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View Full Version : Developer of $60M New Cassel, L.I. renewal project is investigated for wrongdoings.



Punzie
January 16th, 2007, 10:40 AM
Town probing renewal project

Allegations saying a developer with a history of violations didn't properly stabilize redevelopment site in New Cassel.


http://www.newsday.com/media/photo/2007-01/27392009.jpg
Construction on Prospect Ave. between Sheridan and Siegel Streets in New Cassel is under scrutiny after allegations that the company in charge did not stabilize the site properly.
(Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)




BY EDEN LAIKIN AND COLLIN NASH
Newsday Staff Writers
January 15, 2007

The Town of North Hempstead is investigating a developer with a history of violations who is working on part of a massive $60-million redevelopment in New Cassel, a community blighted for decades and pinning its hopes for renewal on the project.

The town is looking into what happened after the developer, Stoneridge Homes, removed more than twice as much soil as permitted, prompting North Hempstead to issue a stop-work order in July. The order was lifted about a month later, after the town said Stoneridge provided proof it had restored the site.

It is allegations of what happened during that month that concern town officials.

Three contractors familiar with the site say the developer took shortcuts when filling in and stabilizing the site, creating an unstable foundation for a building they say is now in danger of sinking.

The 37,440-square foot building -- designed to contain 24 housing units over a bank, supermarket and Internet cafe -- is a key part of the project.

Building could sink

The contractors, one of whom prepared the plan to restore the site, said the building could sink as much as five inches, which would cause major cracks in the foundation.

As part of their probe to determine whether the building is in jeopardy, town officials are scheduled to meet Tuesday with the contractor who prepared the plan.

"We are now reaching out to all the parties involved to make sure everything was done to code," North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman said. "I am satisfied the building department has a handle on what happened."

Stoneridge's owners did not respond to several requests for comment.

Stoneridge, of Rosedale, was selected in May 2004 by the town's Community Development Agency to develop three of seven sites in the New Cassel Revitalization project that has been decades in the making. Stoneridge's portion of the $60 million project -- which is being funded with federal, state and county money -- is $15.4 million. The one site under investigation is on Prospect Avenue, between Sheridan and Siegel streets.

Stoneridge is facing other problems elsewhere in the area.

In nearby Town of Hempstead, town officials said they have filed paperwork seeking legal help to force Stoneridge into compliance on two other projects in that town that have not been completed on schedule. The firm has been paid $500,000 for the buildings -- a senior citizen complex in Elmont and an office building in Roosevelt.

"Given our experiences with the developer, I don't think this town would use them [Stoneridge] again," town spokesman Mike Deery said.

North Hempstead CDA executive director Neville Mullings said he visited Stoneridge sites in Brooklyn and Queens before the agency awarded Stoneridge the New Cassel contract.

"We did extensive checking," Mullings said, "and found nothing negative."

A pattern of problems

In fact, Stoneridge has faced legal difficulties over the past 20 years. The firm or companies owned by Stoneridge's principals have been ordered to pay at least $686,000 in judgments and tax liens since 1986, mostly in Queens and Brooklyn.

Since 2002, a company co-owned by Stoneridge's principals has been cited 64 times at 19 residential buildings in Brooklyn for construction violations such as building without permits and failing to secure building sites.

The New York City Building Department recently halted a project Stoneridge was working on in Ozone Park in Queens when inspectors found the firm was crushing stones dug from the site, an illegal practice in a residential area. Companies are supposed to cart the stones away to be crushed elsewhere.

Stoneridge's problems in New Cassel began when the firm, which the town ticketed for digging without a permit, also over-excavated the site; contractors typically sell the sand they excavate.

Stoneridge, which is doing the work in New Cassel under the name Sheridan Gardens, hired Steve Governale of East Port Excavation to prepare a plan to restore the site. The plan was accepted by the town. But Governale, who said he was on the site doing other work until mid-December, said Stoneridge did not hire him or anyone to do that work, ignored the plan and did not adequately compact the soil when it filled the hole.

The town let the project proceed, based on a report by a soil-testing company hired by Stoneridge.

