Monday, June 18, 2007


Builders Corp., the foundation contractor for Armory Heights, LLC. is now being allowed to work Saturdays by the Dept. of Buildings.
After Hours Work Variance Permits grant permission for weekend work between the hours of 10am and 4pm. I was under the impression that they are usually only handed out during times of dire emergency where repair delays could mean additional damages and danger to the public. In this case the permit specifies, "To prepare matte foundation in sub levels of job site to stabilize the foundation walls". From what I have seen and heard this past weekend, the remedial work includes just about every type of construction that was being performed during the regular work week.

Officials for the DoB have apparently decided that a Full Stop Work Order at this stage in the operation would only make the foundation even more unstable. Better to let them finish the bottom slab and possibly prevent any more damage from happening, I guess. Does this include building forms and pouring the cement for the walls as well? There still is a Partial Stop Work Order in effect for any work 25 feet from the eastern 8th Avenue property line.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Brooklyn Blumpkin photo of the Day

Rear end of 1504 Eighth Avenue. I have been trying for weeks to attract a more upscale kind of clientele to our blog. I have finally succeeded. From now on I plan on using the term "Blumkin" in every post. Thanks Google!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

South Slopers Attempt Reverse Blumpkins

In what's becoming an all too familiar sight in the South Slope--property owners openly engaged in the architectural equivalent of the fabled "Reverse Blumpkin".
Now more than ever, it seems the act of trying to rebuild a building while it's being simultaneously knocked down has become the accepted norm. Others on 15th Street have experimented with this masonry fetish before with less than stellar results. 396 15th street comes to mind.

She's been literally torn inside out, in broad daylight no less, while her neighbor tries to finish his foundation at the exact same time. Accidental exposure is one thing, but blatant exhibitionism is pushing even my limits of decency. What's to stop unsuspecting women and children from looking past the construction fences to witness this depraved and humiliating act. More recently, 1504 8th Avenue has been caught unveiled.

See there, beneath the blue tarp!

Socially progressive collapse resistance
In our minds eye it doesn't matter if the practice is officially permitted by the Brooklyn Department of Buildings. A blumkin is still a blumkin, whether the property owners are willing participants or not. Others may claim that there are no unwilling participants, but more often than not, those others are the very real estate developers who's gaping, unprotected holes have forced their neighbors on to their knees.

New York City stands on the verge of unloading its century-old building codes, in favor of nationally and internationally accepted construction codes and building standards. Let's see what effect this will have here in backwards Brooklyn.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Brooklyn property owners stuck with the repair bills.

The sad truth.

Unscrupulous developer teams up with dangerously inept foundation contractor and equally inept engineering firm, to build in a neighborhood comprised of 100+ year old homes .

Department of Buildings fails to adequately supervise and enforce the building code by allowing work to proceed against approved plans.

Adjacent buildings crumble.

Buildings Department cites property owners for failing to maintain their buildings.

Buildings Department blames property owners for contributing to current condition of their buildings, implying that property owners didn't react quickly enough to implement costly emergencey repairs to ''save'' buildings.

Property owners spend $100,000 or more on repairs.

Property owners spend thousands more on legal costs to recover damages.

Developer finishes building, sells off units, disolves limited liability company, and moves on to next neighborhood.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dimora Condos Open House

The Dimora 361 Sixteenth Street.

"21 Streamlined Lofty Residences with soaring ceilings throughout each apartment, gives these modern condominiums a carefree and soothing feel, thus creating solace."

What may be something of a rare and unusual occurrence in Brooklyn's South Slope- A new condo development that actually improves on what existed before without disrespecting and disrupting the quality of life for the surrounding pre existing neighborhood. Maybe this is only possible because the developer/architect/builder has plans to occupy one of his units and has been on the job site from day one, personally handling most of the common construction problems before they become nightmares for the neighboring property owners. As recent developments go, this one may be a dream. In the end, I guess it will depend on whether any promises made end as promises kept.


If I was in the market for (let's be honest, if I could afford) new construction in the South Slope, I would definitely try and attend the Grand Opening Party this Thursday June 7th at 6pm and the Open House on June 10th from 12-4pm. I don't think these will stay on the market for long. Maybe I wouldn't even wait that long.

