Posts tagged with "Department of Buildings":

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NYC Department of Buildings fines owner who split two condo into 20 apartments

This week, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) busted a Lower East Side landlord who had divided part of a building into hobbit-like warrens with ceilings as low as four-and-a-half–feet. Owner Xue Ping Ni subdivided his 634-square-foot condo on the fourth floor of 165 Henry Street into 11 tiny units by splitting the space with a new floor. DOB photos show a male inspector kneeling beside one lilliputian door, his head just below the top of the frame. The illegal units, home to nine people at inspection time, were climate-controlled with double-stacked window-mounted air conditioners. It almost goes without saying that the SROs lacked adequate egresses as well. During a later visit, a reporter noticed from the street that the air conditioners in the windows on the floor above were installed in a similar pattern. When inspectors entered the fifth-floor apartment, they found another nine diminutive single room occupancy units that looked like those in the first apartment. All tenants in the micro micro-units were evacuated. According to one, the closet-sized dwellings rented for $600 per month. The New York Post reported that the DOB slapped Ni with over $144,000 in fines for the sprinkler-less rooms and a lack of permits for plumbing, electrical, and structural work. According to paperwork on file with the DOB, the five-story building is supposed to have just 27 apartments.

Councilmember Ben Kallos likened the firetrap half floors to the 1999 film Being John Malkovich where John Cusack's character takes a job at Lester Corp, which is on the short-ceilinged seven-and-a-half floor of an office building in Manhattan. (Kallos does not represent the district that includes the building in question)

"It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life," he told the Post.

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New York City's ubiquitous sidewalk sheds re-imagined by PBDW, Gensler, Gannett Fleming, and Francis Cauffman

What's uglier than a construction shed? The sheds cover nearly 200 miles (!) of sidewalks across the five boroughs, enveloping pedestrians in drab tunnels of darkness. Past competitions in New York City have attempted to resolve the ubiquitous blight that sheds present, but the winning designs were never implemented. Now, the New York Building Congress has announced four winners of its Construction Shed Design Competition, an invitation to create a more aesthetically pleasing shed. A jury of 14 architects, engineers, and city officials selected Gensler's G-Shed, Gannett Fleming's ScaffoldWing, Francis Cauffman's Side+Ways+Shed, and PBDW Architects and Anastos Engineering Associates' UrbanArbor as the competition's winners, from a pool of 33 entries. “The New York Building Congress issued a challenge to the industry to use its ingenuity and expertise to offer fresh ideas for solving a vexing quality of life issue for New Yorkers, who experience the construction industry most often when navigating the obstructions and cramped spaces of construction sheds,” proclaimed Thomas Scarangello, Chairman of the Building Congress and its innovation task force, in a statement. “The industry’s collective response has been truly inspirational.” The four designs had to meet stringent New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) requirements that regulate sheds for commercial construction of residential and commercial properties, as well as abide by masonry repair regulations set out in Local Law 11. The designs reduce or eliminate the shed supports that obstruct pedestrian flow. They open at the curb line, allowing light to penetrate the sidewalk up to the building wall. To facilitate widespread use, the designs are constructed from ready-made materials, are cost-effective and off-the-shelf, as well. In a vote of confidence, the UrbanArbor design will be used at upcoming New York City Department of Design and Construction projects. Take a look at the winning projects: Gensler's G-Shed's modular poles fit can be braced in different configurations, creating an arcade that enhances the street presence of ground-floor retail. ScaffoldWing's roof decking is made from translucent polycarbonate panels to allow light in from above. Side+Ways+Shed photovoltaic-powered LEDs mitigate the low lighting and "tunnel effect" that plagues the typical construction shed. The supporting columns are wrapped in customizable, patterned fabric to enliven the streetscape. UrbanArbor's Y-shaped, diagonally-braced posts refrence trees, while reducing the density of supporting posts by 50 percent. Translucent polycarbonate parapets afford maximum daylight at sidewalk level while LED lights and solar panels save energy.
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Department of Buildings Approves Aby Rosen's Plans for 67 Vestry

