Activating Vacant Spaces: Atop 875 Washington Street

by Hope Pollonais and Jared Cole

 875 Washington Street, featuring a mural created by the artistic duo ASVP, is in context with the street art of Meatpacking. Photography: Jack Kucy

Vacant space is ubiquitous in New York City; it’s both a problem and a resource. The city holds more space than most realize and the question remains: just what should we do with empty space?

First, we can recognize the opportunity to create temporary or permanent attractions to revitalize spaces where people can participate. We can create value – a role that architecture can fulfill –  in the activation of spaces. Themes such as color, culture, regeneration and public intervention illustrate architecture’s current potential.

Such an opportunity existed at 875 Washington Avenue where HLZA’s Richard Moses and Jared Cole found a way to place art on a non-historic rooftop bulkhead. They proposed the roof deck solve a social problem and create a beneficial environment for the building.  This roof deck is a significant value-add for the owner of the building and the tenants that will benefit from it.

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Crime Scene Investigation: The ‘Leak’

by Hope Pollonais

Spray bars are aimed at the windows to detect leakage to the interior

Finding the source of a leak is comparable to solving a crime. Placing a suspect at the scene is a basis of Forensic Architecture. The analysis of evidence creates a link between the perpetrator (water infiltration) and the crime (the leak). The mere fact that the suspect (presence of moisture) was present may be an indication of guilt.

Water penetration into a building’s facade can lead to corrosion of embedded ferrous metals, degradation of façade materials, and leakage into occupied portions of the building. Corrective measures to prevent water penetration are usually not implemented until leakage or an unsafe condition is reported.  Many municipal façade ordinances recognize that water infiltration through a building’s facade should be immediately addressed.

Solving the leak involves the following steps:

  • Investigating the Scene of the Crime: Review the evidence at the scene, be aware of what you’re looking at and what you are looking for.
  • The Tools of the Trade: Learn techniques and tips that will go a long way toward preventing crimes before they happen.
  • Give the Third Degree where lines of questioning and methods of isolating suspicions rules get your ‘leak” to fess up as to where the problems are originating.
  • In the end, you will be ready to see the lineup of The Usual Suspects, common problems that are generally responsible for causing a leak leading to unsafe conditions.


There are thousands of buildings in New York State that require periodic inspection at intervals ranging from one to five years. As more municipalities enact façade ordinances, this number is sure to grow. To keep pace, qualified inspectors are needed who can quickly and effectively perform these inspections. Proper diagnosis of water entry and the implementation of maintenance and repairs can reduce the potential for hazardous conditions developing at a later date.

The inspector’s goal is to assess the water tightness of the building façade and evaluate possible ways in which water can penetrate the building. While performing the façade inspection, the inspector should try to “interview” the building about reported water leakage and earlier repairs implemented to address water infiltration:

  • Were there any water leaks in the past? Get a historical background
  • How long has water been leaking into the building? Remember that leaks usually develop for some time before they are observed or reported.
  • Does water leakage seem to follow a pattern? Look closely at interior and exterior stains. In particular, note the location of water leakage signs relative to features such as window heads and sills, setback walls and roof drains.
  • Under what circumstances is water leaking into the building? Does leakage occur quickly after rain starts, or does it take a while for leakage to develop? If water leakage lags behind rainfall, water may be accumulating under a roof membrane, inside a wall system, or travelling a substantial distance from the infiltration point to the observed leak.
  • Does the building leak every time it rains, only during rainstorms with high winds, or during any other specific weather conditions?

Innocent or Guilty?

The linkage of evidence is the heart and soul of forensics and puts the suspect at the scene. It is up to the ‘police’ and ‘prosecutors’ to prove that the linkage is proof of guilt. The functions of the criminals (water infiltration), the crime lab (the building) and the crime scene investigator (your qualified inspector, like HLZA) are key participants in this drama.

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Peer Review: We’ve Got Your Back!

by Joe Nevins

Peer Review process allows HLZA to add an additional layer of protection in reviewing drawing details.

With the global investment economy that often fuels architectural design and the ever growing concern for liability, a review of the technology and building details of a project is often a sound investment, especially on the back end when the project is being sold or passed to the next generation.

At HLZA, we are often contacted concerning the review of a set of drawings for a new building.   Savvy owners have come to realize that firms that specialize in building envelope analysis, repair, and restoration can be quite useful when a new project is being worked up, because they can leverage the cumulative knowledge of the firm’s experience concerning the failure of materials and techniques.