From the outside everything looks to be top notch. For a pre-party look at what awaits on the inside check out the Dimora's web page. Try out the virtual walk-through tour. My only complaint is that the web site is vague as to how the 21 Units are being divided up. No square footage-No prices listed. There are floor plans however. (What no bathtubs or closets!) I guess you can work out the details over wine and cheese later in the week. Update: Prices range $479,000 -$769,000 for between 645-1160 square feet. Thats about $750 per foot.

The closest competition, and I mean that geographically and not aesthetically, is Karl Fisher's "timeless and enduring" Suite 16 farther down 16th Street below 6th Avenue. For comparison sake, there is currently a luxury 2 bedroom 1460sf condo for sale in Suite 16 for $1,115,000.
The prices of private one and two family row houses on 16th Street have continued to rise, and now hover around $1.4 million. If you ask me, 16th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues is the most appealing location. Now if we can just figure out where the 21 new families are going to park their cars.

Some "Before" and "During" photos.

1504 Veiled

Veiled scaffolding went up this weekend as workers prepare to remove and replace the damaged rear brick facade of 1504 8th Avenue. There is a layer of "brownstone" stucco veneer that conceals the brick on this rear wall. It will be interesting, biblically speaking, to see if the building is indeed savable.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I have cracks in my pile caps...What should I do?

DIY Tip of the day.

A reader writes in that they have these annoying cracks forming in recently poured concrete pile caps and do we at IMBY.BLOGSPOT.COM know of a quick 'n easy remedy to conceal them. "We have DoB inspectors coming over for brunch this afternoon and don't want them to be distracted."

We think... toothpaste for the cracks and grilled asparagus and prosciutto salad for brunch should do the trick. Don't forget the ice cold mimosas!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

How did we miss this one.

Press Release

May 16, 2007

Buildings Department Accepts 2007 Sheldon Oliensis Ethics In City Government Award
Department Honored for Commitment to Ethics and Integrity

Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster, FAIA today accepted the 2007 Sheldon Oliensis Ethics in City Government Award, an annual award given by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) to a New York City agency that demonstrates a commitment to the promotion of ethics and integrity. The COIB voted to present the award this year to the Buildings Department in recognition of the Department's dedicated and successful efforts to infuse integrity, accountability, and efficiency into the Agency's operations. Steven Rosenfeld, Chairman of the Conflicts of Interest Board, presented Commissioner Lancaster with the award at a ceremony kicking off the COIB's 13th Annual Seminar on Ethics in New York City Government at the Center for New York City Law in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delivered keynote addresses at the ceremony, which was also attended by Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn and COIB Executive Director Mark Davies.

“When I was appointed by the Mayor in 2002, Commissioner Gill Hearn and I ironed out a plan to institute anti-corruption measures and bring integrity back into operations at the Buildings Department. This award today acknowledges a significant step in the right direction toward restoring professionalism, impartiality, transparency, and accountability at the Buildings Department,” said Commissioner Lancaster. “I'd like to thank Commissioner Gill Hearn for her full commitment to this effort and my staff for all their hard work over the past five years. We must continue to build upon our integrity program and never believe our job is done.”

“At Mayor Bloomberg's request, the Buildings Department and DOI joined forces in 2002 to address the corruption issues that the Buildings Department had been chronically experiencing. With steps taken by both agencies we have now seen a sustained change in what was previously an accepted culture of corruption at the Buildings Department. This was not possible without Commissioner Lancaster's determination and cooperation. The relationship between DOI and the Buildings Department is a model of how it should work. While we will remain vigilant, Commissioner Lancaster and her staff have helped make the Buildings Department an agency with greater integrity and the City a safer place to live. Commissioner Lancaster and the Buildings Department truly deserve this year's Ethics Award from the Conflicts of Interest Board,” said Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.

Since Commissioners Lancaster and Gill-Hearn began an integrity program for the Buildings Department in 2002, the Buildings Department has taken on numerous reforms aimed at eliminating corruption and increasing transparency and accountability. The Department's focus has been threefold: ethical standards in the Agency's Code of Conduct are strictly enforced; employees are provided with the tools, training, and support they need to develop a professional investment in the Department; and customers are made aware of the standards to which Buildings Department employees are held. Since 2002, the Agency, working with DOI has:

* Formed an ongoing partnership with the Department of Investigation to build a unique partnership and collaboration to eliminate instances of corruption within the industry and the Department.

* Created the Buildings Special Investigations Unit (BSIU) that works with both DOI and Buildings to investigate complaints and allegations of wrongdoing.

