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.
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.
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.
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!
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 requiremore 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.
With New York City exploring drone use for everything from disaster response to traffic surveillance, we foresee, in the not too distant future, where we’ll be able to use drones for building inspections and forensic investigation.
During a sit-down with Howard L. Zimmerman he shared, “The ability to do a building inspection without sending our staff to scaffolding allows for a safer and quicker response to an urgent request. In addition, attaching a thermal camera facilitates finding leaks and they can assist with energy audits. The possibilities are enormous.”
The term ‘green roof’ refers to a building roof that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems. Rooftop ponds are another form of green roofs which are used to treat greywater.
The concept of Privately Owned Public Spaces or POPS in New York City was first introduced in 1961 as ‘incentive zoning’ spaces, allowing private developers more buildable square footage in return for the creation of public plazas, atria, arcades, etc. POPS are physical spaces that, although privately owned, are required to be open to the public, easily accessible, aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, well lit and secure. Between 1961 and 2000, there were approximately 503 POPS built at 320 buildings in New York City – there are more now – and they’re found principally in Manhattan.
Starting at HLZA in 2008, Alexei Tajzler began as a Technical Associate and quickly rose through the ranks. Alexei was promoted to Director in 2015 and now leads an HLZA architectural studio. Alexei has worked on numerous FISP (Local Law 11), façade and roof replacement projects as well as the award-winning, landmarked Temple Emanu-El restoration and the former New York Mercantile Exchange Building.
Here at HLZA, we recognize the importance of taking care of our community and lending a helpful hand to families and individuals in need of assistance. This past October, Project Associate Brandon Sheiner, of HLZA’s Mechanical Engineering Department, led HLZA staffers to participate in a ‘Day of Impact.’ A community service event organized by Architecture for Humanity New York (AFHNY), ‘Day of Impact’ brings together over one hundred design professionals for a day of service to New York City’s underserved regions.