Milstein safety plan is less than Goldman, some say

By Julie Shapiro

Milstein Properties unveiled a long-awaited safety plan Tuesday night for the residential towers that will soon rise at Sites 23 and 24 in Battery Park City.

Residents were pleased to finally hear the presentation they had been requesting for months, but some worried that the plan did not go far enough in protecting the adjacent B.P.C. ballfields and the nearby streets and dog run.

“The whole building makes us very, very nervous,” said Mark Costello, president of Downtown Little League. “It’s almost impossible to foresee everything.”

One accident no one saw coming was the one last spring where a metal plate fell from the Goldman Sachs construction across the street from the ballfields and landed yards from a Little League player. No one was hurt.

Goldman added a slew of safety measures after that accident, and Milstein will implement many, but not all, of them, said Maria Rosenfeld, a development advisor for Milstein.

The safety plan, which the Department of Buildings approved last week, goes above and beyond the city’s code to reduce the chance of accidents. Milstein will enclose the building in full-height vertical netting, as Goldman did after the accident, although the city only requires 60 inches of netting per floor. Milstein will also hire two independent concrete safety managers, in addition to the general site safety manager.

Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee, which heard Rosenfeld’s presentation Tuesday night, was particularly concerned about wind, since blustery weather played a role in the Goldman accident. Rosenfeld said Milstein would place wind monitors on the building and would check them several times a day, stopping work whenever gusts topped 30 miles per hour.

Milstein is also taking special care to avoid working near the ballfields after 3 p.m. on weekdays and during the day on weekends, when leagues use the fields. On weekdays, work will start in the morning on the east side of the building, near the ballfields, and should move to the west side by the time school lets out for the day, Rosenfeld said.

However, she then listed exceptions to that rule: emergencies, masonry scaffold jumping, hoist jumping and hoist use for garbage removal and manpower and material loading.

Costello was disappointed that Milstein is allowing so many exceptions, which he said could pose a danger to Little League players.

“That’s you guys being tough and hard-nosed,” he said.

Costello, also a C.B. 1 member, thinks Milstein should make the financial sacrifice of suspending work during certain hours, since there is no other way to guarantee that the ballfields will be safe.

“The best construction professional in the world can’t make the building safe while active construction is going on,” Costello said, pointing out that any one of hundreds of workers can make a mistake or break a rule.

Rosenfeld said the construction team will work with the community to see what works and doesn’t work and make changes as necessary, but Costello wanted clearer protocols in place.

“We need some commitments that aren’t day by day, we’ll do our best,” Costello said.

Milstein is building the residential towers with a community center in the base on N. End Ave between Warren and Murray Sts. Liberty Luxe, the southern tower, will rise 32 stories, while Liberty Green, to the north, will rise 22 stories. The towers will begin to emerge from the ground soon and will be finished by the first quarter of 2011.

Jim Cavanaugh, president of the Battery Park City Authority, said he had confidence in Milstein’s safety plan.

“So long as there is diligent oversight, it will provide for safety on the fields,” he told Downtown Express Tuesday.

Cavanaugh did not see the need for the plan to be as extensive as Goldman’s post-accident safety measures. After the accident, Goldman paid for an independent safety monitor who reports daily to the B.P.C.A. and the Buildings Department. The authority retains the option to impose that requirement on Milstein but does not currently intend to do so, Cavanaugh said.

Jeff Mihok, a B.P.C. Committee member, said the plan was impressive, but he was concerned about materials being set too close to the edge of the building. Goldman created a buffer zone of 15 feet from the edge of each floor plate where no materials can be stored, but Milstein is using only a 10-foot buffer zone.

“I looked at 15 feet,” Rosenfeld said. “But these are shallow buildings — most residential buildings are.”

Goldman’s open office floors made it easier to create a large buffer zone, but Milstein has to install kitchens and bathrooms within 15 feet of the curtain wall, so keeping that space clear was not an option, Rosenfeld said.

In addition to relying on the city’s laws and the stricter rules that will be in place on this project, Rosenfeld said Milstein will rely on the team from Plaza Construction that is building the towers. The same team just built the Riverhouse, also in northern Battery Park City, and they are familiar with the wind conditions in the neighborhood, Rosenfeld said.

“It’s going to be an art to manage,” Rosenfeld added.