* Launched its first-ever Code of Conduct - the Agency's first-ever set of plain language guidelines for employee behavior - in 2004 to outline a zero-tolerance policy towards misconduct. Updated and publicly released in 2006, the Code of Conduct is strictly enforced at all levels of the Department.

* Increased the tools, training, and support that all employees need to do their jobs with professionalism and respect. Inspectors are being provided with handheld computers to yield fast results and digital cameras to document on-site conditions and increase transparency in the field. All employees also now have the opportunity to take continuing education classes at Buildings University, modeled after the NYPD's Police Academy, to learn more about the business and advance within the Department.

* Increased awarness among the industry to ensure customers and the public know and understand the ethical standards to which the Department's employees are held. After the most recent update in 2006, the Code of Conduct was distributed to not only the Agency's staff, but also to the people who do business with Department and made available to the public in the offices and online.

The Sheldon Oliensis Ethics in City Government Award is presented by New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board to honor an agency or individual for promoting ethics and integrity in city government. Its first recipient and namesake was the late former COIB Board Chair Sheldon Oliensis, who presided over the Board's transformation from an advisory body into one of the premier ethics agencies in the country. Past recipients have included the Departments of Transportation, Environmental Protection, and Investigation.

To learn more about the Department's ongoing partnership with the Department of Investigation or its efforts to increase transparency, efficiency, and accountability, visit the Buildings Department website at or call 311.

Contact: Kate Lindquist (212) 566-3473

The New York City Department of Buildings ensures the safe and lawful use of buildings and properties by enforcing the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. We facilitate development with integrity, efficiency and professionalism.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The voice in the wilderness. A Daily News Editorial

Contractor crackdown

Wednesday, May 30th 2007

New York has enjoyed a historic building boom as a rising economy has sparked housing construction and renovations across the boroughs. Hammers and saws are at work even in neighborhoods that were once down at the heel.

City Hall has done an excellent job encouraging production of new housing and has committed to financing a record-breaking number of affordable units. But the Department of Buildings, it turns out, has done too little to discourage ripoffs, slipshod work and safety violations.

Construction workers have suffered fatalities and thousands have been paid substandard wages - while numerous New Yorkers have seen their homes damaged by contractors working on adjoining properties. Mayor Bloomberg is now promising big fixes - and well he should.

The parlous state to which building enforcement fell as construction rose has been made dramatically clear by Daily News reporter Brian Kates, whose four-part investigative series, "Building Boom-Doggle," concludes in today's paper. What he discovered in building records and by visiting the nabes should have been front and center on the desk of Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, and from there it should have been passed up the chain of command to Hizzoner. Plainly, too little of that happened, leaving the mayor in the uncharacteristic position of having to scramble for a remedial plan.

Most tragically, 31 construction workers were killed on the job in the city last year, and so far this year five have died. "Virtually all the deaths occurred in buildings where city building codes were violated or federal safety regulations ignored," Kates reported.

Bloomberg and Lancaster did mount an effort this year to reduce fatalities by cracking down on the lack of scaffold safety, scaffold accidents being a leading cause of construction deaths. But far more remains to be done - in particular to address the bureaucratic black hole created by the overlapping jurisdictions of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Buildings Department.

Neither agency has the proper staffing to apply real legal muscle, so hustling contractors often ignore fines and other penalties, or just treat them as business expenses. And they fatten their wallets even further by hiring off-the-books workers - nonunion immigrants preferred - who won't complain about lousy, unsafe working conditions and even lousier pay. The city says construction workers must be paid $30 an hour plus benefits. Laborers interviewed by The News reported getting about $8.50 an hour. They put in long, tough, backbreaking hours with no oversight, no protection, maybe not even adequate equipment, and the only time the city - and that includes the public - takes notice is when another one dies under a falling wall or a collapsing staircase.

Now, though, the Daily News series has gotten Bloomberg's attention. That's good. We expect action.

Daily News Editorial

Cracks in the foundation

Buildings Department fails as construction booms


Wednesday, May 30th 2007

The stories are gripping, and infuriating.

Tenants forced to evacuate their apartments because shoddy developers working next-door undermined the foundation of their homes.

Crooked architects and engineers falsely claiming they are following laws and getting away with peanut-sized fines when they are caught.

Scores of untrained workers, most immigrants, killed in preventable accidents and thousands of others paid substandard wages off-the-books to work in dangerous conditions.