But the company tested only whether the top foot of that fill had been compacted. Governale said there were at least 12 more feet of fill below that that should have been compacted and tested, according to his plan.

Two other contractors who did not want to be identified supported Governale's account.

When Newsday requested proof that the site was restored, town officials provided an affidavit from Stoneridge's site superintendent who oversaw the repair work. The affidavit claimed Governale had done the work in the plan, which he denies.

"The remediation was never done," Governale said. "All they did was surface compaction."

Town officials said in a statement dated Jan. 5 that the "affidavit confirms that the remediation was completed according to the approved remediation plan. There is apparently still a dispute as to which company or employees ... did the work in question."

Last week, town officials met with the soil tester, the engineer and the former site superintendent.

Governale said Stoneridge co-owners Ranjan Batheja and Gary Marcus owe him $200,000 for drawing up the restoration plan and other unrelated work.

Governale said town and CDA officials were slow to respond to his repeated calls that began in September.

He said he told them at a meeting in early December that more extensive work is needed to stabilize the foundation.

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-linhem0116,0,7420689.story?page=1&track=rss

NIMBYkiller
January 16th, 2007, 07:16 PM
I really hope this problem gets solved soon, the project is wrapped up, SAFELY, and this group is never hired again

Punzie
January 16th, 2007, 08:10 PM
I appreciate your sentiments. Are you from Long Island? Here's more of the saga:

Developer built political links

BY EDEN LAIKIN AND COLLIN NASH
Newsday Staff Writers
January 16, 2007

The developer of a major New Cassel project being investigated by the Town of North Hempstead has a history of political contributions, and has raised money for a Nassau County legislator who lives in the area and helped obtain funds for the project.

Since 2004, Stoneridge Homes and two of its companies have contributed $3,500 to Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury), whose campaign treasurer heads the agency that selected developers for the New Cassel Urban Renewal Plan, according to campaign filings.

Corbin treasurer Neville Mullings is executive director of the North Hempstead Community Development Agency, whose five-member board voted unanimously to choose Stoneridge and four other developers for the $60-million project.

Mullings, who does not vote, downplayed any appearance of a conflict. "[Stoneridge] was selected through the bidding process like anyone else," he said. "This was a very open process. "

Town officials said the firm was selected based on a variety of factors, including their plan to bring much-needed businesses to the community.

Stoneridge principals Ranjan Batheja and Gary Marcus did not respond to calls for comment.

All told, Stoneridge and its companies have contributed $36,000 to county and state officials since 2001.

In October 2004, Batheja invited local subcontractors to a $500-a-plate fundraiser for Corbin - less than three weeks after the county awarded Stoneridge $420,000 in federal housing funds for the New Cassel project.

A total of $6,750, from the 14 contractors at the fundraiser, went to Corbin's campaign.

"He may have bought some tickets, but he's not a major fundraiser," Corbin said of Batheja. "Any fundraiser [he] hosted, he did it on his own. "

A year earlier, Corbin cleared the way for $87,500 in federal block grants for the New Cassel project; the Westbury legislator wielded a shovel at the groundbreaking.

"Corbin was helpful in getting county support," town supervisor Jon Kaiman said.

The county legislature doesn't vote on development contracts, but instead approves funding for an entire project.

"I don't know that there is a conflict because I can't vote on anything the CDA is involved in," Corbin said.

Four months after Stoneridge was chosen to develop three of the seven sites, it gave $1,250 to North Hempstead town councilman Thomas Dwyer. Kaiman said the council made presentations to the community on behalf of the developers. A year later, the firm gave $1,500 to Dwyer's exploratory campaign for state Senate.

In August, the Nassau district attorney subpoenaed Dwyer's campaign filings as part of its investigation into the town building department. Newsday reported Dwyer failed to report $136,383 from September 2004 to January 2006.

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-lipoli105054224jan16,0,7257310.story?track=rss


Legislator Roger Corbin's biography:
http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Legis/LD/02/index.html

NIMBYkiller
January 17th, 2007, 03:40 PM
This story just keeps getting more interesting. I'm from Port Washington btw