Ecobuilding’s New Mortar

The marching order to “leave nothing but footprints” enlisted an infantry of green builders this season, before our collective attention turned to security. While our man from the Midland Petroleum Club (a k a George W. Bush) dissed environmental causes and dismissed global warming, before his attention, too, was turned, a growing number of land-shapers and place-makers began to cast an ecological eye toward planning and construction. Whether labeled green building, sustainable architecture, organic architecture or what one inclusionist calls “The Whole Building,” this new constituency of ecologically attuned and everyday builders has begun to consider environmental values in building inside and out–from the materials in the making, to the siting of the structure, to the energy it consumes. “Every architect wants to build green,” one would-be organic architect says longingly, listening to speakers at a conference on “Building Energy 200l.” Sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) at Tufts University, the assembly was one of two events pulling in record numbers of builders looking to tread more lightly on the land. The second, “Sustainable Communities by Design,” the Southface Energy Institute’s annual Greenprints meeting in Atlanta, likewise drew green-minded “carpenters”–sick-building doctors, clean-air experts, developers, engineers and construction firms–as well as professional architects, landscape architects and planners with a growing green agenda. “What is starting to change a heretofore esoteric or niche market to make it more viable?” Peter Yost asks rhetorically. “People are starting to make a value connection between health, sustainability and the environment,” says Yost, senior editor of Environmental Building News. The biological impact of building has begun to enter their calculations, in other words. Continue Reading

Construction site from hell rains metal, concrete on unsuspecting New Yorkers below

In recent months, it’s been risky walking, or even driving, by the construction site at 200 E. 59th St. where a 35-story luxury condo is rising into the sky. Just ask Mohammad Razza. The 50-year-old veteran cabbie was waiting at a red light on Third Ave. next to the site the morning of May 11 when out of nowhere came an explosion above his head. “It felt like a missile came down,” he told the Daily News. “For 30 seconds I was totally shocked, traumatized, because I didn’t know what happened.” What happened was a four-foot crowbar had fallen from the 32nd floor of the job site, crashing down upon his cab, landing squarely on the front of his roof and his windshield. The roof caved in and the windshield shattered. The roof struck Razza’s head, the rear view mirror flew off and whacked his right arm. His left knee crashed into the driver’s side door. Glass from the windshield flew into his left eye. “I’m still not working,” he said. “Right now, due to this, I still feel numbness in my head. Sometimes I ... feel dizzy. If you drive, you’re supposed to be perfect. I don’t want to take a chance on the road right now.” What Razza did not know was that this was the third such incident in a two month span at the E. 59th St. site built by Gilbane Residential Construction, one of the biggest contractors in the country. Razza’s attorney, Neil Kalra, said he’s notified the contractor he intends to sue. On March 22, a hoist that transports workers to the top of the site partially detached from the building and swung in the wind, in danger of collapse. The city shut down the site and cited the Gilbane because they couldn’t provide proof that the hoist had been inspected when it went up. The job site reopened March 24, but five days later a concrete pour on an upper floor missed its mark and dropped three yards of Continue Reading

The bizarre ‘utopia’ people in 1957 imagined life would be by 1990

(Originally published by the Daily News on Oct. 13, 1957. This story was written by Ted Lewis.) Now that Russians have batted a moonball into outer space and are leading the satellite series, 1-0, it seems only fair to take a look at the score of another history-making game. In this one - where the goal is fabulous new world for us Joe Doakses -the U.S. has a commanding lead. What will it be like, for instance, in 1990, only a third of a century from now? Compared to 1957, say the scientists, planners and statisticians who are thinking decades ahead; 1990 will be a fantastic wonderland. There will be gadgets taking out of housework what little enjoyable drudgery there is left. And people are just going to have to start liking people, for there will be 120 million more around in the U.S. than there are today. There will be silent super-super airliners that swish you to Baghdad in the time it take to play three rubbers of bridge. Vertically rising air buses will speed commuter to work from suburbia and exurbia. Rockets swinging around the moon may be commonplace; man may have even landed there. The awesome life ahead may even include a synthetic liquid diet. This is now being experimented with at the National Institutes of Health. This gulping of sustenance, if successful, will raise havoc with the knife and fork trade. And if teeth have nothing to chew on, they become obsolete… and so do dentists. Some of the new electronic gadgets now being perfected will be efficient but take some of the fun out of life. For instance, a device which, when it works, will call balls and strikes more accurately than a human umpire. But in this American of 33 years from now, people as usual, will be most important. What will they look like? Well, say the biologists, just as they do now except glasses may be on the way out. A special vitamin probably will keep eyesight keen. However, at the Commerce Department in Washington, there is stern reminder Continue Reading

Pa.’s bridges 3rd most ‘structurally deficient’ in US. Here’s why that’s not all bad news.

