Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Grasso" Bill to Prohibit Permits

Bill to derail deadbeat developers

BY Brian Kates

Thursday, May 21st 2009, 4:00 AM

Responding to a Daily News probe, a city councilman Wednesday introduced a bill that would bar the city from granting permits to contractors and developers who have outstanding fines.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), would prohibit city agencies from granting permits to any applicant who owes "fines, civil penalties or judgments."

Vacca said the bill was prompted by last Sunday's Daily News report that hundreds of scofflaw building code violators continue to receive permits despite racking up $263 million in fines that have gone unpaid for as long as a decade.

"The Daily News article struck a nerve in my community, which has been trying to deal with this issue for some time," Vacca said. "People have to know that they will be held accountable via the permit process if they do not have fines paid up."

The bill applies to all city agencies.

It would put a stop to scofflaws such as demolition diva Marie Grasso, who was profiled in The News for receiving 144 Building Department permits in the last 12 months despite owing a staggering $1.4 million in fines and penalties.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Planned Obsolescence

I guess the bloom is off the rose. Found this up on the Buildings Departments BIS web page describing the following complaint...


Too early to to make a guess as to what's going on in apartment 3A, but let's hope it's not what I think it means for the Armory Heights Plaza Apartments; To suddenly become immanently perilous to life and be hit with an emergency vacate order.
There's got to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the new drywall to crack and bulge, after all this is south Slope "black tie tuxedo" construction at it's finest.

Could this "bulging" be related to:

Or maybe have something to do with this:

UPDATE 5-20-09: Inspectors checked out Apartment 3A today and found:

False alarm! Rest easy everyone...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wrecking Brooklyn MMG Style

Late night mechanical demolition of 406 15th Street by our gang over at the Armory Heights Plaza. This audaciously unsafe job was signed off by the Buildings Dept. despite overwhelming protests by neighboring home owners at the time.

Brian Kates of the Daily News writes about our friendly home wrecker Ms. Grasso and her Staten Island based demolition company, MMG Design, or MMG Construction or what ever it's being called this week. Mr. Kates figures she owes the city something like $1.4million in unpaid vile-lations. Ms. Grasso doesn't recall owning a demolition company.

She's infamous over here in the south Slope, especially on 15th and 16th Streets.

Apparently, according to ECB records, MMG works without permits. MMG forgets to officially notify the neighbors when they are to start work. MMG doesn't post their contractor identification info out on the construction fence. Maybe because MMG doesn't know how to build a fence that will actually support the DOB paper work and remain standing for any length of time. MMG doesn't provide workers with safety equipment and harnesses. MMG uses unlawful scaffolding and uncertified workers to install scaffolding. MMG works against DOB stop work orders. MMG works on weekends and after hours. Housekeeping? The sites are often crowded and piled high with combustible debris.
Sidewalk sheds? Dumpster permits? MMG doesn't use any means of dust control. MMG will often use a back hoe with out proper mechanical demo permits. MMG fails to safeguard neighboring persons and property. MMG routinely forgets to water proof adjoining properties after exposing their side walls and foundations to the elements.

And now we find out that MMG does not pay their fines.
Check out for your self. Posted in numerical order, by address, a few of MMG's ECB violations. Feel free to send me any I missed and I will add them to the list.
Because the Devil is in the Details...
5 Roebling Street
11 Frost Street
156 16th St.
156 16th St.
156 16th St.
156 16th St.
172 Skillman Avenue
172 Skillman Avenue
172 Skillman Avenue
186 Green St.
187 23rd St.
187 23rd St.
187 23rd St.
187 23rd St.
187 23rd St.
178 15th St.
178 15th St.
182 15th St.
182 15th St.
202 8th St.
202 8th St.
202 8th St.
202 8th St.
202 8th St.
206 N. 12th St
206 N. 12th St.
206 N. 12th St.
206 N. 12th St.
206 N. 12th St.
206 N. 12th St.
224 16th St.
228 16th St.
228 16th St.
277 19th St.
277 19th St.
335 Greene Avenue
335 Greene Avenue
339 Greene Avenue
390 14th St.
390 14th St.
546 4th Ave.
546 4th Ave.
546 4th Ave.
546 4th Ave.
546 4th Ave.
546 4th Ave.
546 4th Ave.
546 4th Ave.
568 Union Ave
568 Union Ave
568 Union Ave
568 Union Ave
568 Union Ave
568 Union Ave
568 Union Ave
781 Dekalb Ave.
781 Dekalb Ave.
950 St. Johns Place
950 St. Johns Place
1154 45th St.
1156 45th St.
1463 E. 8th St.
1653 E. 2nd St.
1653 E.2nd St
1653 E. 2nd St
1653 E. 2nd St
1653 E. 2nd St
1653E. 2nd St.
1824 E. 4th St.
3360 Shore Parkway

Other construction related stories by Brian Kates.

