Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Brennan Gets Two.

Brennan Reports Progress with Two New Construction and
Development Safety Laws


Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Bklyn) reports two bills to improve regulation and enforcement of the NYC Building Code and Zoning Resolution have become law. Over the past two weeks Governor Spitzer has signed into law Brennan’s “self-certification” bill (A7746/S4603) and “excavation and shoring” bill (A7748/S5246). The bills were sponsored in the NYS Senate by Senator Frank Padavan.

Brennan said, “These laws expand DOB’s arsenal to protect public safety. They give DOB new power to crack down on shady architects who file illegal building plans and they give DOB a way to ensure new buildings don’t go up at the expense of existing neighboring homes and properties.”

A7746/S4603 authorizes the Buildings Commissioner to refuse to accept plans from an architect who in the past was proven to have knowingly made false filings with the Buildings Department.
A7748/S5246 requires contractors doing excavating of any sort to provide protection for adjacent properties. In addition, it requires contractors to carry insurance for damage caused by construction, demolition and excavation.


A7746 is retroactive to 8/15 and A7748 is retroactive to 8/28/07.

The two bills are part of Brennan’s comprehensive legislative package to protect public safety by giving DOB more tools for enforcement and regulation of construction. The legislation has won wide support from community advocates, civic groups, community boards and borough presidents. Two other bills, the DOB Community Accountability Act and a bill by Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi which allows the City to issue tax liens for hazardous building violations, passed only the Assembly.

The package grew out of lengthy city-wide hearings Brennan held in the Fall of 2006 on the subject of the regulation of construction and development in NYC. Brennan introduced six bills in the NYS Assembly in April of 2007 and another was Hevesi’s. Companion bills were introduced in the NYS Senate by Senator Padavan.

Last week Governor Spitzer vetoed one of the bills in this package, A7800/S5223 - which required re-inspection and correction of hazardous violations if a developer failed to answer a summons. Brennan said, “I plan to work on crafting a version of this bill that still has real force. I am optimistic that we can work together with the Governor and the Mayor to achieve what we all want: safe construction, solid development, without harm to people or property. I look forward to seeing the entire package becoming law.”

##

Wouldn't it be wonderful if these laws could be retroactively applied to the Armory Plaza? I think Assemblymember Brennan had us personally in mind when he wrote them. What does this mean for all the future "Henry Radusky Juniors" out there?
Who would have thought that excavation/foundation contractors were not required to carry insurance?
Probably the most dangerous part of the entire job when the worst is to be expected. Does anyone know exactly how much insurance coverage will be required? $10 million? $20 million? $100 million? To put it in perspective, most co-op /condo boards in NYC now even require a simple painting contractor to have $3 million in coverage before they let him step foot in their building. Come to think of it, I don't think anyone of the residents on 16th Street ever received the insurance information they requested from the developer of 406 15th Street. Better check up on that. Now let's pray they actually have the ability to enforce these new laws.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Retro Sink Hole Footage from April 2006

video



This video goes way back to the Spring of 2006, before the fecal matter really hit the fan later in July. Notice the giant sink hole where the concrete foundation wall is cracked and sinking? The developer got a Building's violation and an Environmental Control Board violation, that interesting enough, is still pending after more than a year. Mr. Mayor, are you listening? An ECB violation for "failure to protect surrounding properties" collecting dust.

On a positive note, I love BLOGGER. They now let you download your Quicktime movies directly. So long YOUTUBE.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Remote Control Boom Box











That box resting in his lap is the remote control that operates the boom crane on the concrete pumper truck parked outside the lot on 15th Street. They are pouring forms along the western wall today.



Thursday, August 30, 2007

Moving right along.







The bottom photo shows the rear and side facade of 1504 8th Avenue in its current glory. The entire rear wall and half of the side wall have been removed, brick by brick, and the building sealed up with plywood and Tyvek House Wrap until everything is settled.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spitzer Vetos A.7800. Brennan's reaction.

