Residents Sue Developer of 432 Park Avenue

John Hill
28. September 2021
432 Park Avenue in 2016. (Photo: Epistola8/Wikimedia Commons)

The New York Times is reporting that the condo board of 432 Park Avenue, the supertall tower in Midtown Manhattan designed by Rafael Viñoly, is suing CIM Group and Macklowe Properties for $125 million in damages over "some 1,500 construction and design defects."

The lawsuit filed last week, as reported by the New York Times, comes 7-1/2 months after the newspaper reported how the complaints of residents living in the 1,400-foot tower revealed "strife inside one of the city’s most secretive and exclusive towers." Most importantly, the Times asserted that all of the claims "may be connected to the building’s main selling point: its immense height." The defects in February included "millions of dollars of water damage from plumbing and mechanical issues; frequent elevator malfunctions; and walls that creak like the galley of a ship."

The claims are basically the same in the lawsuit filed on Thursday, September 23: being trapped on elevators stalled because of the building sway that occurs in tall towers; floods and leaks attributed to poor plumbing installation; noise complaints related to the quality of construction; and power outages that shut down air conditioning, among others. The $125 million amount "could rise," according to a lawyer representing the condo board, who described the suit as "a work in progress in ascertaining what’s wrong."

432 Park Avenue is one of four residential supertalls (defined as skyscrapers over 300m/~1,000') along the so-called "Billionaries' Row" on 57th Street between Park and Eighth Avenues a couple of blocks south of Central Park. Although no lawsuits appear to have been filed over the design and construction of One57 by Christian de Portzamparc, the first supertall completed on the Row and relatively short at just 1,005', the new lawsuit at 432 Park Avenue portends potential issues at 111 West 57th Street (SHoP Architects, 1,440') and Central Park Tower (AS+GG, 1,550'), which are both nearing completion and are, like 432, notably tall and slender. 

Each of these towers uses mass dampers to counteract sway from the wind, alongside other technology/engineering features that enable people to live at heights only previously enjoyed by workers in office buildings, which have considerably larger footprints and mass to address lateral forces and other concerns. The Billionaires' Row towers are, in other words, at the frontier of residential architecture, in that their residents are like test subjects for living and sleeping — or trying to sleep — in contexts not previously done before. The lawsuit at 432 Park Avenue signals that people spending tens of millions of dollars on apartments (those living in them, at least, not just parking their money there) expect comfort, not just views.

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