Developer, NYC officials “dig in” at Atlantic Yards

Construction begins at massive project's first residential tower
By Guelda Voien | December 18, 2012 04:00PM

It was the first notable groundbreaking in New York City without any ceremonial shovels or decorative hardhats. Developer Forest City Ratner today laid the first chassis, a steel box that will form a sort of foundation, in the ground for the Atlantic Yards’ first residential building, which will be the world’s tallest modular tower.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joined Forest City’s CEO David LaRue and Chairman Bruce Ratner as construction began on the tower, known as B2, which will be made up of prefabricated modules.

B2 will rise 32 stories and include 181 units of low-, moderate- and middle-income housing as well as 182 market rate units. The tower is slated for completion in the summer of 2014; two other towers in the area — near the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street — are set to begin construction in the next six to nine months.

“The modular construction that will be used for B2 and subsequent buildings at the Atlantic Yards has the potential to really change the way cities are built,” Bloomberg said. “It makes construction cheaper, faster and less destructive than ever.”

Construction of affordable housing at the massive project — promised by Forest City Ratner during the approval process with the city — was set to begin in tandem with construction for the next door Barclays Center, in 2010, but was delayed due to rising costs, according to published reports. The developer was on the hook for a $5 million penalty if construction at B2 was delayed past May 2013, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

The plan to use modular construction, which Forest City Ratner finalized in October, has helped the developer save on costs, but, as reported, has also meant fewer, and lower paying construction jobs come along with the development.

The modular buildings are being assembled nearby at a 100,000-square-foot facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, Bloomberg said, adding that the fabrication job had added 125 construction jobs for the borough. The complete plan for the Atlantic Yards includes 11 residential buildings.

Bloomberg also underscored the importance of affordable housing in the increasingly expensive borough, which has recently seen home inventory hover near record lows.

“We are 80 percent to our goal of 165,000 units [of affordable housing in New York City] by 2014,” the Mayor said.

“What I care about most is that [this building] is affordable,” Ratner told the crowd. “It will look exactly like the market rate units and [they will] be spread throughout the building.”

A total of 2,250 units of affordable housing are set to be included as part of the $4.9 billion project.

William Flemming, CEO of Skanska USA, the builder of the SHoP Architects-designed tower, said the modular scheme would also make construction work safer. “Workers are safer because they aren’t up in the sky,” he said.

“As we say in Brooklyn, ‘How sweet it is!'” Markowitz exclaimed, adding that he feels traffic on Flatbush Avenue was improved by Atlantic Yards’ presence.