He should have designed a better ending for himself.

October 15, 2011

I wonder how many of this guy’s male students in the next decade will take abuse from any of the women he violated. A real problem within the University is that when these things go down the victims of the abuse recycle the violence on the younger males. How many talented young men will now study in an atmosphere of panic and paranoia… all because this guy couldn’t just keep his hands on one woman?

( Atlantic Yards Report) Finally, a media outlet has published an explanation for why Jim Stuckey, Forest City Ratner’s former Atlantic Yards point man, and then head of the NYU Schack Real Estate Institute, departed both jobs in a similarly hasty fashion: allegations of sexual harassment.
While a source–I’d bet one connected to Forest City–called Stuckey “very competent” professionally, this might cause some reporters who trusted Stuckey to have some second thoughts about his overall character.
Maybe, for example, the New York Times’s Nicholas Confessore and his editors recognize that it might not have been wise, in 2005, to unskeptically convey Stuckey’s notorious assertion that “It’s Orwellian, almost” to question the company’s purported transparency regarding Atlantic Yards.
And it might remind them that Forest City Ratner was involved in some serious damage control, massaged by p.r. fixer Howard Rubenstein, when Stuckey resigned.
The Post’s scoop
Today’s article, an exclusive, took most of the second page in the New York Post, complete with the ambush photo of the subject looking grim while entering his house. The headline: Designs’ on women send city big packin’.
Well, Stuckey was an unpaid “big,” but his position was the fulcrum for the story, and the Post deserves credit for tracking down sources it believed credible to flesh out the longstanding rumors about Stuckey:

The president of the city’s Public Design Commission abruptly quit late yesterday as The Post was preparing to reveal he had been ousted from his day job at NYU because of accusations he had sexually harassed women at the university.
James Stuckey, 57, an appointee of Mayor Bloomberg, held the unpaid post as president of the design commission since 2007, after three years as a member of the commission.

As of today, as the screenshot indicates, Stuckey’s bio was still on the Design Commission’s web site.
Stuckey’s Twitter account, in which he jousted periodically against Atlantic Yards opponents, has since been erased.
Denial, and sources
Stuckey told the Post that he left the city position for health reasons, as stated when he left NYU, though, as commenters at the Real Deal (and a photo) suggested he was fine.
But the Post found sources–could they have been some at Forest City who notoriously clashed with Stuckey?–who piled on:

“This man should not be in a position of public trust and judgment,” said one former ranking city official with deep knowledge of Stuckey’s alleged history of harassing female subordinates. “He’s been doing this a very, very long time. There’s a pattern of this behavior. He’s a very competent guy, technically speaking. But his historical Achilles heel is this stuff.”
The NYU episode echoed Stuckey’s surprise exit four years [from FCR]…
Stuckey was ousted by the company’s CEO, Bruce Ratner, in early 2007 after a series of complaints had been made against him by female employees, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of what happened.
Ratner, sources told The Post, resisted the idea of getting rid of Stuckey until some of his top lieutenants threatened to quit after an ugly incident at a 2006 Christmas party.
According to company sources, Stuckey took all of his subordinates to a club and then called a number of women employees into a private room, where he had them sit on his lap as though he were Santa Claus.

Ratner connections got him a job
How did Stuckey get hired by NYU? Here’s where it gets interesting. Bruce Ratner, a member of the Schack Institute’s advisory board, helped him get hired.
But, the Post reported that “company source said ‘the reasons for his sudden departure were shared with potential employers, including NYU.'”
I’ll bet someone at NYU is checking on whether those reasons were fully shared and if not, why not–and if so, how seriously was the episode assessed.


"Gray Lady Down," a debate on the Times, and an AY mention

March 21, 2011


photo

Atlantic Yards Report

Having read William McGowan’s book Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of The New York Times Means for America, I knew it does not address such relatively local issues at Atlantic Yards (built by the Times Company’s business partner on the Times Tower, Forest City Ratner), but instead more ideological issues such as gay marriage, immigration, the Duke “rape” case, and the war on terror. 
So McGowan didn’t bring up Atlantic Yards during a debate last month with Michael Tomasky, American editor-at-large for the Guardian, at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. (Tomasky’s main point was that the allegedly halcyon days of the past featured flawed coverage, especially in scope, of a different stripe.)