First the bad news: Pennsylvania’s bridges continue to be ranked among the worst in the nation.In 2016, one in five bridges statewide was considered “structurally deficient” – 4,506 in total by the count of American Road and Transportation Builders Association.Only two states -- Rhode Island and Iowa -- have a higher percentage of bridges classified as “structurally deficient.” In 2013, Pennsylvania’s bridges topped the list.And while PennDOT calculates its bridge safety data differently than the study, PennDOT data indicates Central Pennsylvania’s bridges are in a condition similar to the rest of the state.Among Adams, Franklin, Fulton, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties, Lebanon County has the lowest percentage of structurally deficient bridges – 9.8 percent. And Fulton County had the highest – 18 percent, according to January data from PennDOT.PennDOT reports that, statewide, nearly 14 percent of bridges are structurally deficient.But there’s good news too.While the term “structurally deficient” does describe the condition of a bridge, it doesn’t mean that the bridge is unsafe to use – yet.“If we don’t think a bridge is safe, we close it. …If there’s a question about a bridge, we close it,” said Greg Penny, a spokesman for PennDOT.That's what happened in September 28, 2015, when PennDOT found a crack in the Norman Wood Bridge, which spans the Susquehanna River and connects York and Lancaster counties. The bridge was reopened in early November 2015.The structurally deficient designation is similar to an auto mechanic warning a customer, explained Jason Wagner, managing director of the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association.Just as mechanics often pass along yellow flags to car owners such as “Your tires would pass inspection today, but they might not after the winter,” bridge Continue Reading

Nearly 56,000 bridges called structurally deficient

Nearly 56,000 bridges nationwide, which vehicles cross 185 million times a day,  are structurally deficient, a bridge construction group announced Wednesday.The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) list of 55,710 deficient bridges includes high-profile spans such as Throgs Neck in New York, Yankee Doodle in Connecticut and Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.The list is based on Transportation Department data. The department scores bridges on a nine-point scale, and while the deficient ones might not be imminently unsafe, they are classified in need of attention.More than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the ARTBA analysis. State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction, according to the group.“America’s highway network is woefully underperforming,” said Alison Premo Black, the group's chief economist who conducted the analysis. “It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization.”The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361.The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%.Finding a new funding stream for road and bridge construction is a priority for state and federal officials because the gas tax that primarily funds the highway trust fund hasn’t kept pace with construction priorities as cars become more efficient.Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said during her confirmation hearing that the highway trust fund is “a huge issue” because it spends $10 billion more each year than it Continue Reading

Study: 58,000 U.S. bridges found to be ‘structurally deficient’

WASHINGTON – Nearly 10% of the country’s bridges – 58,495 out of 609,539 – were considered structurally deficient last year and needed repairs, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association reported Thursday.The total represents 2,574 fewer bridges than the more than 61,000 in 2014, according to ARTBA, which represents the design and construction industry. The association reviewed Transportation Department records for its study. More than 63,000 bridges were structurally deficient in 2013, the group found.Cars, trucks, buses and emergency vehicles cross deficient bridges more than 200 million times a day. If placed end to end, the deficient bridges would stretch 1,340 miles from New York City to Miami.“I think it is something to still be concerned about, just because of the sheer number of bridges classified as structurally deficient,” said Alison Black, ARTBA’s chief economist. “It’s just such a big problem.”The five states with the most deficient bridges were Iowa with 5,025, Pennsylvania with 4,783, Oklahoma with 3,776, Missouri with 3,222 and Nebraska with 2,474.The five states with the biggest share of deficient bridges were Rhode Island at 23.2%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa at 20.7%, South Dakota at 19.7% and Oklahoma at 16.4%.Deficient bridges aren’t necessarily falling down, but are in need of repair. Bridges are rated on a scale of zero to nine, with a top score meaning excellent condition. Scores of four or below are classified structurally deficient.Part of the problem is maintaining aging bridges. Of the 250 most heavily traveled bridges that need repairs, 85% were built before 1970 with the creation of the interstate highway system.The most heavily traveled bridges that need repairs include:-- In California, several Interstate 405 bridges in Los Angeles.-- In Pennsylvania, several Interstate 95 bridges in Philadelphia.-- In Maryland, several Interstate 95 bridges.-- In Continue Reading

Analysis: 61,000 U.S. bridges ‘structurally deficient’

More than 61,000 American bridges are structurally deficient, according to a new analysis by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.While U.S. road infrastructure continues to be in dire straits, the health of the USA's bridges has shown a slight improvement from last year when ARTBA found more than 63,000 of the country's bridges were structurally deficient, according to their review of U.S. Department of Transportation records.The report on the state of American bridges comes with federal highway and transit funding set to expire on May 31, absent congressional action."State and local governments are doing the best they can to address these significant challenges, given limited resources," said Alison Black, ARTBA's chief economist. She added, "Without additional investment from all levels of government, our infrastructure spending will be a zero-sum game."The Highway Trust Fund is set up to be funded by revenue collected from the 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal gas tax and is the source of 52% of highway and bridge capital investments made annually by state governmentsBut the federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and soaring road-building costs have dwarfed receipts — forcing Congress to bail out the Highway Trust Fund with nearly $65 billion in revenue from the general fund since 2008.There's currently a backlog of more than $115 billion in bridge work and $755 billion in highway projects throughout the country, according to Department of Transportation data.Earlier this week, the Obama administration sent Congress a $478 billion bill that calls for providing transportation funding for the next six years.The administration proposal would give a boost to the Highway Trust Fund by imposing 14% tax on an estimated $2 billion that corporations have kept overseas to avoid higher corporate tax rates.Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill is working on competing legislation that would raise roughly $170 billion in Continue Reading

How liberal cities, states are trying to thwart Trump’s border wall

As President Trump's administration prepares to select companies to design and build prototypes of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, Democrat-controlled state and city governments are considering punishing businesses that pursue the contracts.Since Election Day, at least seven states and five cities have debated or passed legislation to target those bidders. Some measures would require governments to divest pension funds invested in the businesses. Others would ban contracts with firms that work on a wall. At least one would attempt to ban the sale of public land for wall construction.All take aim in some way at a project critics deride as not only a colossal waste of tax dollars but also a symbol of intolerance toward immigrants.California, the bluest of states, has led the effort.In addition to two bills under consideration in the state Capitol, two cities — Berkeley and Oakland — have adopted resolutions singling out wall bidders, and Los Angeles and San Francisco are consideringsimilar proposals. So, too, is New York City. Read more:"Any money that’s diverted to build a wall, that is going to do nothing for immigration, but it takes away from the basic necessities that we have in our community," said Oakland Councilman Abel Guillen, who authored a resolution to prohibit the city from doing business with companies that participate in building the wall."We have in the U.S. a $3 trillion need in infrastructure. At least in my city we have crumbling roads, we have schools that need to be built," he added.So far no state legislature has voted on such a proposal, and several bills have already died as lawmakers in some states have finished their work for the year. The states where such bills have been considered include Arizona, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.Critics of the trend say these cities and states could set a dangerous precedent by creating a political litmus test for government contracts — choosing, in some Continue Reading

Associate head coach George Blaney and UConn score big win over Texas for Jim Calhoun

STORRS, Conn. - Make no mistake about it. The University of Connecticut is still very much Jim Calhoun's program.It's obvious anytime you look up on the walls of Gampel Pavilion, the Huskies' on-campus arena, and see the banners celebrating Calhoun's induction to both the Naismith Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Hall of Fame and his 800th career victory. It also was obvious Saturday in the stands, where Connecticut students proudly wore T-shirts with a picture of their school's 67-year-old coach on the front.George Blaney - the Huskies' associate head coach - has become comfortable with being the man in the shadows.But he has had a chance to perform an unexpected encore this week after stepping in for the fiery Calhoun, who is taking a medical leave of absence to treat stress-related high blood pressure. He got a long overdue and well-deserved return to the spotlight Saturday when Connecticut (13-6) raced by top-ranked Texas, 88-74, in a nationally televised game. Afterward, for the first time in recent memory, excited undergraduates - who began lining up for this game at 11 o'clock Friday morning - stormed the court to celebrate the Huskies' first signature victory of the season. "This was the loudest I've heard Gampel since I've been here," Blaney said. "The crowd blew the roof off."Blaney has been a calming influence the last two games as this Big East team rediscovered its identity and offensive energy. The Huskies, who shot 65% in the second half of a 75-59 victory over St. John's in Hartford and 56% Saturday against Texas, cut the heart out of the Longhorns, who had been so effective defensively up to this week but couldn't stop any UConn drives to the basket.Blaney lost his mind only once against the Longhorns. He was upset in the locker room at halftime after Texas (17-2) scored 22 points off 16 Connecticut turnovers to take a 42-34 lead and stressed being more careful with the basketball. Then, just six seconds into the second half, sophomore point Continue Reading

September existing home sales up 5.5%

WASHINGTON — Sales of existing homes rose by the largest amount in more than five years in September, a real estate trade group said Friday. The data is a possible glimmer of hope that the housing slump could be starting to bottom out. The National Association of Realtors said Friday that sales of existing homes rose by 5.5 percent in September compared to August, the best showing since a 5.6 percent increase in July 2003, during the five-year housing boom. RELATED: QUEENS HOME PRICES DOWN - BUT CONDOS RISEEven with the gain in sales, prices kept falling. The median sales price has dropped to $191,600, down by 9 percent from a year ago. Inventories of unsold existing homes dropped by 1.6 percent in September to 4.27 million units which would be a 9.9 months supply at the September sales pace, still a historically high level. RELATED: NYC'S 'MOST EXPENSIVE APARTMENT EVER' GOES ON SALELawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors, said a sales turnaround first seen in California was beginning to broaden to other regions of the country including Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Rhode Island. He said housing may be starting to find a bottom but the turnaround could be aborted by the near-certainty that the country has fallen into a recession. For that reason, he said it was important for Congress to pass a second stimulus package including measures that would bolster the housing market. In a further effort to bolster the housing market and deal with record high levels of mortgage defaults, Shelia Bair, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., is pushing Treasury to include in the $700 billion rescue package for the financial system a new program to prevent more mortgage foreclosures. Under Bair's proposal, the government would provide guarantees for mortgages that have been reworked by banks to lower the payment schedules to more affordable levels. The rise in September sales pushed activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million Continue Reading