The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) has hired a contractor to fix leaks in the roof of the Asphalt Green community center, at a cost of $6.9 million. This price is in addition to the $600,000 that the Authority allocated to hire a construction manager for this project, last October. The BPCA hopes to recover some of this outlay from the developer that originally constructed the community center, along with the two residential buildings above it.
At the March 29 of the Authority’s board, Gwen Dawson, the BPCA’s vice president for real property, explained that, “in 2006, Milstein Properties was designated the developer of Sites 23 and 24, or what are currently known as 200 and 300 North End Avenue. As part of their ground lease they were obligated to provide to the Authority a 50,000-square-foot community center space, the core and shell of the space, which they did.”
Ms. Dawson continued, “Milstein bore the responsibility for the core and shell, while the Authority assumed responsibility for the interior fit out of the project, as well as for the construction of the terrace above the community center.”
“While the construction was in progress, there were problems noted by the Authority, in that some leaks and some water infiltration was experienced and brought to the attention of the base building’s contractor,” she added. “However, it appears there were no efforts to address those problems, or if there were, they were unsuccessful, because the leaks persisted even after the opening of the facility by Asphalt Green in 2013.”
In 2013, the BPCA hired a consulting engineer (for a fee of $50,000) to find the source of the leaks. “The conclusion was there’s a waterproofing failure at the expansion joint between the two buildings,” recalled Ms. Dawson. “That’s above the community center, but below the finished terrace.” The same report found an additional breach in the waterproofing at the community center’s eastern façade, facing the ballfields.
The BPCA opened negotiations with Milstein Properties to fix these leaks, but these, “did not lead to a mutually agreeable resolution,” Ms. Dawson noted. So the BPCA decided to take on the job of fixing the problem itself, while reserving the right to seek damages from Milstein Properties later.
This project will require the complete removal of the terrace above the community center (overlooking the ballfields), as well as part of the structure’s façade. Once the waterproofing has been replaced, both of these areas will be rebuilt.
Earlier this year, the BPCA issued a request for bids on the contract to perform this work. The winning firm, Nicholson & Galloway, priced the work at $6.85 million. (This is the same contractor that performed the successful waterproofing restoration at the Irish Hunger Memorial in 2017.) But the Authority is allocating an additional $50,000 for the possible necessity of dealing with a large rat population that may be driven from underground lairs once the terrace is demolished, which brings the total cost of hiring Nicholson & Galloway to slightly more than $6.9 million.
When BPCA board members questioned whether the Authority should be paying for this work at all, the agency’s general counsel, Abby Goldenberg, noted that, “we were very careful in making sure that doing this work did not prejudice us in any way to be able to go back to Milstein, either through negotiation or through litigation, to recoup what we believe is their responsibility.” She continued, “so we have entered into reservation of rights agreements, which cover us and enable us, after we’ve done the work and have additional evidence, to pursue our rights for their contribution.”
BPCA board member Martha Galloobserved that, “it’s just disappointing that this has taken 10 years. I was there when it opened. This was a little leak. Now it’s become a big issue. It’s a lot of money and we have no assurance that they’re going to pay us a cent. So we’re kind of stuck.” She also asked, “what is this going to do to the terrace space, which is where the parents watch baseball and soccer. So what’s it going to do, taking it out during the season?”
Ms. Dawson replied, “there’s no question we have to create an alternate area for parents,” at the field level. “There may not be as much space, but we’re going to do the best we can. And part of the scope for the project is creating that alternate space.”
“So will it be done before the end of this calendar year,” Ms. Gallo pressed. Or do you think it will go into next year?”
Ms. Dawson answered, “it currently looks as if they’ll get most of the way finished. But they won’t be able to finish the final concrete reinstallation of the terrace level, because the cold weather is probably going to prevent doing that. So it’ll go into a little bit of next spring.”
BPCA board member Catherine McVay Hughes queried that, “it does seem like we’d want the roof to the community center to be secured before entering the winter season.”
“It will be secure one way or the other,” Ms. Dawson assured her. “It’s a matter of whether or not it will be accessible. And of course we would love to have it accessible, and we will be doing everything we can.”
Ms. Gallo continued, “are we sure we understand the root cause of the leaks? We only want to go through this once.”
“That’s the reason that we’re doing a complete replacement of the waterproofing,” Ms. Dawson explained. “Several years ago, we thought maybe we could get away with simply redoing the area around the expansion joint. But as time passed, it seemed that there might be some other points of leakage. So both our design engineer and our forensic engineer have advised us that the only way that we can really make sure that we are addressing the root cause is to remove all of that waterproofing and to replace it all.”
At a BPCA board meeting last October, when the Authority first hired the construction management firm for $600,000, Ms. Gallo had noted, “we paid $58 million for a community center that was delivered with a defective wall. And I think we’ve known that for a long time. And we’ve let it go for a very long time. $58 million was a lot to spend on that community center.”