The saga of the long-awaited housing component in SHoP Architects' Atlantic Yards masterplan in Brooklyn took a dramatic turn this week, as contractor Skanska USA decided to halt all construction on the B2 BKLYN project, the first of 14 planned apartment buildings at the site. The decision is the result of a long-running dispute between Skanska and the developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) over the slow pace of construction, with only 10 of the building's 32 stories constructed so far - despite the project's initial deadline having passed three months ago.
The project was lauded before construction began in 2012 for its plan to use a system of fast and cheap modular construction. However Skanska claims that the design of this system, which was developed by SHoP Architects in collaboration with Arup, was flawed. With both the contractor and developer claiming that the other is to blame for cost overruns into the tens of millions of dollars, Richard Kennedy of Skanska told the New York Times that they "came to the decision to stop work on the project until our significant commercial issues are resolved."
More on the dispute after the break
Kennedy said that B2 BKLYN was "represented to be a complete and buildable modular design," but confirmed that "it just doesn't work the way it was sold to work. We've had real challenges with it that've delayed the project and led to cost increases."
But MaryAnne Gilmartin, Chief Executive of FCR, insisted that the design was viable, saying "This is not a referendum on modular, it's a monetary dispute. We are confident we'll get the building built... They owe us the building, based on a fixed price. They're responsible for overruns." Throughout the dispute, FCR has insisted that Skanska's difficulty with the modular design comes down to a failure to correctly train their workers.
The day after Skanska announced the closure of the site, FCR made moves to restart operation. In a letter obtained by Architect Magazine, Gilmartin states that FCR "recognizes and fully expects the current financial dispute... to be resolved in the courts," but goes on to say "our immediate concern is to return the Brooklyn Navy Yards Factory to a state of operation." The letter goes on to cite the two companies' responsibility to both the Brooklyn community and to the 157 workers on the site.
In the letter, Gilmartin offers for FCR to take over operation of the on-site factory, constructed and used by Skanska, which they had previously been denied access to, in order to take more responsibility for the construction of the building modules.