After rotting trusses, faulty wiring and sagging ceilings were discovered in New York's City Hall, the nearly 200-year-old national landmark is undergoing a major renovation that will displace the City Council and other operations for at least a year.
The city discovered deteriorating conditions during a minor renovation a few years ago, prompting a wider examination of the building, which once hosted Abraham Lincoln's body for public viewing and is one of the nation's oldest continuously-used city halls.
Officials found widespread failings and alarming decay: cracks through the trusses that support the roof, a rotting basement floor, wiring that was known to spark and dangerously sagging ceilings.
"It's gotten to the point where it's really bad," said Philip J. Kelly, the city official overseeing the project. "It has to be done. It's amazing no one's been hurt or there hasn't been a fire."
Recently, just before repairs were to begin in a City Council hearing room, a 10-foot-long, 6-inch-wide piece of plaster molding broke away from the wall and crashed to the floor.
The building was once the home of executive, legislative and judicial operations, including a criminal court and jail, but it is now primarily occupied by the offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council and supporting operations for both.
When workers first eyeballed the renovation project, the cost was estimated at $65 million. But officials said the expense has shot up to $106 million as crews found more problems when they ripped into walls and ceilings.
The building's last major update was in the 1950s, when the exterior marble and brownstone were replaced with white limestone, and an elevator was installed.
That elevator will be replaced in the upcoming project.
The work also involves reinforcing the wood trusses in the roof, part of the original 1812 construction, plus repairing the roof and ceiling of the council chambers and adjoining rooms. A building-wide fire sprinkler system also will be installed.
The building is also getting more efficient lighting, heating and cooling controlled by a computerized building-management system, water fixtures and lighting that are activated by sensors, and solar panels on the roof. Officials acknowledged that the environmental retrofits are not the highest level of upgrades available, but said there are cost limitations on what can be done.