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Unions Sue City Over Building Code Violations, Construction Practices

Local unions have sued the City of New York over construction practices and workplace safety at an apartment building at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. The building at issue will be the world's tallest pre-fabricated structure when it is completed.

Finishing the project may be delayed if the Plumbing Foundation and the Mechanical Contractors Association succeed in their efforts to change the construction plans. Much of the work is being performed off site, at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. Sections of the building are being assembled using modular practices that are in violation of the city's building code, according to the construction unions.

In particular, the unions say that the city improperly approved the plans for the project, allowing it to move ahead without licensed plumbers as required by the building.

The contractor, Forest City Ratner, said that plumbing connections are being made on site when the sections of the building are attached. According to the builder, the work on site is being done by licensed master plumbers, and is thus in compliance with the building code.

This is not the only dispute between unions and Forest City. The Mechanical Contractors Association has also filed suit, alleging that fire suppression work is not being performed as agreed in December 2011. The New York Post reported allegations that the Buildings Department Commissioner was pressured to help the developer reduce costs by withdrawing the verbal agreement with the unions.

Both unions say that the city building code helps keep people safe and reduces public safety costs by preventing expensive fires, explosions and other disasters. The lawsuit challenges a ruling by the buildings department that exempt modular pre-fab buildings from some regulations.

Construction began in early 2013. The 32-story, 363-unit high rise was scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2014.

Source: New York Post, "2 groups sue to block construction on world's largest housing tower after they claim developer was allowed to bypass building safety codes: court papers," Jul. 10, 2013.