The horror stories from reporter Brian Kates' investigative series in the Daily News sound like they're from a gold rush town in the Old West. That they are from the current case files of the city's Buildings Department is a major scandal. Overwhelmed, undermanned and uninspired, the agency responsible for making sure one man's dream isn't a nightmare for others is failing.

More shocking, the agency's near collapse apparently comes as a surprise to Mayor Bloomberg. He said Monday he had read Kates' articles and would meet with Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster to discuss the findings. Question, Mr. Mayor: How come you had to learn about this from the newspaper?

After all, it's not as though the articles reflect an aberration or isolated cases. What Kates discovered is a systemic breakdown of a vital service, including on projects the city itself funds. And it's not the first time. The News found similar problems last year, and Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) held hearings. So many residents and civic groups wanted to voice their frustrations that a second day of hearings was held to give them time to speak. A common point is that complaints to the city, including through the 311 line, often bring no response, or one so late that the damage was done.

Last December, when Bloomberg talked about managing growth, I wrote that the Buildings Department had become like an ambulance service - turning up at construction sites only when there had been serious accidents. As the mangled bodies of construction workers are carried away, you can count on the department to suddenly find violations. Some preventive medicine would help.

Bloomberg did make changes in scaffolding rules and wants an overhaul of the entire building code, including updating standards to reflect modern technology and techniques. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, in a phone interview, defended the agency, saying it had been "a roadblock to development" and had suffered from "decades of corruption and neglect."

"It has made enormous strides, but yes, there is still more to do. It cannot be turned around in a day," he said.

Sheer volume is one of the issues. The number of residential permits, for example, increased 110% in five years, while the inspector force has not kept pace.

And there are problems with the self-certification system. Created by Mayor Rudy Giuliani to combat rampant corruption and backlogs, the goal of creating an honor system among architects and engineers has been turned into a cheaters' paradise. Audits have found that up to two-thirds of the self-certified plans have errors, some so egregious, like extra floors on buildings, that they could only be intentional.

Brennan, whose Park Slope and Flatbush district has been swamped with construction problems, said yesterday he has proposed seven bills in Albany, including one to license general contractors and another to force the city to report all violations to community boards and do thousands of audits to make sure projects conform to plans. Yet he concedes "a lack of will power" is part of the problem.

"The people at the top, the mayor and Dan Doctoroff, are in ecstasy over all the construction," Brennan told me. "But they're not perceiving the dark side of what's going on."

If they don't see it now, it's only because they don't want to.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rebar Installation

One step closer towards the completion of the bottom slab. Once finished, this reinforced concrete sub-cellar floor slab will tie together the piles. Looks like the ground water in this area is approximately 36 feet below the surface.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sitting helpless as damage continues

Monday, May 28, 2007, 4:00 AM
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Work next-door has heavily damaged his property, Anthony Ciccone says.Work next-door has heavily damaged his property, Anthony Ciccone says.
See also:
Anthony Ciccone's Ganmar Electronics has been at 224 16th St. in south Park Slope, Brooklyn, since 1972. With a condo going up next-door, his building shows cracks in the brickwork and stains from flooding in his basement.
"It was like a faucet coming through the wall," he said. "There was half a foot of water on the floor. I had to move all my equipment out."
Ciccone has sued the new condo's developer for $1 million, claiming sloppy work on that foundation "weakened and undermined" his property and allowed water to leak in.
Louis Tufino, who owns a house at 232 16th St., said his basement has "an inch gap in the floor and a big hole in the backyard where it's sunk." He also blames work at 226 16th St.
Back on Feb. 15, 2006, two construction workers at that address were rushed to New York Methodist Hospital when a 10-foot wall collapsed on them during demolition.
Last year, the city Buildings Department cited the developer, 16th St. Development Corp. LLC, for failure to comply with a stop-work order and for working without a permit. Twice, it issued violations for failure to safeguard public and property.
Department records also show $10,000 in unpaid fines at the site.
The agency concluded that the demolition work was being done in "an unsafe manner" by MMG Designs, a Staten Island-based company that has a record of violations in the neighborhood.
For example, at 166 16th St., MMG employee Alfonso Cruz fell from the roof and was injured. His employer was cited for "failure to carry out demolition in a safe and proper manner." The violation noted that there was "no fall restraint system."
The company also was cited for illegal demolition at 182 15th St., a condo that was cut to half its planned size after a massive neighborhood campaign.
MMG owner Maria Grasso did not return a call for comment.
Daily News Reporter Brian Kates has written extensively on Brooklyn's construction boondoggle.