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City Blames Delayed Forsyth Plaza Construction on Contractor's Bankruptcy

By Allegra Hobbs | December 9, 2016 4:45pm | Updated on December 11, 2016 12:36pm
 The plaza will feature granite stairs the go up to a landscaped plaza built with concrete block pavers, according to the DDC.
The plaza will feature granite stairs the go up to a landscaped plaza built with concrete block pavers, according to the DDC.
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Department of Design and Construction

CHINATOWN — The construction of Forsyth Street Plaza — an elevated park described by some as Chinatown's "mini high line" — will wrap up nearly four years behind schedule because the project's contractor filed for bankruptcy, according to city officials.

The triangular public plaza at the base of the Manhattan Bridge — envisioned as a lush and tranquil community gathering space — is now slated for a Spring 2017 completion after missing its most recent Fall 2016 wrap date after years of delays, according to representatives for the Department of Design and Construction, who say the stalled project has been pushed back due to difficulties with contractor Trocom Construction, which public records show filed for bankruptcy in May 2015.

"We're certainly well past the anticipated date that we broadcasted at the start of the project. Where we are right now, we have a contractor that has been going through a bankruptcy issue," said Norberto Acevedo Jr., a deputy director of the DDC, at a recent Community Board 3 Transportation committee meeting.

"We are doing everything that we can to help this contractor get through the process all while getting work done as well."

The bankruptcy filing threw the project for a loop as Trocom was suddenly unable to pay its workers and suppliers, a department spokesman said.

However, the project was never halted, department reps said — Trocom continued to carry out construction on the plaza along with subcontractor Dears Construction.

According to a court order filed Thursday in Brooklyn Bankruptcy Court, insurer Liberty Mutual, which financially backed Trocom when it first entered into a contract with the city, has taken over the contract but will continue using Trocom's service to complete the work stipulated in the contract.

The city will pay the remainder of the money due to Trocom under the contract to Liberty Mutual instead, according to the document.

A Trocom employee involved in the project denied the city's claim that financial difficulties were to blame for the delay, claiming the bankruptcy did nothing to halt progress and that the city's ever-changing plans for the project were actually to blame.

"Nothing has changed," said Trocom employee Joe, who refused to share his last name, noting he doesn't want to "get into a trashing match with the DDC."

"The only thing that is delaying the job is the city's poor planning. They just have a lot of design issues that are slowing down the project."

A DDC spokesman denied the accusation, noting that there had been only one "small" instance in which the scope of work had been altered — a request for lighting from the Department of Transportation — and that the change order had not delayed the project.

Department reps said the majority of the work that is still to be done on the plaza is surface work, including the placement of ramps and plantings. According to the weekly bulletin on the project's progress, workers are now placing concrete for a ramp abutment. 

In fact, if it weren't for the cold weather ahead, the project would be wrapping up far sooner than next spring.

"We are at the tail end of this, and I would say if it wasn't for the winter we would have this project done in a couple of months and we'd be out of there," said Acevedo, noting much of the paving work to be done is weather dependent.

The project was first pitched in 2011, with a tentative start date on construction of early 2012 with anticipated completion falling a year later.

The end date was then pushed to mid-2014 due to design delays, then again to Fall 2015. The end date was more recently slated for Fall 2016, according to a DDC newsletter