Who thought this was a good idea?

In December 2017, Chris Xu, founder and president of United Construction & Development Group Corp., broke ground on the 67-story Court Square City View Tower at 23-15 44th Drive in Long Island City. United Construction & Development describes the tower this way:

            “Located at the most highly desirable neighborhoods in Long Island City, the site provides unprecedented convenience for its occupants. Manhattan is less than five minutes away by subway or by car. It is surrounded by a vibrant dining scene with some of New York’s most innovative eateries and taverns, lush riverfront parks with playgrounds, fishing piers, and running paths, notable art galleries and studios, including MoMA PS1 and Sculpture Center, and close to the 7, E, G and M subway lines; 5 minutes to Midtown Manhattan, and Easy access to the LIRR and the East River Ferry.

            “It will contain 660 luxury residential units and 100,000 square feet of commercial spaces. It’s a 78-story high rise with total square feet of 969,000.”

The Court Square City View site is extremely close to the elevated tracks of the No. 7 train, the Court Square subway station and right above the E, G and M subway lines underground. When you are anywhere underground, you hear the worrying sound of workers hacking and chiseling away at a big boulder that occupies about a quarter of the lot.

A construction accident could create havoc on the 7 train line if something fell off or blew off the construction site onto the train tracks.

It is important that the contractors doing work at the site are responsible employers who follow federal, state and local safety laws like OSHA and Local Law 196, a construction safety law that requires that workers undergo at least 40 hours of safety training.

City View Tower deserves heightened scrutiny especially because it is an as-of-right development that did not undergo land-use or public review.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has protocols and has the responsibility to monitor construction safety and approve permits for construction near train tracks but we have some questions:

  • Has the MTA seen plans for this tower or the site preparation that got underway in December 2017?
  • Has the MTA considered whether this tower is even feasible at this location?
  • Have MTA engineers and other technical staff examined these plans and reviewed what impact the construction will have on the elevated tracks of the No. 7 train, the Court Square subway station and the E, G and M subway lines underground while this tower is being built?

The developer of this tower, Mr. Chris Xu, has never built a project of this size before. And his general contractor, New Line Structures & Development, has violations, accidents and lawsuits on its record. New Line’s history of working on sites where construction accidents have incurred includes one in September 2016 where a worker fell to his death[i]. Three weeks ago, the city issued a partial stop-work order at 23-15 44 drive because of inadequate underpinnings on the site. The Stop Work Order was issued to East Coast Drilling, a subcontractor hired to prepare this site.

VIOLATIONS: UNITED CONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT GROUP

  • United Construction & Development Group have been cited about 85 times for construction related violations and paid out over $148,000 for violations issued by the New York City Department of Buildings between October 2008 and November 2017.
  • An ongoing United Construction & Development Group project at 88-08 Justice Avenue in Elmhurst, Queens has also received citations for violations, including[ii]:
    • Work that did not conform to approved documents and/or amendments on Nov. 27, 2017;
    • Failure to provide professional engineer approved design drawings on Nov. 27, 2017.

VIOLATIONS: NEW LINE STRUCTURES & DEVELOPMENT

  • From September 2010 to October 2017, New Line Structures & Development paid over $148,000.00 for construction safety violations, including over 60 class 1 violations[iii].
  • According to New York City Department of Buildings standards, Class 1 violations are considered to be “immediately hazardous.”[iv]
  • Those violations require immediate corrective action as they pose a “threat that severely affects life, health, safety, property, [and] the public interest…”[v]
  • According to the New York City open data site (https://opendata.cityofnewyork.us/), New Line Structures & Development, over a span of seven years (from September 2010 to October 2017) has accumulated approximately 85 counts of construction violations.
  • Lastly, according to the DOB and the city’s Environmental Control Board data, New Line Structures & Development’ most repeated offense is a failure to “Safeguard all persons and property affected by construction operation”[vi]
  • According to The Real Deal, Alexia Travalja filed a lawsuit in the Manhattan Supreme Court alleging that New Line and other contractors were aware of unsafe conditions that they failed to correct, leading her husband, Bruno Travalja, to fall 40 stories while working on a site at 135 West 52nd Street in September 15 2016.[vii] New Line has denied all allegations.
  • On September 15, 2016, OSHA issued a violation to New Line with an initial penalty of $8,873 for violating the “duty to have fall protection”.[viii] OSHA has identified this matter as settled.
  • From January 2012 through October 2017, New Line Structures & Development has paid $147,800 for over 100 construction violations issued by the New York City Department of Buildings; over 60 of these were class 1 “immediately hazardous” violations.[ix]
  • In September 2016, OSHA issued New Line an initial penalty of $8,873 for violating the “duty to have fall protection” on a job site, located at 135 West 52nd
  • In June 2017, New Line Structures & Development was issued three serious safety violations by OSHA and an initial and current penalty of $10,864.[x] These matters have been settled.
    • Violation 1 – Electric equipment violation
    • Violation 2 – Wiring design and protection (Ground-fault protection).
    • Violation 3 – Scaffold violation.

Question: Will the developer implement a comprehensive site safety plan and ensure every contractor has liability insurance that covers every worker and every eventuality for every phase of the construction of this tower.

Build Up New York City, an alliance of more than 200,000 hard-working men and women in the construction and building services industries, works to grow and improve the middle class throughout New York City—including Long Island City and Astoria—by promoting good, safe jobs for workers and their families.

[i] https://therealdeal.com/2017/04/17/architects-widow-sues-chetrit-over-death-at-flatotel-conversion/

[ii] http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/ComplaintsByAddressServlet?requestid=4&allbin=4596930

[iii] Retrieve from http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/WorkPermitByLicenseServlet?alljappproftitle=GC&alljapplicnumber=614487&go14=+GO+&requestid=0&navflag=T and http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/WorkPermitByLicenseServlet?alljappproftitle=GC&alljapplicnumber=605246&go14=+GO+&requestid=0&navflag=T on 12/05/2017

[iv] https://www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/safety/ecb-violations.page

[v] https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/rules/1_RCNY_102-01.pdf

[vi] Retrieved from https://opendata.cityofnewyork.us/ on 12/06/2017

[vii] https://therealdeal.com/2017/04/17/architects-widow-sues-chetrit-over-death-at-flatotel-conversion/

[viii] https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1216498.015

[ix] https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/rules/1_RCNY_102-01.pdf

[x] https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=1240819.015

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