Statement of Assemblymember Jim Brennan,
on the veto of A.7800


A bill that would mandate that the New York City Department of Buildings re-inspect and seek correction of hazardous violations of the building code every sixty days

AUG. 29, 2007

It is highly regrettable that Governor Spitzer chose to let the New York City Department of Buildings off the hook in relation to a change in the accountability of the Department for enforcing the building code of the City of New York. As a long-time law enforcement official, the Governor should be aware of the common knowledge of every New York City resident - that enforcement of the building code has gross shortcomings. The Deutsche Bank tragedy, with its two firefighter deaths, was a grim reminder of the woeful inadequacies of the enforcement of the building and fire codes.

The objections of the Mayor and the Department of Buildings were without merit. Although the City complained that Environmental Control Board proceedings frequently took many months longer than the 60-day re-inspection period of the bill for resolution of violations, that objection was irrelevant because the bill provided that if a party who had received a violation appeared before the Environmental Control Board, the mandatory re-inspection and correction provision would not apply to the Buildings Department. The bill targeted persons and properties that were ignoring violations.

The City objected that the bill was inconsistent with the new model building code, but that objection was also without merit. The new code eliminated the word “hazardous” from a new violation system, separating violations into “major” and “minor.” But the Brennan bill contained a provision that allowed the Buildings Commissioner to delete particular violations from the “hazardous” term, effectively allowing the separation between “major” and “minor” and providing a mechanism for a smooth transition to the new model code. The model code, however, contained no mandate for re-inspection and correction of “major” violations.

The City also objected that the bill would cost $4 million a year and create problems if the City needed to prioritize major problems. However, those objections were both trivial and inconsistent since, if the City funded the new enforcement structure, it would enabled the Department to maintain a focus on priorities. The reality is that $4 million a year is a trivial sum in the City’s $60 billion budget, especially when the City has a surplus of $3 billion in cash and prepaid several billion dollars in current year expenses, meaning its surpluses are likely to grow. In fact, the Department of Buildings budget should be at least $30 million a year larger to address the enormity of regulating construction and buildings.

Nonetheless, I am committed to addressing the issue of improving public safety in construction and development and will continue working with the Governor, the Mayor, my colleagues, and the public, to fashion legislation that will improve public safety in the enforcement of the building code. ###

Why is this not surprising? How does this not serve the public? Yes we all know of the recent DoB improvements to streamline the process of building buildings. But making the paperwork less of bureaucratic nightmare does not help those people on the other side of that 8' plywood construction fence when things start going sour. Sixty days is plenty time for minor to become major.

What ever happened to an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure? Where is the logic in waiting until a building crumbles before an inspector can be sent out to investigate an immanently perilous condition finally worthy of a major violation?


As all events in the world somehow relate to the Armory Plaza, if the DoB had been listening to the cries of the people from the start and taken the residents' pleas seriously instead of blowing them off countless times, maybe 8 families wouldn't have been put out into the street. Sure coming to the rescue during dire straights makes it seem like you're doing your job in a hero kind of way, but isn't it the idea to never have to reach that point of no return? That's why fire fighters spend a great deal of their off time teaching people how to prevent accidental fires from occurring in the first place. Believe me when I say that Brooklyn residents are burning mad. Maybe it's just having all that smoke constantly blown up their rear ends.

Regrettably, it's also true that just because a troubled building site gets more official DoB supervision doesn't necessarily mean that the public is any more safe.

Our thanks to
Assemblymember Brennan for the effort. He has tirelessly worked for us through out this debacle of a housing boondoggle. -IMBY

Monday, August 27, 2007

Iron Work Update





Good morning Googling engineers. More photos of the iron being installed for the parking garage's sub cellar floor/ceiling. Completion of this concrete slab was one of the crucial steps necessary to ensure the safety of the surrounding properties.
Assembling structural steel sometimes requires a good deal of persuasive force. Should be a noisy week as they try to push, pull and pry the steel members into place, align the holes and bolt them up.

Saturday, August 18, 2007



It is official! 575 5th Avenue has been approved unanimously by the New York City Council and signed off on by the Mayor, so the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) is complete and 49 units of affordable, supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals and low-income community residents will be built at the corner of 5th Avenue and 16th Street in the South Slope in the near future.
It is time to say a HUGE thank you to everyone for your unwavering support during the entire ULURP process and to CELEBRATE!
We couldn’t have done it without you. Bring your appetite and your dancing shoes on Thursday, August 30th!