In yet another round of preservationist vs. developer, it appears developer has won again. This time, the fight took place at 67 Vestry Street in Tribeca—the site of an 11-story palazzo building that came to life as a warehouse for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company in 1897.  BuzzBuzzHome reported that the Department of Buildings has approved plans by prolific developer and art collector Aby Rosen for an 11-story luxury condo building at the site. As AN reported last spring, the building's tenants tried to stop those plans by launching a petition to landmark the structure. The building is not just architecturally distinct, they said, it was a cornerstone in Tribeca's rapidly disappearing arts scene. 67 Vestry once housed artists including John Chamberlain, Marisol, and Andy Warhol. As BuzzBuzz noted, though, there appear to only be interior demolition permits filed, so there is a chance the exterior could be saved. SLCE is serving as the architect of record for this project.
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New York City to Match Sandy-Damaged Buildings With Design Professionals

For property owners of Hurricane Sandy-ravaged buildings, the road to recovery just got easier. Starting on Monday, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) will offer a new program that provides design consultations to property owners and design professionals who want to reconstruct their buildings. Department officials and technical experts will explain the building code and zoning requirements for properties in special flood hazard areas, as indicated on insurance rate maps or on updated Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps. According to the announcement from the DOB: “This program is designed to accelerate the approval process for these projects, assist homeowners with their decisions on reconstruction and better ensure that new flood recommendations and standards are incorporated into the design and construction of these affected buildings." The consultations will be held at the Department’s NYC Development Hub at 80 Centre Street in Manhattan. Property owners will sit down with officials and compile a list of recommendations to apply to the construction plans that they intend on submitting to the DOB.
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Umbrella Shed Makes Broadway Debut

Its not everyday that construction and office workers stop to photograph a sidewalk scaffolding shed, but that's just what they were doing today on Broadway in Lower Manhattan. Yesterday, the mayor unveiled the new Urban Umbrella shed designed by Angencie Group. The new design, the result of a competition sponsored by the AIANY and the Department of Buildings, was fabricated by the Brooklyn based Caliper Studio. For the new sheds, multiple arcs of steel swoop up from the individual posts, fluting out at the top to hold translucent semicircle panels. The design allows day light to pore onto the sidewalk, lessening the need for electric lighting, and permitting views up toward the building's facade. The new shed allows pedestrians to dodge between the posts instead of being corralled together in narrow walkways bound by crossbars. The design might look familiar, but references to mid century paraboloids or gothic cathedral ceilings are incidental said Angencie Group's Andrés Cortés. "We didn’t really work by analogy," Cortés said. "There are a lot of similarities  you can draw from a hundred years ago, but what drove it formally was the quarter umbrellas that oppose each other."  The architect developed the project with partners Young-Hwan Choi and Sarrah Khan. He noted that the tectonics and performance requirements of the material drove the design formally.  Nevertheless, he did allow, "There is something familiar, and that’s what’s comforting about it."

Mayor Rahmbo Mowing Down Permitting Times

Today Mayor Emanuel's office announced plans to streamline the process for submitting and reviewing plans for building permits. The so-called "E-Plan" will eliminate paper drawings, and allow architects and engineers to submit projects to the Department of Buildings electronically. Architects and building owners will also be able to check the status of their permits instantly. "We are taking much-needed steps to increase efficiency and decrease the time it takes developers to obtain a building permit in the City of Chicago," said the mayor, in a statement. According to an interview with NBC Chicago, Emanuel believes the new permitting measures will shave an average of 10 days off the process.  
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In Construction> Atlantic Yards Update

