Friday, April 27, 2007

Our Western, I mean Eastern Wall,

With the Partial Stop Work Order now in place, excavation near the 100' long Eastern wall has come to a stand still. The only contradiction is that the official SWO description specifically details the "Western" lot line as the problem, but what I think they actually intended to say is the "Eastern" side of the lot. The Brooklyn Department of Buildings have their compass directions mixed up. As you dig closer and closer to the center of the Earth, direction does starts to get a little confusing.
Regardless, there are two D.o.B. requirements of the partial SWO. The first is to back-fill the hole along the area directly behind the cracked and failing 1504 8th Avenue to a depth of 10'. The photo above shows the extent of the back fill. Looks like they only got around to filling the hole to maybe 15' below grade, but who exactly is counting.
The second requirement is that they cease all work within a safety buffer zone 20' out from the wall, creating a 2000 square foot area off-limits to any further excavation. For now I guess this SWO will stay in place until 1504 can be stabilized. Permits have been posted on the front door of the damaged building, but as of today no external bracing or stabilization work has been executed.

The Ramp

Excavating a hole this size becomes tricky. With only one way out to 15th street, you have to make sure you don't paint yourself into a corner.

Twenty feet deep and the pilings start to wander off coarse.
It is now evident that as the boring machine went deeper the piling's alignment became less controlled. You can see at about 20' down they start to get a little funky. Some can be seen standing proud from the rest in the row. This makes it more difficult to fit the iron bracing flush against the piles.

Which Way to the Western Front?
However, along the rear and Western lot lines, the digging has progressed downward almost to the maximum depth, where eventually, the finished 3rd subfloor foundation slab will be poured. This reinforced concrete slab is crucial as it is supposed to tie together all the foundation pilings, holding them in place. Think of it as the bottom of the box, so to speak. You can see the second level of bracing has started to be welded in place at the Southwestern corner.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Open-cut & Bottom-up Secant Walls, Brooklyn Style.

The Brooklyn Engineering Design and Build question of the day. Concerning our beloved Armory Plaza; "What is the construction sequence when building a secant piling wall foundation using the "Open-cut and Bottom-up method and how is or isn't it being applied in this specific case?" You can Email your answers to: Members of the NYC Forensic Engineering Unit of the Buildings Department are encouraged to submit their answers as well. All answers will be published at a later date.

Lesson of the day.

Using these excellent graphics, (courtesy of Singapore's Land Transport Authority L.T.A.) we can see exactly the steps involved when using the "open-cut and bottom-up" excavation techniques. Before we begin I would just like to mention that these techniques were used, for example, in the construction of Singapore's Rapid Transit Systems Northeast Line or (NEL).
"Construction of NEL spanned six years, from 1997 to 2002. During this period, LTA overcame many challenges. It constructed stations in heavily built-up areas like Chinatown, safeguarded some of Singapore's oldest buildings along Race Course Road - under which tunnelling works were carried out, and executed complex traffic diversion plans along the heavily used northeast corridor."

Sounds a little like bragging to me.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Please keep in mind before attempting to make any comparisons, that building a simple subway tunnel is no where near as challenging an engineering feat as say, building The Armory Plaza- a complex five story condo with parking garage in NYC. This is Brooklyn USA after all. Not some muggy provincial, backwater town in some Far Eastern corner of the equatorial third world.
Well then, let's plug in the opaque projector, take our seats and turn out those lights. Can someone get the window blinds please? Thank you Mr. Barbarino.

HINT: The six stages of construction

• Denial and isolation: "This is not happening to me."

• Anger: "How dare God do this to me."

• Bargaining: "Just let my house stand long enough to see my son graduate."

• Depression: "I can't bear to face going through this, putting my family through this."

. Anger again: "Why won't Allstate cover these damages?" "How much does the lawyer want?"

• Acceptance: Bend over and grab your ankles. "I'm ready, I don't want to struggle anymore."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Partial Stop Work Order for 406 15th Street... again!

DoB says, "Stay 20 feet away from her or else!" Failure to provide protection to neighboring 1504 8th Avenue during recent excavation work gets the Armory Plaza a Partial Stop Work Order gang spank. Demerara Engineering joins the kamikazi clusterfuck. Let's see how they get out of this one. Will the new foundation work be put on hold until the old foundation can be repaired?

All the kings horses-The reconstruction of 396 15th Street.

Before we pull the plug on the cracked up 1504 8th Avenue just yet, we should first take a look down the block. Witness the current efforts at resuscitating the seemingly mortally wounded, 396 15th Street. Its front and side facades severly injured during the early excavation work on the planned foundation for the neighboring 400 15th Street Condo project, 396 is in the process of removing and replacing 125 feet of its two story side wall. To anyone passing by, it may look like just another South Slope demolition in process. Everything from below the ground up has so far been removed.
Criss crossing X bracing has been welded to the existing joists in order to hold up the roof and second story floor while the side wall is replaced.

The incentive to repair 396 may come from the owners ongoing lawsuit which I am guessing prevents the developer from proceeding any further until all corrections have been made and damages repaired. For you budding engineers out there, this section of 15th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues in Brooklyn, is a cautionary lesson on everything that can go pathetically wrong when digging near existing buildings.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

1504 Structural Stabilization & Temporary Building Bracing

The owner of 1504 8th Avenue, a Mr. Arnold Rosenshein of 1504 Realty L.L.C., has been granted a permit to begin work on stabilizing his heavily damaged building.

