It looks like an ordinary abandoned construction site, but the hole at 1610 Avenue S in the Homecrest section of Brooklyn offers a history of the twisted limbs of government and building in New York. And like a tissue specimen frozen a century ago and examined with modern laboratory tools, the hole on Avenue S becomes more revealing as time goes on.
“This one little site,” says Budd Heyman, a doctor who lives in the neighborhood, “is a microcosm that embodies everything that has gone wrong with the Department of Buildings.”
A Flawed Foundation, in a Building and an Agency
A six-story condominium was planned for 1610 Avenue S, but the project has been frozen since last October, when a reporter discovered something that either had not been noticed or not mentioned by city inspectors who had visited the site 18 times: the hole was missing three 90-foot-long slabs of concrete that were supposed to be part of the foundation for the building.
When Dr. Heyman and others in the neighborhood complained that the foundation work had not been finished on time, Mr. Kahan’s assertions that he had done so were backed up by an inspector, by Buildings Department lawyers and by the borough commissioner.
Then an outside building professional looked at the drawings at the request of a reporter. It turns out that the foundation was supposed to have included three big concrete flooring slabs, but these were nowhere to be found.
With that news, the Buildings Department performed the bureaucratic equivalent of a reverse somersault: The project was stopped because the foundation that city officials had repeatedly insisted for 20 months was complete actually was not. The department announced an internal investigation into the mistake.
Asked on Friday about that investigation, Tony Sclafani, a department spokesman, said that an inspector saw that some parts of the foundation had been completed but did not get a good enough look to realize that big sections were missing.
The neighborhood opponents of the project have hired their own engineer, and he says that two of the foundation walls are “inadequate.” Those walls were not properly waterproofed, the engineer, Liam O’Hanlon, said. “As constructed, the foundation would not be viable for longer than 10 years,” Mr. O’Hanlon wrote to the board.
Maybe the developer has plans to salvage those walls, but the only way of knowing would be to look at the structural drawings, Mr. O’Hanlon wrote.
So why not look at the drawings?
Like the missing concrete slabs, the relevant ones are nowhere to be found at the Buildings Department, even after a “diligent search,” a city lawyer admitted.
A hole in Brooklyn and a scandal at city hallDOB: "Whoops, we goofed."