"So many ways to beat the system

And few places have witnessed it more often than south Park Slope."

"A rare victory for residents over shameless deception."

"Danger & ripoffs are on the rise

How hot construction biz brings a black market, scams & death."

"Sitting helpless as damage continues."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Knitta Please! Brooklyn Craft Gang Tags in Prospect Park

Crotchet Bomb left on chain-link fence under Prospect Park's Nethermead Arches.
Does the gang color Dusty Rose signify the "Knit Wonz" or the "Pearl 2z"

Prospect Park hosts The Rick Acevedo 4th Annual Zombie 10K Fun-Run for Charity

Prospect Park Brooklyn:

Turn out was pretty good this year. Much better than the previous three races. Good to see our Zombie community coming together to support such a worthy cause, although I'm not sure who Rick Acevedo actually is/was. Google search turns up that there is a roofing contractor by that name in Rye, New York. I'm guessing this charity is some kind of devastating hot tar or shingles related disability service organization.

In recent years Green Wood Heights/Windsor Terrace has become home to a pretty close-knit Zombie enclave of sorts. Whether their reanimation was the result of some Haitian voodoo curse or secret government infectious Raccoon fecal ringworm experiments gone dreadfully wrong, Zombies new to the neighborhood are finding long term living residents more than tolerant, welcoming them in with open, deliciously fleshy, arms.

Mindless race participants enjoying comic relief as provided by Comedy Central's Michael and Michael have issues.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

"orgy of misconduct"

"This was a black-tie tuxedo construction job," said their lawyer, Ravi Batra referring to the construction of The Armory Heights Plaza, 406 15th Street.

*Recent Press coverage of the ongoing litigation, with IMBY commentary, in red.*

Civil Litigation Over Park Slope Construction Gets Heated

by Samuel Newhouse (, published online 05-05-2009

Ravi Batra & Michael Hiller Argue Construction & Injunction

By Samuel Newhouse
Link: Brooklyn Daily Eagle

ADAMS STREET — Arguments became a bit heated in Brooklyn Supreme Court Tuesday after a hearing in the lawsuit against a real estate developer in Park Slope who allegedly damaged surrounding structures during construction.

Defense counsel Ravi Batra and plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Hiller argued before Supreme Court Justice Laura Jacobson over whether an injunction was necessary to prevent Armory Heights, LLC from selling properties located at 406 and 408 15th St. in Park Slope.

After Hiller filed an Order to Show Cause last week, Batra appeared in court Tuesday with an Affidavit In Opposition “to the fraud-upon-the-court laced 4/30/09 OSC application by plaintiffs.” The judge neither granted nor denied the injunction that was sought Tuesday.

Batra argued that “the building’s not for sale and it’s not going to change ownership,” despite plaintiffs claims that the property was in jeopardy of being sold to a shell corporation, according to their documents filed in court.

Hiller then wanted a court stipulation that agreed to not sell the property, which Justice Jacobson said was not necessary. Batra is “an officer of the court,” Jacobson said.

However, Jacobson agreed to draft an order forbidding the properties from being sold. After oral arguments, Hiller said he was “pleased that we got what we came here for today — an order preventing the defendants from transferring the building.”

Hiller says that Armory Heights is uninsured. The defendants say that is not true. But Hiller says that he had city records that prove there is no insurance.
If this is true, how were they able to acquire Building Permits?

Hiller also wrote in his Order to Show Cause that if ownership of the buildings was transferred, it could “render any judgement obtained against them uncollectible.”

However, Batra stated that his clients are “neighborhoods guys — living in Brooklyn, born in Brooklyn, die in Brooklyn” who would not pick up and leave.

Batra claimed that the motion was baseless. The previous transfer of property was, Batra said, a “kosher” business change from Armory Plaza, Inc. to Armory Heights, LLC. He referred to the plaintiffs’ case in general as an “orgy of misconduct,” which he said “undermines public confidence in the courts.”
"orgy of misconduct" classic Batra! No doubt this debauchery was masterminded by the pastor of the Memorial Baptist Church!

Don't you think that embarrassing shoving match you entered into with a disgruntled homeowner, in front of the congregation's young children, (who attended the hearing, and managed to sit silently and patiently for three hours in the courtroom,) undermined their "confidence in the courts"?

“They tortured us,” said defendant Joe LoCicero, a developer/owner of Armory Heights, about these legal matters and 311 calls regarding the construction project. “It’s horrible. It’s inhumane.”
Last time I checked, ordinary citizens don't have the power to issue Stop Work Order Violations.

Various plaintiffs outside the court told the Eagle that construction has caused cracks in walls and foundations to appear in nearby structures, including the Baptist Memorial Church of Brooklyn, which is 100 years old.