I think the issue is somewhat murky. I have no doubt that the editorial page is committed, by virtue of the “spirit of the Times” (aka Sulzberger), to supporting Atlantic Yards, or, at least, keeping its mouth shut about dismaying details.
Is the Metro desk in the tank? I don’t think so–and I can’t let myself think so. But the Times has done, on the whole, a lousy job covering Atlantic Yards.
Editors make choices, and the Times has chosen to put far less energy into looking carefully at Atlantic Yards than at a number of other issues. Meanwhile, the Sports section laps up Nets publicity.

link

“Lifeforce” 1985 International one sheet image via doppelganger
and via
thatsmyface.com

world’s tallest prefab steel structure for first affordable tower

March 20, 2011

Critic Lange: Maybe Gehry’s design was kinda modular, too…

Atlantic Yards Report:

…In Bad Faith Towers, Design Observer’s Alexandra Lange makes the connection between the Times’s graphic, for illustrative purposes, of a pre-fabricated, modular tower that might be built at the Atlantic Yards site, and a Frank Gehry rendering of the arena block, which looks pretty darn modular.

She writes:

Are we so desperate for affordable housing (again, the recession changes everything) that we will take a chance on untested building technology? Who gets to be the guinea pig on the 34th floor? Surely Forest City Ratner did not want this news out the week of the Japanese quake.

…Surely Ratner will tart up the prefab units with some cast concrete lintels and blown-up brownstone details, and call them contextual. But the truth is, the Times rendering is not so far from the boxy stacks Gehry proposed after the billowing Miss Brooklyn proved too costly. As with the disappointing 8 Spruce Street, there’s a thin value engineered line between industrial production and genius.

link

Big savings, but promised Union jobs, tax revenues lost, and new risks at Brooklyn Atlantic Yards… The problem here is this government intervening project was supposed to create jobs, but cost cuts save the project without creating the promised jobs. This is why you don’t want the government taking private property away!

In what seems to be a desperate–or maybe innovative–effort to save money and time, Forest City Ratner may build the world’s tallest modular structure to deliver the affordable housing long promised as an Atlantic Yards benefit.

In doing so, however, FCR would establish its own factory to manufacture the components, severely cutting expected on-site union jobs, and presumably cutting deeply into projected tax revenues, thus upending the always optimistic estimates of project benefits.

FCR’s Lego-like solution would severely antagonize union construction workers who, fulfilling requests by the developer and their own leadership, fervently and sometimes obnoxiously backed the project at rallies and public hearings.
And the bait-and-switch would continue a pattern of renegotiating contracts in order to save money.
For example, FCR in 2005 bid $100 million in cash for the rights to build on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard, only to renegotiate the contract in 2009, paying only $20 million out of the $100 million pledged, with 22 years to pay the rest.
Also, in building a 34-story tower at first, FCR would take risks by venturing into a construction technology that is still developing, the current record-holder only rises 25 stories..
A scoop for the Times
Charles Bagli of the New York Times, who has paid intermittent attention to the project but is a go-to guy for scoops, has the story, headlined Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards:

In a bid to cut costs at his star-crossed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the developer Bruce C. Ratner is pursuing plans to erect the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 34-story tower that would fulfill his obligation to start building affordable housing at the site.
The prefabricated, or modular, method he would use, which is untested at that height, could cut construction costs in half by saving time and requiring substantially fewer and cheaper workers. And the large number of buildings planned for the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards — 16 in all, not including the Nets arena now under construction — could also make it economical for the company to run its own modular factory, where walls, ceilings, floors, plumbing and even bathrooms and kitchens could be installed in prefabricated steel-frame boxes.
The 34-story building, with roughly 400 apartments, would comprise more than 900 modules that would be hauled to Atlantic Yards, lifted into place by crane and bolted together at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, next to the arena.

The current record-holder


The tallest modular building in the world, according to a 9/2/09 article in Building Design and Construction, is Victoria Hall, a 25-story apartment tower in Wolverhampton, England. A 9/21/09 article in National Real Estate Investor (source of the photo) calls it 24 stories.
Note the prefab appearance. Does Forest City Ratner’s claim that buzzy firm SHoP will design the building apply to the modular units? Or, more likely, would SHoP merely graft a “skin” on the building, as with the Ellerbe Becket arena?
Some flaws
The Times suggests that tall modular buildings require significant bracing, but modular buildings can have their flaws. A 3/26/08 Times article describes a modular building at Yale University that was built in 2004:

“They tried to blend in the appearance of the building with what’s here already,” said Martin Dominguez, a first-year medical student who was also an undergraduate at Yale and has lived in the modular building for 18 months. “They did a reasonably good job, though the building obviously looks pretty modern relative to the other architecture.”
Mr. Dominguez said he was not happy with the quality of the dormitory’s construction — some of the walls do not quite fit together and the floor is uneven in the bathroom, he said.