Mil Gracias a todos - Michelle


Come celebrate with / Celebra con
Fifth Avenue Committee
Come celebrate the approval of FAC’s affordable
supportive housing at 575 5th Avenue in South Park Slope,
Brooklyn, with a live band and refreshments!
Thursday, August 30, 2007, 6 – 8 pm
at the FAC Center Garden
621 DeGraw St. between 3rd & 4th Avenues

FREE ADMISSION
Please RSVP by Monday, August 27 to 718-237-2017 x 17

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Commercial Overlays and The Silent Killer


*SPOILER WARNING*

For all our psychopathic readers out there who are either unable or unwilling to control their voyeuristic impulses or to delay gratification any longer, we are offering you an immediate satisfaction of your "needs" in revealing the LoCicero/Bricolage Armory Plaza drawings for the very first time today. Go ahead and scroll down the page and enjoy the renderings below. Otherwise, stop right here and wait another two years for the actual brick and mortar to appear.

At IMBY it's always your choice.





















The front facade (click on image to enlarge)
This week we will turn our attention away from the hole and towards taking a little peek at the architectural plans approved by the Brooklyn Department of Buildings for the construction of the Armory Plaza.
However, before we get into the sordid details, let's have a quick look at the overall front facade. Bricolage Designs Inc. is known for their generous use of F.A.R. encased within vast walls of monochromatic brick laid in a simple running bond pattern. Four stories at the street level then set back an additional story for five stories in total, not including various bulkheads. This particular LoCicero/Bricolage design shows much more ornamental restraint overall than their previous collaboration, that being 266 22nd Street. Gone are the decorative pink pre-cast concrete balustrades that crown 266... OK, enough said... let's move on.

We have highlighted two details. The first is of the main 15th Street front doorway. Again very restrained, understated in its modest dignity...



















The second detail is that of the all important street level garage door with curb cuts. Behind this garage door you will find a large elevator that will be the sole access point for automobiles entering and exiting what's being called by the architects as a cellar level "Ambulatory Medical Facility". This lift will also service the two additional sub-cellar levels of residential parking. (There are no ramps in this garage.)

We are going to assume this is, more or less, how residents and visitors will access the underground parking facility. That is when the lift is not broken or being serviced! Will past performance be an indicator and measure of future behavior? (View the elevator safety records for 266 22nd Street Here and Here.)
There may or may not be an attendant on duty. You will pull up to the garage door, probably push a button or operate some remote control and the door will open to reveal the lift. Most likely you will first pull into the lift and exit your car to activate some additional device that will close the door behind you and deliver your car to any one of the three underground parking levels.
If you are visiting the Ambulatory Methadone, I mean Medical Facility, in the cellar or, another possibility, just coming by to drop off your rabies-infected, decapitated raccoon head (frozen, and double bagged of coarse) for testing and evaluation, you may have to wait in a long line to get the security access code first from one of the neighborhood kids before entering. (We are just gossiping here now, but Methodist Hospital has been looking for a new Park Slope drive-through n' drop-off location for it's planned Infectious Diseases Laboratory for some time. The actual use has yet to be determined.)













About that Smoking Elephant in the Room...

So, the neighbors are getting a little concerned about where the carbon monoxide vents will eventually be placed for this three level parking facility. With all those cars coming, going, and more importantly, idling, it could potentially result in increases in carbon monoxide concentrations in the immediate vicinity of the vent. How does one evaluate potential future worst-case CO concentrations and what does that means to the health and well being of the residents of the Armory Plaza and its adjacent neighbors?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. At high concentrations it can cause unconsciousness and death. Lower concentrations can cause a range of symptoms from headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, and disorientation, to fatigue in healthy people and episodes of increased chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are sometimes confused with the flu or food poisoning. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially sensitive to carbon monoxide exposure.

Let us go to The Plans... Hand me the 10' pole and the latex gloves.