The plaintiffs are seeking over $35 million in damages and an additional $100 million in punitive damages.

Some plaintiffs also said that the tires of their cars had been slashed and some cars had been keyed, as part of what they believe were intimidation tactics.

After arguing before the judge, Hiller and Batra shouted at each other in the hallway of the court’s ninth floor. A court officer appeared and calmed the parties before asking the plaintiffs to leave.

Shoddy work stalls Park Slope bldg.

BY Veronika Belenkaya

Wednesday, May 6th 2009, 12:48 PM

Two Brooklyn developers whose construction site left eight Park Slope homeowners and a church with sunken backyards, cracked walls and foundations can't sell their new building until a $135 million lawsuit is resolved, a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge ruled Tuesday.

The controversial episode even led to a shoving match in the courthouse yesterday.
Between Mr. Batra and a homeowner... With the plaintiff's lawyer, Mr. Hiller, trying to separate the two.

The recently completed 15th St. apartment building has been a nightmare since Armory Heights developers Jack and Lorenzo LoCicero began to dig up a quarter-acre parking lot in 2005.

"They dug 60 feet deep and sinkholes started to form around it," said Timothy Piterzak, 48, whose dream home was nearly destroyed after four years of construction next door.
The building is unusual in that it has a cellar and two more subcellar parking levels below that. Excavation went right up to the 100'x100' property line, 45' straight down.

"We have a brick patio and that broke in half, the entire patio started moving away from the house," he said. "We watched the tree that my father and I planted when we bought the house sink four feet into the ground."

Now the controversial building is completed, but another apartment building, seven private homes and the 100-year-old Baptist Memorial Church of Brooklyn that surround it are all damaged.

"If you walked into the sanctuary of that church, there's a 25-foot crack and the parishioners are concerned that they'll lose their prayer space of generations," said Michael Hiller, who represents eight of the nine plaintiffs in the case.

"They didn't shore up or brace the surrogating properties. When you don't do that and dig, you create a void and surrounding property migrates into the empty space - literary, everybody's backyard sank into the ground."

But the LoCiceros' lawyer, Ravi Batra, who got into a shoving match at the courthouse yesterday with one of the homeowners, said the church was previously damaged and that some of the surrounding homeowners didn't let LoCiceros' workers secure their homes by filling in the sinking land gaps with dirt.
I want to thank Mr. Batra for publicly acknowledging the fact that "land gaps" formed along the property line during excavation, endangering the plaintiff's homes. Also thank you for admitting that the frequent, clandestine dumping of dirt over their fences to fill in these sink holes was done without the permission of these home owners. I think that supports their argument and the entire case, no?

"They're jumping to collect on insurance fraud ... it's an attempt to shake down the LoCicero brothers," Batra said. "We have proof that there's preexisting damage to some of them and self-inflicted in others."
Don't you need to have insurance to commit insurance fraud?



May 6, 2009

A group of Park Slope building owners is claiming that the developer of a new building on their block is putting a little too much "slope" into the neighborhood.

The owners of seven buildings near the intersection of Eighth Avenue and 15th Street in Brooklyn have been embroiled in a three-year legal battle with developers Jack and Lorenzo LoCicero over the five-story residential project they claim has created sinkholes, cracks and structural problems.

State Supreme Court Justice Laura Jacobsen yesterday demanded that Jack LoCicero promise not to sell the newly completed building, known as Armory Plaza -- a move the plaintiffs fear would prevent them from collecting money if they win.

An Order to prevent the sale or transfer of the building until the case is settled. The plaintiffs are arguing that since the developer has failed to provide insurance documentation, and that the building is owned by a corporation, their will be no assets to collect on if the building is sold or transferred even if a judgement is made in their favor... or something to that effect.

Timothy Pietrzak, 48, claims the building caused his brownstone's back yard to give way and swallow a retaining wall and a telephone pole.

"There was a time we thought for sure the house was going to collapse," said Pietrzak, who is one of the plaintiffs. The other angry owners include Arnold Rosenshein, a landlord who says he was forced to evacuate an eight-unit apartment building and slice off a chunk to keep it from collapsing.

Stephen Christopher, the pastor of the nearby Memorial Baptist Church of Brooklyn, said the construction produced a 20-foot crack in one of the house of worship's auditoriums and an incline in the churchyard.

But the LoCiceros are firing back hard, calling the entire case a shakedown. They claim the problems with their neighbors' aging buildings existed long before they broke ground in 2005 on Armory Plaza at 406-408 15th St.

"This was a black-tie tuxedo construction job," said their lawyer, Ravi Batra, noting that the city issued Armory Plaza a certificate of occupancy as soon as it was complete. "Everything that could be done was done. This has always been about 'give us some more money.' "
WTF is a black-tie tuxedo construction job anyway?
Give us some more money? Is he talking about the Department of Buildings, or the plaintiffs?