However, the Times reported, campus housing administrators at another college were impressed with the work and decided to go the modular route.
The benefits of modular
The Modular Building Institute, a trade group, explains that Modular Delivers More than Speed to Completion:

Commercial modular buildings are cutting-edge facilities of the highest quality, efficiency, endurance, and design: cost-effective permanent and temporary buildings that respond to ever-changing demands…
Today, multi-story, multi-unit buildings can be constructed in a factory from steel and concrete. The units, shipped to the site either on a flatbed trailer or on their own axles and tires, are craned into place and joined on site. Once completed, these high-end, factory-built buildings are indistinguishable from site-built construction. There generally are no visual or structural differences whatsoever….
The advantages of modular construction remain the same, however. Commercial modular structures are built in a climate- and quality-controlled environment, where savings of as much as 50% in overall construction time are not uncommon.

Ratner savings, union tensions
The Times reported that Forest City has been designing both a conventional tower and a modular one, and is looking for sites in Long Island City for a factory:

“The company is interested in modular, high-rise construction in an urban setting,” [FCR’s] Ms. [Maryanne] Gilmartin said. “It’s driven by cost and efficiencies.”
But it would also infuriate the construction workers who were Mr. Ratner’s most ardent supporters during years of stormy community meetings, where they drowned out neighborhood opponents with chants of, “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The Times notes that Forest City promised Atlantic Yards would generate “upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs.” Actually, that’s job-years, so 1700 jobs a year over ten years or, more likely, many fewer jobs a year over a much longer period of time, perhaps 25 years.
The Times reports:

Not to worry, Ms. Gilmartin said, “We’re a union shop, and we build union.”
But under current wage scales, union workers earn less in a factory than they do on-site. A carpenter earns $85 an hour in wages and benefits on-site, but only $35 an hour in a factory.

Need for a cost-benefit analysis
Gilmartin should be asked to estimate the actual number of expected jobs, as well as the total in wages. Or the Empire State Development Corporation should do so.
Such numbers should be plugged into the cost-benefit analyses conducted by the city, state, and Independent Budget Office.
Forest City is clearly under pressure to fulfill its obligations and make its expected profits. City officials denied a request for $10 million in additional housing subsidies.
Going to 34 stories?
A firm located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Capsys, states that its system is good for 12 stories:

Our system of structural steel framing, concrete floors, and steel-framed walls is ideal for projects as high as 12 stories. Our in-house engineering group is capable of designing modular structures that fit the floor plan of almost any residential building.

Those quoted by the Times say taller buildings are possible, but pose challenges:

“At a smaller scale, prefab buildings have proven to be more efficient, more sustainable and less expensive,” said Thomas Hanrahan, dean of Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture. “The taller the building, the logistical and structural issues become much more complex.”

Keeping the arena block quieter
Unmentioned in the Times: prefab construction would clearly make it easier to build towers around the arena while conducting arena activities.
After all, cranes would be at the site for less time, and fewer workers would be at the site, as well.

Developer Bruce Ratner recently revealed the latest design for his proposed new Nets basketball arena in Prospect Heights, part of a controversial project that also includes 16 residential and office towers. The third version of the 675,000-square-foot Atlantic Yards arena was created by local SHoP Architects and Kansas City-based Ellerbe Becket.

The Brooklyn development project has restored some of the ideas of Frank Gehry, the original designer. Earlier this summer he was replaced with Ellerbe Becket, whose preliminary designs elicited howls of protest.

According to the associated press, the price for the project is 800 million USD, reduced from an earlier estimate of 1 billion USD.
To defer additional costs, Mr. Ratner has divided up the design. ‘The arena will be built first, and then,’ he says, ‘the foundations for the residential and commercial buildings will be dug, once he is ready to start the next stage of construction.’


In Mr. Gehry’s original design, all of the structures were conceived as part of a single cohesive scheme.

For further information read the New York Times article here.
via archicentral.com