2007-07-20 / Community

Problems With Beach 26 Street Construction

Developer Faults Worker For 25-Foot Fall
By Miriam Rosenberg

An inspector from the Department of Buildings checks the permits posted on the gate surrounding the construction site at 120 Beach 26 Street on Wednesday.  An inspector from the Department of Buildings checks the permits posted on the gate surrounding the construction site at 120 Beach 26 Street on Wednesday. The accident earlier this month at a building site in Far Rockaway occurred as workers were removing balconies deemed illegal by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

On July 2, a 31 year-old construction worker - who was not wearing a harness as required by New York City's Department of Buildings for workers at above-ground construction sites - fell 25 feet as he was dismantling a balcony at 120 Beach 26 Street.

"The guy wasn't smart," said Jrzy Szymczyk, of American Dream Production Corporation - the developer for the property. "All safety measures were in place. Or maybe he was tired. Who knows?"

According to papers The Wave has received, the order to remove the balconies came after DEC inspectors visited the site on May 31. Immediately following the inspection, the agency notified the owners of the site, Metroplex on the Atlantic, LLC and its developer American Dream Production Corporation, that they were in violation of an earlier order to move the construction 100 feet away from the coastal erosion hazard area (CEHA), over which the DEC has jurisdiction.

These four balconies on the structure's third floor are considered illegal by the DEC and must be removed by the developer now that the stop work order has been lifted. These four balconies on the structure's third floor are considered illegal by the DEC and must be removed by the developer now that the stop work order has been lifted. A CEHA is explained on the New York State Citizen's Guide website.

"To protect lives and reduce the loss of property due to coastal erosion and flooding, the State Legislature mandated that vulnerable shore areas be designated as Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas, where construction or excavation is controlled through a permit process."

The balconies, according to DEC Notices of Non-Compliance and Violations which were sent to both companies, were unauthorized structures that overlapped into the CEHA.

For that reason, and since the building is not yet considered legal because it still intrudes on the coastal erosion hazard zone, the balconies were deemed new construction and illegal.

In the June 14 notice, Udo Drescher, the assistant regional attorney for the DEC, said the owner's and contractor's "submissions to the department were disingenuous since they did not depict the balconies."

Also on May 31, inspectors took a measurement from the landward edge of the boardwalk to the building. Drescher says in the DEC notice that "Measurements taken by staff of the New York State Department of Conservation on May 31, 2007 established that the distance between the railing of the boardwalk and the façade of the building extends into the CEHA at least two feet six inches on the eastern edge and three feet three inches, three feet six inches to three feet eight inches on the western portion. In other words, the entire façade and a portion of the building are erected within the CEHA in clear violation of the [earlier] order."

The document notes that an onsite engineer for the companies, using his own tape measure, confirmed the DEC's measurements, with only a oneinch difference.

"Nobody specified where to measure from," said Szymczyk about the developer's original measurements and the reason why the building did not meet the DEC's requirements.

He explained that the surveyor for the DEC and the one for the owners and developers each measured from different spots along the 16-foot wide boardwalk façade.

"It's no big deal. It's a two-and-a-half foot difference. We're complying with the measurement," continued Szymczyk.

On the day of the accident, the DOB issued a Stop-Work Order as well as several violations for non-compliance with DOB regulations, including - according to the DOB's Business Information System - several for unsafe work. The website also shows an inspector's note that "[A] worker without [a] harness fell from [a] third floor balcony."

At the building site last Wednesday, The Wave spoke with a DOB inspector, who would not give his name. The inspector said, "They [the developers] are still working on compliance with the stop work order to make things safe."

The DEC's Notice of Non-Compliance and Violations also served the companies with nine other violations of the general permit and the storm water pollution prevention plan.

As a result of the violations found by the NYSDEC, the owners and the developers have been ordered to pay the agency a fine of $30,000, immediately remove all components of the building from the CEHA that are at least 100 feet from the landward edge of the boardwalk and immediately come into compliance with the general permit and the storm water pollution prevention plan.

According to the DOB's website, on Monday an inspector found that all hazardous conditions had been remedied. On Tuesday, the stop work order was lifted, which should lead the developer to the next step - to come into compliance with DEC regulations.

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