So now we at IMBY find ourselves, again, in that uncomfortable position of reverse engineering that shit sandwich that is the Amory Plaza. (We at IMBY, for a small materials and supply fee of course, can also supply you, the residential home owner, with any code or zoning interpretation necessary to accommodate your every building wish. We are known for our ability to fit that square peg in the round hole. ) If we are indeed reading the plans correctly, the garage vent opening will be placed at ground level in the rear yard of the Armory Plaza. But doesn't that violate the setback required for new construction?
Riddle me this... So when is a rear yard technically not a rear yard anymore? How about when it falls within the city's 100' commercial zoning overlay. Apparently, new buildings in this part of residential Brooklyn (R6B) require a rear yard set back of 30 feet. This set back prohibits certain structures from being built in backyards.
However, although the Plaza is not specifically a corner building, it's located close enough to the corner that there is a 40' area of the Armory Plaza that also falls within 100' of 8th Avenue. Eighth Avenue is a wider street with some residential properties having commercial businesses on their ground floors. Doctors' offices, bodegas, small retail shops, for example, can be found along 8th Avenue especially in corner properties.

The Armory Plaza, apparently will use the 100 foot commercial overlay along 8th Avenue to bypass the 30 foot rear yard set back regulations, allowing for the placement of the parking garage's carbon monoxide vent in the now rear commercial area of the building, just 10 feet from the backyard gardens of 16th Street residents and the new building's ground floor sliding glass patio doors.
The vent ( the double rectangle thingy) shown to the right in this drawing will be approximately 7'2"x 3'8" x 10' tall. We ask is there no way to bring this vent up to the roof?


































Rear Facade (the white rectangle is the vent)


Definitions from the NYC Zoning Bible:


Yard

A yard is a required open area along the lot lines of a zoning lot which must be unobstructed from the lowest level to the sky, except for certain permitted obstructions. Yard regulations ensure light and air between structures. In our R6B zone a 30 foot set back is usually required in new construction.
Lot, Corner
A corner lot is either a zoning lot bounded entirely by streets or a zoning lot which adjoins the point of intersection of two or more streets. The only part of a zoning lot which can qualify as a corner lot is that part of the lot that is within 100 feet of the intersecting street lines.
is a zoning district in which
Overlay District
An overlay district is a district superimposed upon another district which supersedes, modifies or supplements the underlying regulations. Limited height districts and commercial overlay districts are examples of overlay districts.
Commercial Overlay
A commercial overlay is a C1 or C2 district usually mapped within residential neighborhoods to serve local retail needs and commercial uses are permitted.. Commercial overlay districts, designated by the letters C1-1 through C1-5 and C2-1 through C2-5, are shown on the zoning maps as a pattern superimposed on a residential district. Unless otherwise specified on the zoning maps, the depth of C1 overlay districts, measured from the nearest street, is 200 feet for C1-1 districts, 150 feet for C1-2 and C1-3 districts, and 100 feet for C1-4 and C1-5 districts. For C2 overlay districts, the depth of C2-1, C2-2 and C2-3 districts is 150 feet and 100 feet for C2-4 and C2-5 districts. When mapped on the long dimension of a block, commercial overlays extend to the midpoint of that block.

Additional Traffic

When the 8th Avenue Armory/Sports Facility finally gets up and running, we anticipate that 15th street will become a virtual parking lot as school buses pick-up and drop-off students. I believe there are plans to make the 15th Street side of the block-long Armory the main entrance to the sports facility. If this is the case, the new entrance will be a short shot puts throw from the garage door servicing the parking lot. Between people coming home from work, visiting the medical facility, or attending a sports event, that little piece of 15th St. is going to be worked mightily hard. Certainly Community Board 6, or what's left of it, will be interested in what's happening, literally across the street/border in Community Board 7, and the impact it will have on quality of life, but that's a whole 'nother story yet to unfold.
The Armory reconstruction is behind schedule and it seems they are now having trouble finding a way to manage this expensive facility and still allow neighborhood school children full access. Interested in running a sports facility? The Request for Proposals link.

Tomorrowland
Future generations of Brooklyn architects will look back and admire their predecessors not for their their brick and mortar design skills, but for their creative interpretation and manipulation of city planning, zoning, and building regulations. Sixteenth Street's children, like canaries in a coal mine, will have to play just a few feet from this vent unless plans are changed. Their parents have been assured by DOB inspectors that there is no way the vent could be placed in the backyard... safely. Judging by the approved plans, it looks like someone will have to go back to their drawing boards to correct this zoning oversight.


For much more information on the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, see the link below.
New York Carbon Monoxide Law


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning