New York officials consider waterfront concrete plants

Traffic jams delay trucks with material that must arrive quickly

October 07, 2001|By Charles V. Bagli | Charles V. Bagli,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - City officials and construction executives are considering building concrete plants on the waterfront in Manhattan for the first time in more than a decade because traffic jams on bridges have stalled trucks' delivery of concrete to building sites and have idled hundreds of workers.

The city is also considering providing police escorts to help clear the way for the 79,000-pound trucks as they rumble between concrete plants in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx and destinations at commercial and residential projects in Manhattan.

Concrete trucks must deliver their loads within 90 minutes of leaving the plants, called batch plants, or risk rejection by safety inspectors.

Deliveries delayed

Recently the trucks have either shown up late or have given up and returned to their plants, according to developers, construction executives and concrete producers.

The closing of some tunnels and the new security and traffic regulations used at the city's bridges since the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 have wreaked havoc not just on rush-hour traffic but also on the delivery of concrete and other construction materials, they said.

"It's impossible to deliver our product to Manhattan on time," said John Quadrozzi, president of Quadrozzi Concrete Corp. in Queens. "All the arteries are jammed, and you can't get through. Concrete dies. We're also having problems getting materials to our plants."

Anthony V. Carbonetti, the mayor's chief of staff, said the Giuliani administration was "very, very close" to identifying a site for a temporary concrete plant on a pier on the west side of Manhattan.

The city will probably provide the site at no cost to the concrete producers, who Carbonetti said would build the plant themselves. Construction could be finished in several weeks.

"Our industry is not looking at this as an opportunity to make a windfall," said Carmine A. Valente, president of the Association of New York City Concrete Producers. "It should be a city-sponsored, not-for-profit plant."

3,000 cubic yards daily

Valente, who is also president of Jenna Concrete in the Bronx, estimated that fewer than one-third of the more than 300 trucks a day that deliver concrete to projects in Manhattan have been able to deliver their loads. On average, 3,000 cubic yards, enough for 11 miles of sidewalk, is delivered each workday in Manhattan.

Prohibitions on single-passenger automobiles at some tunnels and bridges have allowed more concrete trucks to get to Manhattan work sites.

Concrete is the lifeblood of most construction projects. Dozens of masons, carpenters and lathers who spread the concrete at a job site are left waiting when the concrete trucks fail to show up. Contractors, in turn, are unable to continue to erect the steel frame of a building when they cannot pour the concrete slabs for each floor as the building rises.

"If we can't get the concrete, we've got to stop the job," said Bruce Barwick, president of Columbus Centre LLC, the development company building AOL Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, the largest construction project in the city.

For much of one recent week, he said, concrete trucks were unable to reach the site, where four enormous deck cranes loom high above the nascent skyscraper. In an effort to make up for lost time, Barwick put dozens of workers on overtime and arranged for up to 60 trucks to deliver concrete from 6 p.m. to midnight, presumably when traffic on the bridges would be light.

Rocco Tomasetti, president of Empire Transit Mix in Brooklyn, said that the number of daily truckloads he delivered to apartment buildings under construction in Manhattan fell from 125 to as few as 25 recently. His trucks have been using the Midtown Tunnel because the Williamsburg Bridge was closed to commercial traffic.

But the suppliers say it is hard to survive in their competitive business, where profit margins are thin.

The suppliers say they may have to shut down their plants until a solution is found.

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