Lawsuit Alleges FCRC Modular Project Violates Code

An Article 78 litigation proceeding filed last week against the New York City Department of Buildings in the State Supreme Court, New York County, by the Plumbing Foundation City of New York, Inc. and the Mechanical Contractors of New York, Inc., alleges the DOB ignored City plumbing and fire code requirements when it approved the Forest City Ratner Companies plan for the developer’s Atlantic Yards modular project.

According to the lawsuit, the DOB violated the code by approving FCRC’s plan to construct the modular residential building without the supervision of licensed master plumbers and licensed master fire suppression contractors.

Forest City Ratner Companies

Forest City Ratner Companies

The FCRC modular units are largely being constructed off-site at a Brooklyn factory, where plumbing and fire suppression work is being done. The off-site work is not being done by licensed workers and is in violation of the New York City Administrative Code, the lawsuit alleges.

“It’s a dangerous path we walk down when the city appears to be willing to circumvent the clear words of the law so that wealthy and influential developers can make a few extra dollars by using lower paid and untrained assembly line workers over skilled and licensed trades people,” said Stewart O’Brien, executive director of the Plumbing Foundation, in a prepared statement.

The Plumbing Foundation is not asking the project be stopped, or even delayed, according to Mr. O’Brien. “What we are looking for is that the construction of this building comply with all of the other buildings in the City of New York, whether that’s a skyscraper or a single family home,” he told The Commercial Observer. “A 32-story building shouldn’t be exempt and shouldn’t be treated differently.”

The Code, however, is intended to cover the work done on-site and does not apply to the off-site construction, according to the DOB.

“Licensed plumbers and fire suppression contractors in New York City are responsible for installing these systems at a construction site, not the manufacturing or assembly of these systems before they reach the site,” according to a statement provided by the DOB to The Commercial Observer. “For any modular project, the Department requires the on-site installation of plumbing or fire suppression systems to be performed by a licensed tradesman and those systems must meet the standards in the City’s Construction Codes — regardless of where the parts are assembled.”

FCRC, too, contends that all work is being done in accordance to code. The factory work, according to a spokesman, is completed by union labor and approved by a licensed engineer. Once delivered to the site, all plumbing work is done by licensed plumbers.

“It is simply outrageous that anyone would suggest that FCRC would violate the building code and do anything to compromise safety,” the spokesman said. “It is false and they know it.”

The 32-story, 363-apartment B2 building, poised to be the tallest modular building in the world, is being developed in the shadow of the Barclays Center. As an anchor of the Atlantic Yards residential program, 50-percent of B2’s apartments will be affordable to low- and middle-income households. The project, which broke ground late last year, is expected to open next summer.

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