Last Columbia Hold Out Hung Out to Dry by Top Court

East, East Coast
Thursday, June 24, 2010
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Sprayregen outside one of his Tuck-It-Away storage facilities, which Columbia may now seize unless the Supreme Court says otherwise. (Courtesy blockshopper.com)

Nick Sprayregen, the last remaining holdout in the way of Columbia University’s Manhattanville expansion project, has just had his fortunes reversed—quite literally, as now it appears the school has a good chance of taking Sprayregen’s land through eminent domain to make way for its new 17-acre campus. Last December, Sprayregen won an unexpected court decision, which was overturned today in a unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court. The Observer astutely points out that even justice Robert Smith, the lone dissenter in the major Atlantic Yards case, sided with the majority this time out.

At issue was whether the Empire State Development Corporation has the right to take private land and convey it to Columbia, which the lower appellate court found it did not, as in the judges view there was no clear public purpose. In today’s reversal, the justices found that the agency made a clear and compelling case for the project, and it was not the place of the judiciary to overule them: Read More

Head Crane Inspector Headed to Prison

East Coast, Other
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
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Delayo in court. (Courtesy NY Post)

James Delayo, once the head of the Department of Building’s crane inspectors until he was arrested two years ago for accepting bribes on the job, was sentenced to two to six years in prison today for his $10,000 take. According to the Times, Delayo apologized to the city, as well as his fellow crane inspectors, who “don’t deserve the bad publicity I brought them.” The judge called the crime “an extraordinary betrayal of public trust,” especially in light of the spate of crane accidents, some lethal, that preceded the city investigation that led to Delayo’s arrest. Though as Curbed points out, Delayo was not actually the biggest crook at the department.

In Riverhouse Lawsuit, Not Easy Being Green

East, East Coast
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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Riverhouse (Courtesy Steel Institute NY)

Despite its slow gestation, Battery Park City is widely considered a resounding success today, particularly in the areas of sustainable design, which was required of many of the complex’s latter day projects. Standing out among even these green stalwarts is the recently completed Riverhouse, designed by Polshek Partnership and shooting for LEED Gold, though the project now provides a bit of a cautionary tale for ambitious developers. According to the Journal, two tenants recently sued the projects’ developers for $1.5 million for breach of contract and fraud because the building was deemed not as green as it had been billed. Among the issues: Read More

The Difference a Year Makes

West
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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The Sacremento County Courthouse, home of the Superior Court that made the authorities ruling. (Tom Spaulding/Flickr)

For better and worse, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that the California legislature had not violated the state constitution in seizing some $2 billion from hundreds of local redevelopment authorities across the state, money that will continue to be used to cover educational shortfalls within the state’s sagging budget. This is good news in that it does not further imperil already tenuous state finances that have pretty much been trimmed well into the marrow. At the same time, as we detailed last year, this is an unprecedented taking of local funds—covered through special property taxes having nothing to do with the Legislature—that could also imperil the state’s economy by limiting the work the redevelopment authorities can do, work that often times goes to architects. Read More

That Settles It

East
Thursday, April 15, 2010
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Did the center hold? Hold off mold? (jonas_k/Flickr)

MIT reached a settlement with Frank Gehry last month for what had been called a flawed, leaky design for his Ray and Maria Stata Center that led to a 2007 lawsuit, which also named construction manager Skanska as responsible. Blair Kamin revealed the news Tuesday on his Cityscapes blog, but he didn’t reveal much as the settlement remains private. Drawing on an MIT student newspaper story from March 19, Kamin notes,

“MIT retained outside consultants to examine the construction for defects, and those consultants produced reports which are not publicly available.” The account does not say whether any money changed hands in the settlement. […] In an email Tuesday, Gehry said no money was involved in the settlement. On March 30, the university’s news office issued a joint statement from MIT, Gehry’s firm (Gehry Partners) and Skanska saying that the lawsuit had been “amicably resolved.”

So there you have it. Legacy preserved.

Willets Wonderings

East, East Coast
Monday, December 14, 2009
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The city saw a robust response to an RFQ for the development of the western portion of Willets Point in Queens.

The city saw a robust response to an RFQ for the development of the western portion of Willets Point in Queens.

