Suit Over Leaning Tower Aims to Stop Curtainwall Work, Seeks Redesign

General contractor Pizzarotti has filed a suit against developers FPG Maiden Lane and Fortis Property Group in the New York Supreme Court last month, alleging that 161 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan is leaning 3 inches to the north due to settlement of the foundation. It claims that the settlement has caused the building’s superstructure, including the curtainwall, to lean, making any further work on the curtainwall unsafe.

“Although the superstructure has been complete since September of 2018, the curtainwall system has been stalled for months because FPG and its design professionals and consultants have refused or neglected to provide a comprehensive redesign of the curtainwall system to accommodate the leaning and curved condition of the building, and the movement of the structure because of the anticipated further settlement of the foundation,” reads the complaint.

Pizzarotti claims that FPG primarily considered cost when determining to proceed with a soil improvement foundation method rather than deep foundation piles driven into bedrock, despite a consultant warning that the soil improvement method would result in additional settlement of the foundation.

In April 2018, the concrete superstructure subcontractor advised that there were structural issues and unusual settlement up to 3 inches. The subcontractor then requested direction from FPG’s engineer or record, according to the suit. In June 2018, Pizzarotti’s curtainwall subcontractor, AGM Deco, advised that the curtainwall frame, already installed, showed approximately 2 inches difference to the north from floor 11 to 21.

“After investigation and testing, it was confirmed by FPG and its consultants, that the building was in fact leaning, as a rigid body, outside of its vertical control,” reads the suit.

Pizzarotti claims in the suit that, based on expert engineering information and analysis, the increased load from heavy construction elements, such as the curtainwall, yet to be added to the structure will cause additional settlement and movement.

The complaint lists several of Pizzarotti’s service and safety concerns, including the “strength of the cladding attachments not only in the static lean condition but also in a design wind storm condition. As the change in lean has not been predicted it cannot be incorporated in the facade panel engineering. The impacts of this can range from inoperable windows to breaking windows and components falling to the street.”

According to the suit, Pizzarotti claims that work on the project should not proceed any further until the expected future movement of the building is appropriately assessed. The general contractor also says in the suit that FPG has “failed to provide Pizzarotti with sufficient design information, as required by the construction management agreement (CMA), for Pizzarotti to proceed with the work in a safe and proper manner.”

The suit seeks:

  • A declaration that Pizzarotti’s CMA has been properly terminated due in part to more than 120 consecutive days of stopped work;
  • A permanent injunction prohibiting defendants and their agents from proceeding with work on the project, or requiring the general contractor or its subcontractors from proceeding with work on the project, until an adequate, safe and proper redesign is provided; and
  • Costs awarded.

A spokesperson for Fortis refuted the claims in a statement provided to Commercial Observer, which originally reported on the suit.

“As two of the top engineering firms in the world—Arup and WSP—have certified, there are no safety issues at the building and construction can continue immediately,” said the statement. “The fact that Pizzarotti has had more than 70 of its own employees and subcontractors working throughout the building over the past several months (including as recently as last week) substantiates Pizzarotti’s duplicity and underlying intent to defame the project. This is simply a matter of a slight redesign of the building’s curtainwall, which is already being worked on by our new general contractor, Ray Builders.”

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