Back on the blocks: Forest City has reopened the modular Navy Yard factory

Back to work: Dominic Hackshaw, a carpentry foreman, is back at work in the Navy Yard factory after a three-month work stoppage.
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The Atlantic Yards mod squad is back in action.

Fifty-five of the 157 workers who helped construct the modular tower abutting Barclays Center are back in action now that Forest City Ratner has re-opened its plant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The factory where the building blocks are made for the city’s first modular residential tower in the mega-development formerly known as Atlantic Yards was shuttered after a contract dispute between Forest City and the Swedish construction giant Skanska. But now, Forest City holds the reins, and the workers say they’re glad to be back.

“I was heartbroken when work stopped,” said Dominic Hackshaw, a carpentry foreman who started picking up side jobs when the factory work halted. “I’m 100 percent in on this thing. If you tell people I helped put up the first modular building in the area, that means something.”

An executive with the Forest City said hiring back the same workers — the company claims to be reaching out to the remaining scores — was an important way to ensure things get moving quickly.

“When the factory closed, work was going really well,” said Bob Sanna. “The workers had all developed the skill sets they needed.”

And not having to train a new workforce would also speed things up, according to the factory’s chief.

“It’s a lot better when people know what they’re supposed to be doing,” said Roger Krulak. “All these guys had been here long enough to know, and that gives us a huge leg up.”

The tower, named B2, is located at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street. Forest City says the building will top out at 32 stories and contain 363 apartments, half of which will rent for below the market rate. Construction of the building using modular technology was seen as some what of a gamble when it broke ground in 2012. But the company insisted the technique would be fast and effective.

Last year, Skanska called those assertions into question when it sued Forest City in September for $50 million in cost overruns it attributes to design flaws. The company even claims in court documents that the completed building could leak at the joints where the modules come together.

Sanna said there is no problem with the Lego-like blueprints.

“We really feel that the technology works really well,” he said. “From a process point of view, we’re doing it the same way we were before. None of the design or production methods has changed.”

And he believes modular construction is at the vanguard of urban construction.

“The entire construction industry is noticing that it’s time for a change in the construction process,” Sanna said. “Prefab is going to be a big part of that.”

The sprawling Navy Yard facility resembles a factory where trailers are being made, with a que of B2 building blocks being worked on by different crews in various stages. It looks less like an assembly line than a bunch of individual construction sites. Each floor of the completed structure will be made of around 36 modules which are all made at the same time. Altogether, about 931 blocks will be needed.

The tower stands at 10 stories so far, and Forest City expects work to resume on the site in the coming weeks. But the next modules will not be hoisted into position until sometime in the late spring. Workers are toiling away at floors 11 and 12 on the factory floor right now.

Even with all the hang-ups, Hackshaw said he never considered walking away from the modular venture.

“It’s bad karma to drop a job and go in another direction,” he said. “You just don’t do it.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jay from Nyc says:
Good, now get the job done already
Jan. 19, 2015, 11:26 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Don't be surprised if this gets delayed again in the near future, which is very likely happen.
Jan. 19, 2015, 4:02 pm
da editah says:
Mod Squad! Good one!
Jan. 20, 2015, 11:16 am
Barbara from Park Slope says:
It would be nice to see a little more skepticism in the reporting, unless this came straight from a press release. Everyone at Forest City is telling us that everything is wonderful and always has been, and we all know what a pile of lies we've been fed by them over the years!
Jan. 20, 2015, 11:46 am
Atlantic Yards neighbor from Atlantic Ave says:
Crack staff at Empire State Development cxld community meeting which was to be held this week. One day they are deciding who's on the board and the next day they don't know who is on the board You can't make this stuff up. Can we just closed down ESDC?
Jan. 30, 2015, 12:31 am
Greg Childers from Hurst says:
You might double check Farnsworth and Krulack's claim that theirs is the first modular Highrise in USA. Cerna & Garza Architects designed one for H.B. Zachry in San Antonio in 1967. Ref. Hilton Palacio del Rio. All 500 rooms were prefabbed, shipped to site, and lifted with plumbing, furniture, artwork and even ash trays already in-place.
April 27, 2015, 2:14 pm
Greg from Childers says:
22 story 500 room modular hotel. 202 days from start of design to opening in 1968:
April 27, 2015, 2:38 pm
Steve says:
"for the city’s first modular residential tower...."
Nobody is saying its the first modular Highrise in the USA...
June 18, 2015, 12:56 pm

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