Contractor looks to resume weekend work near ballfields

By Julie Shapiro

Goldman Sachs plans to start working evenings and weekends to finish the construction of its headquarters in Battery Park City.

Goldman halted weekend and evening work in May, after a sheet of metal flew off the building on a Saturday afternoon and landed 20 feet from a Downtown Little League player in the Battery Park City ballfields across Murray St. In the wake of the community outrage following the accident, Goldman agreed not to seek variances from the Department of Buildings for extra work hours for the remaining weeks of the Little League season.

But that promise only extended into the beginning of June, and Tishman Construction Corp., the project’s contractor, now plans to seek variances to work on weekends and later on weekdays this fall. That’s bad timing for the Downtown Soccer League, which will hold its first game on the ballfields on Sat., Sept. 6. The league plans to use the field on many weekday afternoons and every weekend this fall.

“We are vehemently opposed to any variances [allowing] after-hours or weekend work,” said Bill Bialosky, president of the Downtown Soccer League. “You get only one chance when it comes to safety — there’s no second chances. What’s at risk is too great.”

Mark Costello, president of Downtown Little League, also does not want to see Goldman working when children are using the fields. Costello is especially opposed to Goldman seeking variances for economic reasons, to get the building up faster.

“I’m really not that sympathetic — you’re talking about dollars versus safety,” Costello said.

Justin Saunders, spokesperson for Tishman, would not say when Tishman hopes to start the after-hours work or what type of work Tishman will do after-hours.

Weekend and evening variances are “standard at construction sites throughout New York City,” Saunders said in a statement to Downtown Express.

For those who oppose the variance, an important variable is the date the building will be fully enclosed in glass. Once the building is enclosed and workers are using internal elevators as opposed to exterior hoists, the construction poses less of a danger to the surrounding community.

Bialosky said that on the one hand, he wants Goldman to enclose the building as soon as possible, but on the other hand, he does not want them to work extra hours and compromise the soccer players’ safety.

Costello thought Goldman planned to have the building enclosed by this December, but Saunders, the spokesperson, would not confirm that. The building will be complete by next June, according to the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center’s Web site.

Tishman implemented a host of safety measures immediately following the May accident, including wrapping the entire building in floor-to-ceiling netting. They have also hired a wind consultant to determine which types of work should stop under high wind conditions. Saunders did not comment on whether Tishman has installed wind monitors on the building, as was promised last May.

Another measure that followed the accident was for an independent safety inspector to examine the site daily and report to the Battery Park City Authority and the Department of Buildings.

“The important thing is that the inspector does not report to Goldman,” Jim Cavanaugh, president of the B.P.C.A., said in a telephone interview. “It truly is an independent set of eyes and ears out there. There’s a constant presence.”

The Buildings Department selected the firm Certified Site Safety for the job. The authority pays the firm, and Goldman reimburses the authority, Cavanaugh said.

Certified Site Safety sends daily reports to the authority construction department and the Buildings Department, Cavanaugh said. The reports identify potential safety issues and note how the workers responded. For example, a report might say that a piece of equipment was being stored too close to the edge of the building, where it was not allowed, and a worker moved it.

“I have not seen anything significant or that has not been addressed,” Cavanaugh said. He added that the Department of Buildings is the primary regulator for the project.

As for whether Goldman should get weekend variances, Cavanaugh said it’s the Buildings Department’s call.

“If the Department of Buildings feels that it’s safe, my inclination is that we will concur with that,” Cavanaugh said. “We’re looking to them to take the lead on that.”

Bialosky, of Downtown Soccer League, would rather devote his energy to soccer than to a letter-writing campaign, but he said that if Tishman seeks after-hours variances, he will have few choices.

“Judging by the sentiment last spring, there definitely are parents who are itching for a fight,” he said.