site, a flashing red light would go off in Commissioner Mossad's office and he would alert a specific crack team of inspectors who would rush out to investigate. They would be assigned to that job until everyone involved is reasonably satisfied, and/or locked behind bars. That way there would be some continuity, some ability to chart adverse structural changes to the property over time, some way to prevent the shameful things that are happening to all the properties with-in spitting distance of the notorious 406-408 15th Street Armory Plaza destruction site.

Let's face it, the DoB is failing miserably in regards to protecting the surrounding properties... maybe as a morale booster if the DoB required its inspectors to wear one piece spandex blue and gold unitards, capes with the NYC BUILDINGS logo, and shiny black patent leather utility belts with matching boots... at the least they would still have some self esteem left to lose.
I know what you are thinking. We need to rotate inspectors to prevent the possibility of malfeasance and bribery. Hell, the way things are leaning in the contractors favor at 406, I would be truly disappointed if we find out no one has been receiving gratuities. Wow, free favors, that would really mean they don't know their underpinnings from a hole in the ground.

We must remain relentless.
So we had a steady tsunami of DoB inspectors out to look at the new damage. Are two inspectors in one week considered a tsunami? Two different inspectors among a half dozen who have made visits this far. One who admitted this isn't his "area" and another who mysteriously disappeared after 5 minutes.

Unfortunately they had to be dragged kicking and screaming before they would come out to take a peek. Special thanks to Sergeant Ward at the 72nd police precinct for your help. Sergeant Ward had been out to the site to assess the damage months ago after a 5 foot deep sink hole formed taking out a utility pole and a tree. In his most recent visit, he immediately saw how bad the situation had deteriorated since his last visit and immediately made a call to the DoB.

That's right... The police are now calling the DoB telling them they better get their asses over to the building site or else. Maybe the police just know where to look for them, or maybe DoB inspectors are supplementing their income by providing warm bodies for criminal line ups. But for what ever reason they showed up, you could tell their hearts weren't in to it. "Did see cracks, no action necessary based upon physical observation." Complaints resolved. Maybe if the same inspector came twice, he could see the difference a day makes, crack wise.

So through the magic of solid state digital technology, the folks at Imby Labs bring you this weeks Crack-Up Date.

The before, before photo.
This is the retaining wall between 393 and 391. Pay attention to the metal fence pole at the far right. The 2 pictures below show the progression.

A crack starts to open during the installation of the pilings. This is about 10 feet away from the pilings. The damage zone: as the sink holes form along the boring line they start to pull on surface structures, in this case the chain link fence.

This is a recent photo. The end of the fence has been pulled underground and is now burried. Notice the black crack in the dirt next to the red bricks. This crack continues parallel to the pilings for 60 to 80 feet. There are two more of these crack lines that run like dotted lines the entire width of 4 neighboring properties, all parallel to the pilings. When a rod is placed in these cracks, it sinks to a depth of 2 feet without any pressure what so ever. The crack lines are 18' and 30' feet from the 406 fence line, just a few feet from the foundations of our homes. So more or less it appears that there are three great massive sections of earth moving in the direction of the 60' deep foundation holes. Without any shoring, the first section has been drawn down to fill the voids left after the borings. The other sections following the first, moving in the same path.

A gap opens twenty feet from the construction fence.

In this photo see how the fence has now been ripped from the rear wall of 393 16th Street.

These pictures really don't convey the serious nature of the damage. You have to see it to believe it. Most of this movement happened during the recent rains.
In the 18 months since they started this project, the Armory Plaza Gang has not made a single repair to any ones property. What they have done, and very well I might add, is to maintain a duplicitous facade. In the name of "Making Repairs" they have dumped load after load of fill, without the permission of some of the owners, on top of our backyards in an effort to conceal the damage; covering up the sinking without ever addressing the reason for the ground to start sinking in the first place. Is this criminal activity? The Locicero's and the DoB seem to think that this is all just superficial pre-existing cracks. Remember 1504 took 5 months to condemn, and it had no visible cracks in the beginning.

In a recent conversation with the developers son, who is also the contractor doing the foundation work, he assured us, "don't worry, I'm going to take care of everything."

"When might those repairs be made?", we inquired.

"As soon as the ground finishes settling", he said.

Finally we agree on one thing. The ground is settling! Now what are we going to do to stop this before it's too late. If Commissioner Mossad had a red light in his office, it would be flashing right now. To think this disaster was entirely preventable... the forced evacuation of 1504... the damage to the historic Memorial Baptist Church... and now the damage to six other properties. What a shame. What a crime. And you know the sadest joke, the Lociceros are now crying about being constantly harassed by the neighboring homeowners. "Mind your own fucking business" is the best they can hurl over the fence when they "catch" us taking pictures of the damage to our properties.

Detail of "pre-existing" patio crack. One of many forming as the undermined slab shifts. It moves apart about a half inch per day when it rains.

The sink hole acts up again after being "top filled" a few days before. You can see the brick edging is pulling away at this point. These bricks have been mortored in place for the last 12 years without so much as a hairline crack forming in that entire time. Completly destroyed in three days.

The patios current condition. It is slowly moving away from the house and towards the sink hole in two great sections.

quick reminder to all my angry pitch fork wielding neighbors, as part of the NYC DoB 2006-2009 Strategic Plan, Commissioner Lancaster has stated that,
"Customer service is a top priority at the Department of Buildings. From providing our customers with plain language documents to utilizing cutting-edge technology, we're always looking for new ways to improve our services. This year a number of initiatives will be implemented to ensure the safe and lawful use of all of New York City’s 950,000 buildings." (949,999 not counting 1504 8th Avenue)

Keep a look out for the following: Homeowners Night - Expanding to All Five Borough
Beginning January 17, 2007, all five borough offices located in the protected "Green Zone" will open their doors every Tuesday evening from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. exclusively to homeowners. During this time, staff will be available to provide homeowners with one-on-one assistance and answer any other questions they may have even if it has to be done through 6 inch thick bullet-proof plexi glass.

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