The 670-foot-tall 161 Maiden Lane, a luxury condo tower on the shore of the East River near the South Street Seaport, is leaning. The question of whether contractor Pizzarotti or developer Fortis Property Group is to blame for the 58-story building’s 3-inch lean to the north, however, will be settled by a lawsuit filed with New York State Supreme Court. As first reported by Commercial Observer, Pizzarotti is suing Fortis over their alleged cost-cutting decision to drain and compact the wet soil below the site instead of driving piles before laying the foundation. As a result, the suit alleges that this “soil improvement” decision, made before Fortis was hired for the project in 2015, made completing the project difficult-to-impossible and cost Pizzarotti millions. Apart from the structural issues, Pizzarotti alleges that the two-inch drift in the superstructure from the 11th floor to the 21st prevented the installation of the curtain wall and that Fortis never provided an adequate replacement. Although the tower has topped out and work is still ongoing, Pizzarotti claims that the site is unsafe and that 161 Maiden Lane will continue to settle and shift. If that happens, the facade panels, plumbing, insulation, and elevators may all be risk of failing. Pizzarotti says that they were thus unable to finish working, and submitted their resignation from the project on March 1. Fortis shot back, claiming the leaning problem was the result of Pizzarotti’s concrete subcontractor improperly pouring the slab and failing to take the settling of the soil into account. A Fortis spokesperson also claims that Pizzarotti never terminated their contract and continued working up through this month, casting doubt on their claims that the site was unsafe. The developer went on to say that their new general contractor, Ray Builders, was already at work installing a redesigned version of the curtain wall. Fortis also claims that it has already paid out $25 million to Pizzarotti for cost overruns and that the contractor had caused 260 days of stop-work order-related delays. “This lawsuit is patently false from start to finish and nothing more than simple defamation and a desperate attempt by a failing general contractor to divert attention from the fact it defaulted on yet another New York City project,” said a Fortis spokesman in a statement. “As a number of prominent New York City developers have learned the hard way over the past few years, Pizzarotti is simply incapable of buying out, managing and completing a construction project within contractually promised timelines.” AN will continue to follow this story as it develops.
Posts tagged with "State Supreme Court":
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-four decision that a Florida water management district violated private property rights by asking a local developer to help finance the environmental mitigation of building on wetlands in exchange for a construction permit. Justice Elena Kagan said the decision might cause a revolution in land-use regulation. “Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District” will retain an enduring impact on the capacity for local governments to influence new development. In 1972, developer Coy Koontz purchased a 14.9-acre vacant lot. Due to Florida regulations, all but 1.4 acres of the land became a Riparian Habitat Zone, which could not be developed without permission from St. Johns River Water Management District. In 1994, Koontz sought to construct a shopping center on three acres of his privately owned Florida wetland. While Koontz proposed to lessen the environmental effects of his development proposal by deeding a conservation easement on almost 75 percent of his land, the water management district would only grant Koontz a permit if he scaled down his plan and agreed to fund wetlands-restoration programs. Believing the stipulations to be unjustifiable, he declined the proposal and successfully disputed that the conditions infringed upon his private property rights. While the Florida Supreme Court disagreed, the Supreme Court of the United States sided with Koontz. In the New York Times, Vermont Law School Professor John Echeverria wrote that the verdict may have an unsettling result in terms of land use planning, and that “the ruling creates a perverse incentive for municipal governments to reject applications from developers rather than attempt to negotiate project designs that might advance both public and private goals. Cities and towns across America routinely attach fees and other payment obligations to permits, for example, to support wetlands mitigation banks, to finance roads, to pay for new schools or to build affordable housing.”
Yesterday, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court denied a request by the city and Vornado seeking to dismiss Justice Lucy Billings' ruling which allied a protected natural resource with an urban landmark. In ruling that the Citizens Emergency Committee to Protect Preservation (CECPP) and Pratt professor Eric Allison had legal standing for their petition, Billings cited Save the Pine Bush v. Common Council City of Albany, a case addressing the protection of a forest Upstate under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. In deciding against the appeal, the court effectively said that they won't hear the Manufacturers Hanover case in piecemeal. The case returns to Justice Billings' courtroom next Wednesday where CECPP is asking for everything from reams of email correspondence between Landmarks and Vornado, to the new tenant's lease and rental terms.