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New Supertals Test the Limits, As City Consults an Aging Playbook

New Supertals Test the Limits, As City Consults an Aging Playbook
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New Supertals Test the Limits, As City Consults an Aging Playbook

New Supertals Test the Limits, As City Consults an Aging Playbook

Andrew Rudansky, a spokesman for the building department, said the city’s construction and fire resistance standards are more stringent than national standards. “New York City has some of the strongest, safest building code requirements in the world, and they are updated regularly to keep pace with changes in the industry,” he said, citing several changes announced in April.

Still, a lack of transparency in the city’s building system may obscure early signs of larger issues, especially for this class of once improbable supertalls that have recently taken root in the city. The department’s digital filing system, which is decades old, can feel labyrinthine even for seasoned professionals, making it difficult to understand why some tasks remain unfinished. In recent years the city has introduced a new system, DOB Now, but many details relating to certificates of occupancy issues are not readily available to the public.

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An earlier New York Times investigation of 432 Park Avenue, a nearly 1,400-foot condo tower with more than 30 unfinished inspection works required by the Department of Buildings, led to claims by plumbing defects, poor elevators, and an engineering multi-million dollar Flood detected. Firm “real-life safety issues,” which generally refer to problems with sprinklers, exhaust, or other fire-related issues that can be life-threatening under certain circumstances.

New York has become a magnet for these supertall towers because of a mix of speculative investment and land-use systems that have encouraged increasingly narrow buildings to reach new heights.

For example, the Steinway Tower, a new 1,428-foot luxury condo on Billionaires’ Row, is 24 times taller than it is wide, making it one of the thinnest buildings in the world—or nearly as tall as the Empire State Building. Eight times thinner.

“There are technical differences in these supertalls that go beyond just a matter of extra legs,” said Roberta Brands Gratz, an author and a board member of the Center for the Living City, an urban development watchdog. “The system was already too permissive, but today’s challenges are even more serious, based on engineering and construction.”

For decades, as a way of accelerating growth, the city has allowed developers to close units and start a move-in with the TCO, a temporary, usually 90-day pass that states that At least part of the building is safe for living, but that outstanding requirements remain.

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