Work still halted on Fortis’ One Seaport project. And deadlines are looming

Construction stopped following a worker's death on Sept. 21

Rendering of 161 Maiden Lane (Credit: Hill West Architects)
Rendering of 161 Maiden Lane (Credit: Hill West Architects)

Nearly a month after a worker plummeted 29 stories to his death, the site at 161 Maiden Lane remains shut down. And the clock is ticking on Fortis Property Group’s $273 million condominium tower.

The Department of Buildings halted all construction at 161 Maiden Lane on Sept. 21, after 36-year-old Juan Chonillo fell from the building. He was wearing a harness, officials said, but it wasn’t hooked in.

At the time of the accident, the job site was already under a partial stop-work order for unsafe operation of a crane. The site had also been hit with nine construction-related violations since January. According to the DOB, inspectors found “numerous immediately hazardous conditions” at the project and shut it down until further notice. The investigation of the site is still ongoing.

“The minor violations at the site associated with the stop work order have no relationship whatsoever to the tragedy that occurred on September 21,” a spokesperson for Fortis said in a statement. “Our general contractor is working with the DOB to have the stop-work order lifted as soon as possible.”

But a prolonged work hiatus could spell trouble for the project’s timeline. The condo offering plan, filed with the state’s Attorney General’s office, states that closings are set to start in January 2018. Another clause in the plan stipulates that if the first closing doesn’t occur by June 2018, Fortis has to update the project’s budget. If the budget exceeds 25 percent or more of the original, buyers who went into contract on units can back out. The tower, which has reached 29 stories, is expected to have 80 condo units and rise 57 stories tall. According to the Attorney General’s Office’s website, 66 percent of the units are in contract. Units average about $3.4 million in price.

The length of a stop-work order depends on myriad factors, like the size of the project and the severity of the violation. Last year, the average length of time between when a stop-work order was issued and when it was partially rescinded on construction sites where a death occurred was 25 days, according to an analysis of DOB records.

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Four days after a worker died at One Manhattan West — the same day as the fatality at Fortis’ site — some work was permitted to continue on the project. The office tower, which is being developed by Brookfield Properties, is slated to rise 67 stories. This death followed another at the site in June when a worker fell 10 stories when material he was standing on broke. Eight days after that incident, the DOB partially lifted the stop-work order.

Pizzarotti, a construction company based in Italy, is the construction manager on Fortis’ project. The tower is the company’s first luxury tower of this size in the United States, though the company is also a partner on 45 Broad Street, which broke ground in April. The company partnered with IBC Business Groups in 2015 to form a U.S. affiliate, Pizzarotti-IBC. The partnership fell apart this year, however, over allegations that an IBC principal mismanaged the new company’s resources. Pizzarotti is now suing the principal for violating a separation agreement by working for a competitor.

Representatives for the company didn’t return calls seeking comment on the Maiden Lane project.

Israeli-based Bank Leumi provided a $90 million loan for the project in June 2016, after providing $14 million to the project in 2015. Leumi had also taken over and extended terms on a previous mortgage totaling $15 million in 2015, records filed with the city’s Department of Finance show. Representatives for the bank could not immediately be reached for comment.

The condo tower has faced hurdles from the outset, first in the form of community opposition and then in a legal spat over the project’s name. Jack Resnick & Sons filed a lawsuit against Fortis over its use of the One Seaport moniker, arguing that it ripped off the name of its office tower on Water Street, One Seaport Plaza. The dispute was settled in December 2015 with Fortis agreeing to use 1 Seaport for a certain marketing period and then to abandon the name altogether.