Seaport’s Leaning Tower can finally break its bad luck
Photo: Fortis Real Estate Group
Some buildings just seem to be having bad luck. Take 1 Seaport, a 670 foot tall condo tower that leans very slightly north – three inches, to be precise. The developer blames the negligence of the contractor, and the contractor claims the developer did not pay. And no one wants their luxury skyscraper tilted. (San Francisco’s Millennium Tower leans 14 inches to the west and has sunk almost two feet; fixing it has proven to be a challenge.) Buyers, of course, nervous or just exhausted from the commute and the delays, withdrew. But that’s not the only problem the building had. Here’s everything we know so far about the crenellated building.
How did the project get started?
In 2013, Fortis Property Group bought the site which will become 1 Seaport from the Key Development Group. It wasn’t until 2016 that construction finally began on the glassy building designed by Hill West Architects. Sales kicked off with great fanfare on April 19 of that year, and a day later contracts were sold on some 20 percent of just 100 units. Sales started at $ 1.2 million for a one-bedroom and hit as high as $ 20 million. Million Dollar List Star Fredrik Eklund was among the early buyers, spending $ 4.6 million for a 46th-floor duplex. Truly, the building is designed as a luxury retreat, with a hydrotherapy spa, floor-to-ceiling windows all over, and, at one point, access to three Hinckley yachts moored across the street on the East River. Essentially, residents would have yachts on call. But this equipment is no longer listed on the building’s website.
Why is the building tilting in the first place?
The problem lies under the concrete foundation of the 60-story building, where the dirt likely moved around a bit during construction, dragging all the concrete, steel, and glass with it. At least that’s what the former building contractor, Pizzarotti, says. In a 2019 lawsuit, Pizzarotti accused Fortis of ignoring his recommendation to drive structural supports into the ground beneath the tower. Instead, Pizzarotti claims that Fortis has gone for the economical alternative of “soil improvement” – essentially by reinforcing the earth at the base of the building. Workers poured a concrete slab on the improved ground and construction of the tower progressed. But in April 2018, a subcontractor discovered that the building was not well wedged on its foundations and presented “a curvature or a curve in its verticality”, according to court documents. In other words, he was leaning. Fortis has sued Pizzarotti and claims the problem was caused by the poor pouring of the building’s concrete slab.
What is happening now?
The good news is that we may be closer to a resolution on the project’s legal and financial limbo. After Bank Leumi USA, the lender behind the building, prepared to seize the $ 120 million in loans granted to Fortis after months of construction delays and cost overruns, the developer and the bank filed a dueling lawsuit. against each other for alleged breaches of contract. Now, they’ve agreed to try to come up with a resolution in the coming weeks that could finally complete Project Seaport.
What’s wrong with Fortis?
The Dumbo-based developer is behind several residential and office properties dotted around Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Leaning Tower of the Seaport may be her first project to tilt, but she’s not used to weird building dramas. Consider the redevelopment of the former Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill: This multi-building project features a 15-story apartment building that, due to balcony railings fluttering in the wind, began to howl in April ( it too, much to the elect’s dismay, includes zero housing below the market rate).
Is the building just cursed?
It looks good that way. Construction came to a halt in 2017 after Juan Chonillo, who worked for a concrete subcontractor, fell 29 stories to his death. The 36-year-old was wearing a safety harness, but it was not attached to anything. Chonillo’s employer, SSC High Rise, has been charged with second degree manslaughter and has pleaded guilty. The following year, a crane operator smashed building materials on the 34th floor, spilling concrete on the street below. And in 2015, developer Jack Resnick & Sons sued Fortis for the building’s name, One Seaport, claiming it infringed the trademark of an office tower of the same name two blocks away. Fortis eventually renamed the building 1 Seaport.
Will the incline ever be corrected?
Unlikely, as it would require digging the foundation or other costly effort. But surprisingly, it’s not a big deal. In 2019, engineering firms Arup and WSP inspected the building for Fortis and concluded that its structural integrity was intact and construction could proceed safely. The slight inclination of the tower made it difficult to install the glass curtain wall that covers the facade, a non-structural element that had to be redesigned by new general contractor Ray Builders.
Will this building ever open?
Not for a while. In July 2020, work came to a halt when Ray Builders stopped working after months without pay, according to court documents. Ray finally pulled out of the project in April, and the Department of Buildings hit the tower with a stop-work order because it was without a construction manager. Since then, the tower has been blocked.
So does anyone want to live in this building?
At one point, buyers had signed contracts for 71 of the building’s 99 units, but due to delays all but eight withdrew, according to court documents. No units are currently listed for sale on the building’s website.