Image via Field Condition
When it was announced that Brooklyn would be host to the world’s tallest prefab tower, many believed that a new era of construction was upon us. Called the B2 Tower, the building would rise as stacked 32-story structure, affording all the perks of a conventional edifice, but be quick and inexpensive to build. But as it has been well-documented, the project, announced way back in 2012, has been a major flop. Stricken with delays and countless lawsuits flying left and right, the building today has only reached about half of its height. So where did things go so wrong? A fascinating piece by the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report‘s Norman Oder on City Limits provides some incredible insight into the project that has failed to deliver on just about every promise put forward.
“Today, the reality of B2 has not matched the anticipation. The building—delayed, stalled, and since re-started to reach half its ultimate height—will take more than twice as long as promised and cost far more than projected,” Oder writes. “B2, also known as 461 Dean Street, remains mired in lawsuits filed by Forest City and its former partner Skanska, with dueling charges of incompetent execution and flawed design.”
More frightening are the documents dug up by the journalist to tell the story of the development. Although Forest City has told the press that everything is back on track and that there are no flaws in the technology—”We are committed to completing the world’s tallest modular building by using the same technology that we started it with,” developer Bruce Ratner told the Daily News in January—the pages acquired by Oder reveal otherwise. He shares his findings:
“… state documents acquired via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request paint a more ominous picture. Half of the first 39 apartments suffered significant water damage. The first four floors were ‘largely gutted,’ according to reports from consultant STV, which serves as owner’s representative for Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding the entire Atlantic Yards project, which has been renamed Pacific Park Brooklyn.”
In response to the leakage problems seen in April through July 2014, the builders began bringing modules to the site unfinished with drywall to be installed later, “undermining the concept of completing as much as possible in the factory,” Oder says. The documents also show that “a walk-through at B2 revealed that many [units] lacked appliances, sinks and toilets. Some had unfinished flooring and wall work. Also required was ‘on-site leak-damage repair/replacement of water-damaged ceilings, walls and floors, and possibly other elements such as electrical.’”
There was also mold in the building, and “over the late spring and summer, more water damage emerged, as well as quality control issues, including torn gaskets, dents, and scratches to the exterior façade.” Referring to the misaligned modular units, it was found that “one mod was such a tight fit…that a worker used a crowbar to try and move it.” In other cases, they had to “shave drywall…to squeeze in mods.”
Oder reached out to Forest City for answers to some specific concerns, but they declined his request. Spokesman Jeremy Soffin instead offered the response: “Progress on B2 has been excellent since work resumed earlier this year and we are on track to complete the building next year. We remain enthusiastic about the potential for high-rise modular construction in New York.” Empire State Development also told him that it is “satisfied with the pace of construction on the B2 site.”
Oder’s piece is a fascinating read that expands on the issues related to the engineering, assembly, and production of the modules, as well as the arrogance of many of the parties involved in pushing the project forward.
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