Science tells us that water is the universal solvent, given enough time.  From raw experience looking at structures ranging from the 1670’s to the 2000’s we are well aware of the issues that water infiltration brings.  Resolving the forces and effects of wind, rain, the ever-present freeze/thaw cycle of the seasons, and the expansion/contraction issues typical to materials, is a challenge in the best of circumstances.  Given the time pressure of modern construction coupled with regulatory requirements adds a different layer of complexity. Continue reading »

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Meet Jared Cole RA, HLZA Project Manager

A Project Associate at HLZA for two years and newly promoted to Project Manager, Jared Cole has worked on multiple projects in the office including a green vegetative roof  at NYU Langone Medical Center and an innovative recreational roof deck in the Meatpacking district.

Jared, did you always know you wanted to be an architect?

Actually, I originally pursued and earned a teaching degree.  I taught English and trained educators in South Korea for three years.  I then returned to school in the US and got a Masters in Architecture.

Has your teaching experience impacted your work in architecture at all?

Both professions require a lot of organization and a lot of patience. Both require a certain amount of flexibility in dealing with people and being able to adapt to changes on the fly.

You were Project Manager on the 875 Washington Street recreational roof deck. What was your thought process there?

We were limited by the roof’s structural capacity and the code regarding how large a deck the tenants could use as an amenity. The size of the roof deck was a bit small, so we wanted to give it a special character to allow it to be a unique “destination”.  There’s a real utilitarian feel to the roof top in fitting in with the Meatpacking District in general, the historic character of the district and a raw underlying aspect due to its history as a once gritty area of the city.

We tried to highlight the utilitarian aspects of the existing roof and make them focal points for the users:  The water tank and metal clad mechanical bulkhead, for example.

We designed uplighting under the water tank so it would be illuminated at night. And it changes colors. It’s visible from nearby and far away. Being that there’s a history of street art in the district, we wanted to mimic this so we installed an art mural on the metal mechanical bulkhead. While street art often arose in neglected areas of the city and was associated with blight, it has become popular in some ways as an intriguing way to engage with social issues and our built environment on a local scale. We’re keeping the theme going. Now the Whitney Museum is nearby and there’s a tradition of street art, and institutional or commissioned public art, so we wanted to extend this up to the rooftop for the users.  A small roof deck with a vividly colored  art mural backdrop is a great conversation piece.

What makes this project unique for HLZA?

It really speaks to the diversity of services we offer.  Richard (Moses) and I tackled it from the architectural perspective; Ilya (Shtulberg) and Bryan (Chester) assessed the roof’s capacity and engineered the whole system; our MEP department designed the electrical and lighting package for lighting up the water tower and the bulkhead.

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For He’s a Jolly Good…

Mary Burke, 2017 AIA NY Fellows Committee Chair, awards Fellows pin to Howard Zimmerman

Photograph: William Fredericks/Heathwood Photography 

Fellow! HLZA is so proud to announce that our Founder and Principal, Howard L. Zimmerman, has been elevated to the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows. The highest membership honor bestowed by the AIA for exceptional work and contributions to architecture and society. The judging process is rigorous and only about 3% of AIA members receive the Fellow distinction.

Howard is always quick to acknowledge his exceptional team of professionals in house and an esteemed cadre of clients; those who know Howard personally and professionally could not deny that this is an honor well deserved!

Congratulations Howard!

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Restoring the Plaza: Covered Up Never Looked So Good

by Joan Berkowitz


The Case of the Plaza Hotel

HLZA was retained by the Plaza Hotel and Plaza Condominium to restore the hotel’s grand street-facing facades. Prominently located where the southeast corner of Central Park meets Fifth Avenue, The Plaza is a white mass of marble, terracotta, and white glazed brick that anchors one of New York City’s great public squares, providing a gleaming focal point for tourists and locals alike.

Designed by Henry Hardenbergh in the French Renaissance style and begun in 1905, this outstanding example of early 20th century American hotel architecture has been designated a New York City Landmark and a National Historic Landmark, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Often mentioned in literature and seen in films, the beloved NYC icon cried out for an innovative alternative to the dreary black netting commonly draped over scaffolding during restoration campaigns.

Time-lapse video of the artistic netting being installed on pipe scaffolding during restoration of the plaza.


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‘Build It Back’ Resiliency

by Omer Kalafatoglu

Dayton Towers

Sited in Rockaway, Queens, only 500 feet from the ocean, the Dayton Towers Condominium Complex incurred flooding from three sources in the wake of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy: the ocean, the bay, and rising groundwater.

