Both Sides in Atlantic Yards Dispute Believe in Modular

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Et tu, B2? Forest City says it is determined to get the residential tower built.

Photo by: FCRC/ESDC

Et tu, B2? Forest City says it is determined to get the residential tower built.

Earlier this week we mentioned the legal dispute between Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and the construction firm Skanska over B2, the residential tower next to the Barclays Center that was supposed to become the tallest building in the world built with modular construction.

While skeptics questioned whether modular building can work on that scale, others see in the approach potential that goes beyond one corner in Brooklyn. With land dwindling, any approach to new housing development in New York City has to contemplate high-density, high-rise design. But building tall buildings is complex and expensive. Modular offers a way to do it cheaper–and cheaper buildings are easier to subsidize in a way that actually makes rents affordable.

In a letter obtained by Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report, Skanska said the Forest City design for B2 was faulty. That raised the question: If what Skanska asserted was, in fact, true, were those concerns unique to this particular building, or would they apply broadly to high-rise modular structures? If the answer were “yes,” that could dampen enthusiasm for the approach as an avenue to affordability.

Skanska did terminate their partnership with Forest City yesterday. But notably, both expressed support for modular construction. Check out the statements they released (with our bolding):

From Skanska USA Building Co-Chief Operating Officer Richard Kennedy: “Today is an incredibly disappointing day. Our company has a long history of working with our clients through all kinds of challenges so, at the end of the day, we deliver the best product possible to our clients and the communities in which we live and work. In New York alone, we have worked on some of the city’s most iconic structures and with each of those projects, we have finished the job. While the B2 project certainly has its issues, we were hopeful that our client and partner would address them so we could move forward with building much-needed affordable housing in Brooklyn. But we could not continue to incur millions of dollars in extra costs with little hope that Forest City would take responsibility for fixing the significant commercial and design issues on the project. We pride ourselves on being an innovative company and we will continue to build using prefab and modular techniques to move the construction industry forward. This issue will not deter us from continuing on that journey of innovation.

From MaryAnne Gilmartin, President and CEO, Forest City Ratner Companies: “Today Skanska terminated their contracts as construction and factory manager for B2, making clear again that they have no intention of moving this project forward. We believe in modular and have worked tirelessly to get B2 back on track since Skanska blind-sided us by ceasing construction and putting 157 workers on the street last month. Skanska has responded with inaction and inertia, trying to leverage us financially by stonewalling B2's progress. These are deplorable and disappointing tactics that show remarkable indifference to the wellbeing of these workers and the project. We will continue to rigorously pursue our options through the courts to get B2 built.”

The legal dispute between the companies continues.