HFZ temporarily halts work at Turtle Bay site

Gas line issue briefly snares developer, but work allowed to proceed

TRD New York /
Feb.February 06, 2013 09:00 AM

HFZ Capital Group was forced to temporarily halt construction at its controversial Turtle Bay condominium project after a contractor hit a live gas line late last week, The Real Deal has learned.

The 303 East 51st Street project was partially halted after contractors accidentally hit the line while doing excavation work and Department of Buildings inspectors found work being done without approved site plans, according to sources and documents filed with DOB.

HFZ said the firm was performing excavation and foundation work under a new building permit, and a contractor struck an “unmapped” Con Edison gas line, according to a spokesperson for the developer.

“HFZ had previously received two separate confirmation letters from ConEd on July 11, 2012 and again on Oct. 4, 2012 indicating that all gas lines on the site had been removed,” HFZ said.

Triton, the construction manager at the site, contacted the New York Fire Department, DOB and ConEd to inform them of the situation, according to the firm.

ConEd confirmed the gas line incident, but did not have additional information at press time.

“During the demolition they apparently pulled at a gas main at that location,” said D. Joy Faber, a spokeswoman for Con Edison, who added that a crew arrived at the scene and cut and capped the gas line to prevent any further leaking.

The partial stop work order was fully lifted on Monday, DOB records show. It is not immediately known whether fines or citations will be issued.

The site has had a long history of construction problems, beginning with the 2008 crane collapse that killed seven people, marking one of the worst construction accidents in New York in recent memory.

HFZ took control of the site shortly after, securing funding from Los Angeles-based CIM Group in 2012, with plans to erect a 32-story, 123-unit condominium tower, as The Real Deal has reported.

Sherry Olan Berner, a Douglas Elliman agent who owns a townhouse at 311 East 51st Street, next to the site, said she contacted authorities after smelling gas fumes last Wednesday.

“As I approached I saw two fire engines on the scene,” Berner said. “I later saw a Con Edison truck on Second Avenue along the construction site.”

Last summer, Berner reportedly expressed concerns that HFZ’s plans to use jackhammers to remove balconies from the existing structure would create plumes of debris.

Berner is involved in litigation with the previous developer, East 51st Street Development Co., alleging her property was damaged by construction. However, lawyers for the developer claimed that Berner’s building had previous structural defects.

DOB officials were not immediately available for comment.

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