Constructed between 1967 and 1968, the complex of seven multi-family housing buildings is subdivided into East and West campuses. In the West complex, the flooding water level reached up to 6 feet above grade, causing extensive damage. To prevent this from happening in the future, Dayton Towers called upon HLZA to implement a Resiliency Program that includes a combination of dry floodproofing and wet floodproofing methodologies.

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Protecting the Public: What You Can’t See Might Hurt You

Wall Cavity

Hidden failures: The invisible deterioration of NYC facades

The facades of 14,000 buildings in NYC are inspected on a regular basis under the facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP). How many of these buildings pass muster? The Department of Buildings (DOB) recently announced that many of these buildings have aging materials that can be expected to fail without proper intervention.

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Up Close with Andrew Halpin


Currently a Project Manager, Andrew Halpin started at HLZA in 2005 as a Technical Associate. Over the course of 11 years he has found himself working on some of HLZA’s most complex projects. One of the most challenging, he says, was The Plaza Hotel.

Q: Andrew, you’ve worked on some big HLZA projects, including ten buildings for London Terrace, Chelsea Mercantile, and The Ritz Tower. Why does The Plaza stand out in your mind?

A: The Plaza Hotel and Condominium is one of New York’s most iconic buildings. Did you know it’s up for sale again? It’s not only in a NYC historic district, but it’s also a landmark building, so its restoration involved a large and challenging scope of work. There were stringent parameters to follow and standards of work to uphold that were frankly not upheld in earlier repairs. We even had workers repelling down the front of the building because, due to its design, we were unable to hang from scaffold platforms.

Poor workmanship, flooding, and deterioration necessitated an enormous amount of material replacement. We launched an extensive investigation into the types of marbles to use and which marble quarries would be able to supply material that matched. And we worked closely with the terracotta manufacturer, who was charged with repairing and/or duplicating 204 pieces of white terracotta, many based solely on our field measurements! The process to design, create, bake and ship terracotta – which literally means ‘baked earth’ – can take three to four months to arrive on site. Opening up the first box of glistening white terracotta was like Christmas morning — we were pretty excited!

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DOB Reacts to Increased Façade Failures


Photography: Jane Gertler

Aging City Skyline Leads to Stricter Façade Enforcement

Pursuant to the April 18th Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) Industry Meeting attended by Howard Zimmerman and Stephanie Bush, HLZA Executive Director, Operations, the DOB is looking more critically at the FISP building population, which is comprised of approximately 14,000 buildings over six stories throughout the city.

Increased staffing and manpower to conduct DOB inspections is forthcoming and they are reviewing the minimum professional standard of care with fresh eyes in light of recent façade failures.

What does this mean for building owners and property managers?

  • Building owners are required by code to maintain their property in safe condition.
  • Buildings that have projections, decorative stone, sandstone components, terracotta elements, and cavity wall construction may require more extensive visual evaluations as well as probes in order to satisfy the requirements of FISP (RCNY103-04).
  • While one close-up inspection (typically by scaffold drop) is the minimum currently required by code, the perspective of the Facades Unit is that one is not the minimum for every building. Depending on age, construction type, repair history and observations, additional drops may be necessary.
  • The DOB will be looking closely at buildings that have a “No Report Filed” status or that were previously filed unsafe or SWARMP, but have not filed for façade repair work permits.
  • If your building does not have a 7th Cycle Report filed, you should file your 8th Cycle Report as soon as possible (regardless of sub-cycle).  This will require all civil penalties be paid.
  • The DOB is urging all unsafe status buildings to promptly make repairs and bring the building to safe condition while employing public protective measures and submitting all required permits, time extension requests and façade reports.
  • Any unsafe conditions observed by a professional must be reported by calling 311 regardless of building height or if the professional was retained for a building evaluation or not.  This means just walking down the street and seeing a suspicious condition is expected to be reported to 311.  Additionally, notification of unsafe conditions (FISP3 form) must be submitted on buildings over six stories.
  • Balcony enclosures require a permit.  Enclosures installed without record of a permit either need a retroactive permit or need to be removed.  Structurally stable enclosures that do not have a permit could be cited as SWARMP depending on the condition.
  • Guardrail statements are required as part of the body of the report. These must be inspected and access must be provided to do so.  Structural stability is of paramount concern to the DOB.  Code compliancy issues will need to be addressed, but can be cited as SWARMP depending on the condition.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the above information, please feel free to call Howard Zimmerman or Stephanie Bush at (212) 564-9393.

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