It appears the city’s plan to trifurcate development out at Willets Point has been a smashing success, as the Economic Development Corporation announced on Friday that 29 developers from across the country have expressed interest in the first phase of the project, an 18-acre swath of land on the western section of the 62-acre Iron Triangle that contains the densest mix of uses. “The quantity and quality of these responses are strong indicators that the development community has confidence in the successful redevelopment of Willets Point despite current economic conditions,” Seth Pinsky, president of EDC, said in a release. An RFP is expected sometime in 2010 for a selection of those 29 respondents. After that, the next hurdle is finishing land acquisition, which stands at 75 percent of the phase one area controlled by the city. If need be, the city has not ruled out acquiring what’s left through eminent domain, a specter that has cast a long shadow over the area’s redevelopment, though one that could be sunsetting. Read More

The Return of Cousin St. Vinny

East, East Coast
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
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Might the courts override the LPC and save Albert C. Ledners National Maritime Headquarters in Greenwich Village? (Courtesy MAS)

Might the courts override the LPC and save Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Headquarters in Greenwich Village? (Courtesy MAS)

Back in March, Protect the Village Historic District sued the Landmarks Preservation Commission over its granting of a hardship to St. Vincent’s Hospital, so that it might demolish Albert C. Ledner’s National Maritime Union Headquarters, now known as the O’Toole building, and replace it with a new hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb and Freed. The focus of PVHD’s suit is that the hospital did not explore suitable alternatives, nor did the commission require them, but now, the state Supreme Court appears to be questioning the very nature of the hardship finding—that retaining the O’Toole buildings prevented the hospital from carrying out its charitable mission—or at least that is the finding of a brief filed today by the Municipal Art Society and half-a-dozen preservation groups that directly challenges the LPC on the matter. Read More

Another Atlantic Yards Suit

East
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
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Atlantic Yards opponents keep on marching, launching another lawsuit today. (Jonathan Barkey)

Atlantic Yards opponents keep on marching, launching another lawsuit today. (Jonathan Barkey)

As we reported back in June, the activists fighting the Atlantic Yards project did not expect any of the various government agencies with oversight of the project to oppose it when they had the opportunity this summer—the MTA revised its sale of the yards, the ESDC approved a modified General Project Plan. What the critics were more excited about was the possibility of additional lawsuits, which, while generally unsuccessful, have helped stall the project nonetheless and paint it in an increasingly negative light. Today, a day before a major showdown over eminent domain in the state’s highest court, Develop Don’t Destroy filed a new lawsuit, this one challenging the MTA’s sale, and it has an important distinction from the others. Read More

Redeveloping Round 2

West
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
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For the time being, redevelopment funds are flowing once again from Sacramento.

For the time being, redevelopment funds are flowing once again from Sacramento.

Yesterday, the California Redevelopment Association celebrated another victory, as the state decided against pursuing its appeal of an April decision in Sacramento Superior Court that kept the Legislature from seizing $350 million from the association’s 397 member agencies. That money was meant to cover a shortfall in the 2008-2009 state budget, but at the cost of the agencies operations. As we reported early last month, however, the state has done it again this year, attempting to tae $2.1 billion from the various redevelopment agencies, which work on economic development projects, affordable house, and, as Cecilia Estolano explained last week, brownfield remediation. Association president John Shirey hopes yesterday’s victory is a sign of continued success. “One down, one to go,” he said in a release. But according to the Contra-Costa Times, the state remains undaunted, believing it has crafted this years bill in a way that avoids the constitutional pitfalls of the previous effort.

You Windermere Some, You Lose Some

East Coast, Other
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
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The Windermere has seen better days, but will hopefully see them once again soon. (Courtesy LPC)

The Windermere has seen better days, but will hopefully see them once again soon. (Courtesy LPC)

The Observer is reporting that Windermere, an individual landmark dating from the late 19th Century located on West 57th Street, was recently purchased for $13 million, or an astounding $181-per-square-foot. The sumptuous red brick apartment building had fallen into disrepair some years ago after its Japanese owner apparently lost interest in it, leading to a lawsuit we covered last year. Read More

My Cousin St. Vinny

Other
Monday, March 9, 2009
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The proposed hospital, now headed for a court date. (Courtesy Pei Cobb Freed)

The proposed hospital, now headed for a court date. (Courtesy Pei Cobb Freed)

The Observer points us to a lawsuit filed today in State Supreme Court aimed at stopping the demolition of Albert C. Ledner’s National Maritime Union HQ in Greenwhich Village, now known as the O’Toole Building. If you read the paper with any regularity, you should know full well the story of St. Vincent’s Hospital’s attempts to replace the one-of-a-kind “overbite building” with a 300-foot tall Pei Cobb Freed-designed hospital tower. Well, the lawsuit may be just in time, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission is due to vote today on whether or not it approves the outsized plans for the new hospital building. Read More

How Unappealing

Other
Thursday, February 26, 2009
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Exhibit A. (horseycrazy/Flickr)

Exhibit A. (horseycrazy/Flickr)

The folks over at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn have been paper-cutting Forest City Ratner for years now, with lawsuit after lawsuit, but they may almost be out of legal options. Today, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the ESDC had not erred in its environmental review filing for Atlantic Yards. Read More

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