Plague of Lotus?

November 27, 2006

The Lotus - 610 Union Avenue: The Lights Are on, But No One’s Home 

This gem of internationalist design (think Brasilia) seemed to rocket through construction, appearing in what seemed like a matter of weeks. Before I realized, The Lotus on McCarren Park in Greenpoint was seemingly finished, replete with “Orientalist” detailed railings, a banner, and a shiny almost day-glo green exterior. Any minute, I expected a horde or swinging bachelors, baseball players, or other cash-rich people who wanted to pick up a one-bedroom (19 units, all one-bedrooms) for  about $819psf.  Instead, it has sat empty, with staged furniture peeking out of vacant apartments, a sagging for-sale banner, and occasional vandalism. How does this happen to a building that seemingly sailed through construction, and 16 of 19 units have either sold are in contract?  

Lotus - banner

Project Backgroud: The Lotus is built on a former junkyard (welcome to Greenpoint baby!) and the site was considered a HAZMAT which is not atypical in areas once used for manufacturing. It looks like the planning started for the building in 2003, with permits being issued 2004.  

DOB: The Department of Buildings shows that The Louts has hit a few bumps during construction, including work without a permit in 2004, a collapsing construction fence (2005) and failure to provide plans on the building site (2006). All of these problems were remedied to the satisfaction of DOB, some resulted in fines. In 2004 the project got stung with working during illegal hours (weekends), and a stop work order was issued in 2005 after complaints of “excessive debris” and lack of safety netting.

Currently the project does not have a Certificate of Occupancy that would allow residents. The only Certificate of Occupancy I could find is from 1954, allowing “salvage, storage and resale of scrap iron and steel.” So, if you bought and closed on an apartment in this building, tied up 3/4 of a million dollars in an apartment you can’t move into, maybe at least you could store scrap metal inside?

Any word on when people might be able to move in, or why a seemingly complete building is still empty/can’t get the Certificate of Occupancy?

broken lotus window

[The broken window theory - small damage while the building sits vacant]

A Tale of Two Towers

There are two towers that have been erected at the corner of Driggs and Manhattan in Greenpoint. The project is called Manhattan Park. They’ve been stalled for over a year, with intermittent appearances by workers, and lots of comments from the throngs of brunch-goers at nearby Enid’s.

The two towers are located at Driggs between Manhattan and Leonard. One is substantially more advanced with the exterior nearly completed (referred to as 279 Driggs Avenue in the broker’s site). The other building does not have its exterior completed, and is lacking windows or a finished roof (271 Driggs Ave.)

Lot 10 and 271 Driggs

(279 Driggs is in the front, 271 Driggs is to the left)

279 Driggs: This building has looked “complete” for months. I’ve even seen brokers showing the units to people. However, nothing has really changed. The fit-out on the inside is still bare in most of the units, balconies are wrapped in plastic, and the lobby bare. I’ve watched workers over the summer take wooden panels off the side and then replace them a few days later. This has gone on for over a year, at least.

DOB: Permits are issued for an 8 story, 14 unit building. The first permit for construction of the new buildings was issued in February of 2005. The architect Robert Scarano has been involved in several of the new building permits.

Violations: Nothing recent. There were a few complaints that do not appear to have been actually levied regarding a lack of safety netting, piping and elevator readiness back in 2005.

This afternoon (11/17/06) crews were busy at work drilling up the sidewalk, perhaps readying the ground level.

sidewalk on lot 10

What happens to a building with a virtually finished exterior that sits for several months? Why would a building so close to completion and no apparent violations sit vacant for so long?

271 Driggs

The poor brother of 279 Driggs, this building has been further behind schedule, and spent much of the time that I’ve been watching it “exposed” with bare concrete, and no windows. Workers (in groups of two, rarely more) are occassionally seen rambling through the building, tinkering with windows, or applying sparse insulation or wrapping on the exterior.

271 Driggs

(271 Driggs on left, 279 Driggs on right)

DOB: DOB shows permits for an 8 story building for 12 residential units. The latest permit is for paving around the base of the building. In May 2006 a New Building permit was issued, and currently is being audited and the job is on hold.

Violations: Currently the DOB website shows a stop work order for 271 Driggs. Despite that I saw workers this afternoon (11/17/06) (See picture below). In fact this building has seen several violations, and complaints. ECB violations on the site include problems with the construction shed (3), not conforming to work plan, unsafe fence (with rusty nails), and no guard rails surrounding an open cellar.

271 Driggs

So these buildings again seem to be doing well, physically, but have run afoul of the DOB appparantly violating work plans and not taking correct site safety precautions.

Greenpoint is currently undergoing a building boom: dozens of new, large buildings are sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain. Bulldozers raze one-story manufacturing, auto-body shops or gas stations – modern luxury buildings rise in their place, offering homes for over $700 psf.

But I’ve noticed another phenomenon: stalled projects. Several buildings in Greenpoint and Williamsburg have stopped with construction only partially complete, others seem finished, but sit empty.

I’d like to explore this phenomenon, and determine why this is happening, and perhaps what it means to the neighborhood and real estate market.

55 Eckford Street – Unfinished

Stalled - 55 Eckford St.

This project is quietly rusting behind my home in Greenpoint. It’s been like this since the winter of 2006. When I first arrived there was a security guard who would patrol occasionally, now no one is there at all, despite the presence of a construction trailer, and piles of concrete and steel.

55 Eckford - concrete and steel

Word on the Street: the developer ran out of money, and has put the whole building on the market. Apparantly the developer was building a floor at a time, when money was available, a financial strategy that did not pan out.

Department of Buildings: According to the DOB website, 55 Eckford is supposed to be a 12-stoy building, with 26 residential units. The latest permit filed in connection to the building is renewal permit to keep the construction fence around the site. Does this show that the owner is willing to keep hope alive for construction – or is that a requirement by the city for construction projects? 55 Eckford St. - missing floors

Violations: The DOB lists a few pending violations, all issued in September of 2006. They include a sidewalk shed does not meet building code specifications, lack of permits displayed, and poor “housekeeping” (heh!) with gravel on the sidewalk creating a tripping hazard and timbers on the site improperly laid. Previously the DOB fined contractors for working without proper permits erecting the steel, working without a permit, and incorrectly erecting a construction fence.

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