Is this "temporary fix" only a defensive response to the previous two D.o.B./E.C.B. violations for "Failure to Maintain"? Or could it actually be the beginning of an honest to Betsy attempt to rescue and repair the building before the outer masonry walls shear off into the Memorial Baptist Church's now vacated parking lot? No sidewalk shed permits have been applied for to our knowledge.
There are significant cracks on both the rear and side facades. The left side wall seems to be twisting. There are also areas on the front facade where the brick around the window gates has popped off. The basement floor and foundation wall at the rear of the building show signs of severe depression. It does not look good. IMBY staff psychologists have been working closely with the building as it has been "entertaining certain thoughts" about throwing itself down into The Pit. There is always the chance that this hysteria could have already spread to the neighboring 1502 8th Avenue. Just last week, our caring DoB inspectors stopped an apparent self-inflicted boiler-ectomy. Was this a cry for help?
Sunnydale Hell Hole
In any case, the Armory Plaza Gang have wasted no time in digging down to the next level. You can see the different colored layers of glacial sediment being exposed by the excavator . Our IMBY staff Geologist is out this week, but I will venture to guess that this soil has not been disturbed in like a gazzillion years.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gravity + a little bit of knowledge=

Maybe the reason why buildings seem to be falling all over the city...

“This has been a big problem for some time,” structural engineer Joe Tortorella told The Observer. “It is a consequence of overzealous contractors and owners trying to work too fast and make money, and ultimately cutting corners.”

Mr. Tortorella, former president of the Structural Engineers Association of New York, an engineering trade group, thinks that the incidents stem largely from inexperience.
Read the entire story here.

Or if you like, from the good folks at Curbed, still another cracked perspective on the recent avalanche of brick.

Some recent handiwork from The Pit.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Happy 2 year anniversary!

Armory Plaza #2 Party

Remember two years ago on April 16th, 2005? It was a Saturday around 8:30 in the morning when our good neighbors decided to tear down the fence and introduce themselves.

"Where's my complimentary Armory Plaza designer logo swag filled tote?"
I love candles! How about something from Bricolage Designs new aromatherapy line of D.o.B.-friendly scents? They have a slightly dirty, lingering (but not overpowering) scent that makes it the hands-down favorite of candle connoisseurs year in and year out. "Good times" as Jeri Blank would say.

Getting Biblical

Something like a near record breaking 8'' of rain fell on NYC in a 24 hour period on Saturday night and Sunday. The kind of real scum scrubbing rain that finally washes away all the sick whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, and junkies, off the streets of the South Slope. Ironically, Alternate Side of the Street Parking was not suspended, so I still had to move my car for this mornings street cleaning.

New Crack!

Wow, check out the new crack on the side of the now vacated 1504 8th Avenue. It formed over night. It's the one starting just above the spray painted "B". The one without any crack monitors on it yet. Then there's that massive crack that runs the entire height of the building. It has spread wide open, especially at the top near the parapet wall.

DOB inspectors issued a Vacate Order and taped off the parking lot with forsythia colored caution tape.

Love the Pole and the Hole
In an attempt to brace the deep foundation walls they are using everything but the kitchen sink, including the left over pilings welded at angles to brace the corners.

CrackCams installed with two cameras-One pointing into The Pit and the other trained on the failing wall of 1504. Possibly a new public access channel? Where can I get a subscription?

Is anyone still noticing that The Memorial Baptist Church continues to crack. "Good Times"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Seven, eight, lay them straight.

Started hanging the iron this week. Reminds me of the first time I ever tried hanging a towel rack on an uneven plaster wall without the use of a level or tape measure.

Shadow Puppetry
I like this hallucinatory landscape image along the 8th Avenue side of The Pit that arrives each afternoon just as the sun is about to set. Do you remember when you stopped seeing shadows? The stage is set for some Indonesian morality themed shadow-play, except in this instance, living people will perform instead of paper cut-outs. It's not a good idea to place a ladder on such a severe incline.

"en plein air"
Visually pleasing, the "mud and rust browns", they are. Maybe it's the pixillation, but my photos have been coming out impressionistically fuzzy, as if I was executing some quick preliminary studies done on site and then brought back to my studio at the end of each day.
I usually don't like Impressionist paintings but, there is a Impressionist landscape show at the Brooklyn Museum that includes a very tasty little John Singer Sargent painting depicting a forest stream that totally surprised me. Sargent was a great society portrait painter. He sure could paint the way shallow water feels- speeding up when it passes over, around and between rounded stones, becoming more opaque, and then translucent as it becomes still again... You know, junk like that.

Turning the corner.

Eastern wall parallel to 8th Ave. The old lot line that separated 406 from 408 15th.

Detail of welded steel I-beam support struts along shared rear lot line. Fabricated spacers fill the gaps as the piles are not exactly in line.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.

My son is now at the age where he can finally fend for himself against the attacks of most of the locally grown gap toothed varietals.
Daddy's time. Yesterday at the playground, I was able to read right through, literally from cover to uninterrupted cover, including all the classifieds, an old copy of Giantess Magazine.

Lately most of my leisure time is ill spent, religiously gazing at this tiny little man at the bottom of The Pit. He's been fervently, almost fetishically, daubing hand mixed masonry product between the massive steel columns. Like Sister Wendy having a Ferris Bueller Moment, I'm frozen, transfixed in front of "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte", it's been that kind of life affirming week to say the least.

As someone who finds diastematics quite pleasing to the eye, I never understood why spoil sport dentists couldn't leave things better off alone. " The absence of enamel is unashamedly lustful!"

Architecturally speaking, 257 years ago, in a prior life, might I have preferred a chinked log cabin over a chinckless one?

"Arguably the greatest scene from the greatest movie ever made..."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Iron Work

Workers have set about removing the loose soil between the tube piles. Not unlike tiny symbiotic Plovers (Pluvianus aegyptius) cleaning out the gaps between the teeth of some gynormous crocodile.

Piles of flossing debris.

Delivered this steel to the site on Friday.
The pit is now about 12' deep. They need to dig an additional 24' more to accommodate the basement and two subcellars.