Batra said he could document cracks in the Rosenshein building dating back as early as 1989.

Neighbors don't buy it. "Our yard has sunk a lot in the back," said Arthur Trimling, 67, an art director who lives next door to the church. "It's very scary having your house attacked this way. It strikes you right in the heart."

Sunk on 16th
Residents jeer development

The Park Slope Courier LINK
By Gary Buiso
Friday, May 8, 2009 10:54 AM EDT

Put a tennis ball on one floor of Arthur Strimling’s South Slope home, and the suddenly precocious sphere will take on a life of its own.

“It will roll to the other side of the house,” observed Strimling, whose home, his lawyer charged, now rests “at a slant.”

This wasn’t always the case. But after a real estate developer constructed a five−story building at 406 15th Street, strange things allegedly began to happen in and around Strimling’s home at 399 16th Street.

Telephone poles and trees began to sink 10 feet down in the ground, residents like Tim Pietrzak said. Retaining walls began to take the shape of a capsized ship.

It was roughly around 2006 when Armory Heights LLC began work for the now completed, Bricolage designed building, Armory Plaza. Around that time, Pietrzak started to get a sinking feeling. “You could touch the wires on the telephone pole,” he recalled.

Pietrzak and Strimling are among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Armory Heights, seeking $35 million in compensatory damages, and $100 million in punitive damages.

Strimling said that just to hire engineers to investigate their home’s predicament and offer recommendations could cost $100,000. “We are going to stick this out. We’re quite certain justice is on our side,” he said.

This week, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Laura Jacobson agreed to draft a court order preventing the developers from selling the property, pending a court hearing scheduled for August.

Michael Hiller, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said the developer dug down 60 feet, and failed to shore up or brace the surrounding property, resulting in the property damage. His client’s concern, he said, is that if the property is sold, his clients would be “left without a remedy.”

Defense attorney Ravi Batra said the plaintiffs, who include the Memorial Baptist Church on 16th Street, are simply using litigation “as a stick−up gun.” He said his clients, Armory Heights principals, Jack and Lorenzo LoCicero, have been the subject of phony complaints to the Department of Buildings, (DOB), an agency he said that has been unduly harsh on his clients, who performed a “black tie” construction job, meaning it was done to limit damage to adjacent properties.

Batra said property owners now suing prevented contractors from backfilling, or replacing lost soil, to the site, and are themselves responsible for any damage subsequently incurred.

Video of contractors filling in sink holes that formed after drilling the 60' deep foundation pilings.

“All the property owners have a claim for is bags of dirt. They are the ones who left it exposed. If they have new damage, they will have to eat it, because they could have prevented it,” Batra said.

Hiller was also not pleased with the DOB — the agency charged with monitoring construction sites. He accused the agency of being “asleep at the switch.” Particularly galling, Hiller claimed, is that the developer is uninsured, but DOB let the project proceed nonetheless. “How they could let this project go with no insurance is unexplainable,” he said. Batra has rejected Hiller’s insurance claim.

Friday, May 01, 2009

How's it made? Greenwood Heights Minerva Buildings' final finish.

EIFS Process Shots
This notorious building site has had to go through many design reincarnations to get it to where they are, finally, as-built today.
Behold the town houses 614, 616, 618, 620 Seventh Avenue and 322-326 Twenty third Street.

I'm not a big fan of Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems. They have been around for something like 30 years in the United States. Not sure how these condos will hold up over time, maintenance wise, especially those protruding wood framed windows... but you can certainly examine for your self the steps that actually go into the multi-layered construction of these plastinated skins. Just click on any of the photos to enlarge.
The trouble with EIFS, it's only as strong as its weakest seam. Water tends to infiltrate a building's exterior envelope around poorly installed windows and doors, and at the roof line flashing. I would always recommend redundant layers to be on the safe side. That probably doesn't happen very offen with most of the overly value engineered developments in the South Slope.
You really need to have a very competent highly trained design team and stucco contractor doing the work, or else the system will fail and moisture will eventually enter and become trapped behind all that fiberglass mesh and acrylic co-polymer technology with no way to get back out. That's when you get mold and rot between the interior and exterior walls... and big repair bills down the road.
Every once in awhile I even see synthetic stucco being used over old wood frame houses. There's one on 16th Street and 6th Avenue in the neighborhood that comes to mind. When you think all it takes is one split seam or poorly flashed window opening to trap in moisture, well that's just plain criminal, throwing your money away in my opinion.

Anyone remember when they were building the new Union Market on 7th Ave? Before they started construction the building owners had to remove a large amount of the second story plywood substrate that had rotted after the EIFS apparently failed.

An additional note about the Minerva buildings. That's got to be one of the largest curb cuts Ive seen around any where. No place left for the planting of street trees?

So what do you think about the finished product?

DoB Building info link.