With the exception of the World Trade Center, there's probably no better place to call a press conference dealing with construction issues than Atlantic Yards. At the moment the controversial project practically guarantees a large press turnout. On Tuesday, the Department of Buildings used the site as a backdrop to launch a new safety campaign for the 7th Annual Workers Safety Week with a particular focus on getting workers to wear harnesses. Sixteen workers have fallen to their death since 2008, prompting the agency to call the campaign "Experience is Not Enough."  In addition to covering the initiative, the press also got a chance to check out progress at the stadium site from "court level." But while DOB officials talked safety on the site, off site Dean Street Alliance president Peter Krashes complained that there were still problems for workers and neighbors. "If the community is affected, then the workers must be, too," he said of dust and noise. "The problem with Atlantic Yards is there are holes in oversight by the Empire State Development Corporation." Still, Krashes did not hold the DOB directly accountable. "This is not a criticism of DOB, in many respects they've been responsive to us." DOB's Acting First Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fariello said they chose the site for the safety-themed event because DOB wanted to highlight "the guys that are doing it right." He added they wanted to get the message out to some of the old timers who have been on the job for 20 to 30 years. "We're trying to report any incident that happens on a site," he said. "It doesn't matter if its union or non union."  To that end, thousands of campaign posters will be distributed to sites throughout the city translated into Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and Polish. Also on hand was Linda Chiarelli, deputy director of construction for Forest City Ratner. She stopped by to check on progress and talked about the rusted steel curtain wall designed by SHoP Architects. Chiarelli was on her way to Indianapolis, where the steel panels are being produced, then shipped to New York as assembled units and fastened to the building frame. She said they hope to have a mock-up unit two blocks away within two months. She described the appearance of the wet and dry cycle machine being used to accelerate panel rust as looking like "a giant dry cleaning machine." With over 11,000 distinct panels to process, one hopes they don't lose any tickets.
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Canvassing for Votes With NYC Construction Fence Finalists

If a whole flock of ghostly animals starts appearing in downtown New York this fall, don't panic. It’ll just mean that the public picked Chris Shelley’s design “…of special concern” as a winner in the Buildings and Cultural Affairs Departments' urbancanvas competition, which solicited ideas for decorating the construction fences, sidewalk sheds, scaffolding and cocoons that act as eyesores on seemingly every New York City street. From today through October 1, you can vote for your favorite of the eight finalist designs, whittled down by a professional jury from a starting pool of over 700 entries, with the most popular four selected to appear around the city later this fall. The range of design strategies is broad, with Jen Magathan’s trompe-l'oeuil sky in “My Urban Sky" making buildings disappear, and Mauricio Lopez and Jesse T. Ross’s kaleidoscopic "Color Mesh" making them jump out from the streetscape. Shelley’s design adds an unusual interactive component, pairing the silhouettes of five local endangered species with a bar-code panel on the corner of the screen. When a visitor scans the bar code with her iPhone, it will take her to a website with the full endangered species list. After voting closes, property owners, contractors and businesses will be allowed to select a design from the four winners and print it on any temporary protective structures installed on City-owned property. (They also have the option of printing their construction screens with an image of the project being built, but where’s the fun in that?)
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Some Healthy Construction News

While the recession has been woefully difficult for architects and construction workers, the latter have had some small reason for celebration: Last year, construction deaths in the Five Boroughs plummeted 84 percent, with only three in 2009, down from 19 in 2008. Partly this can be chocked up to reduced activity: the Department of Buildings, in a release heralding the declines, notes that new permits declined 33 percent, a staggering number itself—as much for not being higher, given everyone's dour expectations, as for being so high. Also, there were no major accidents as there were in previous years—no Deutsche Bank fires, no consecutive crane collapses. Still, with fatalities at 12 in 2007 and 18 in 2006, this is clearly an awesome improvement. And credit is due, much more than the bad economy, to department Commissioner Robert LiMandri, who has made construction safety his abiding purpose. “We have been working to change the culture of the construction industry—to put public safety ahead of profit—and our message is being heard," LiMandri said in the release. Well, we hear you, too.