Lawsuit seeks millions, alleges design flaws at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady

Source: https://dailygazette.com, May 4, 2019
By: John Cropley

Developer sues architect and engineer, alleges problems with water leaks and noise

The developer of Mohawk Harbor is suing its designers, blaming them for water leaks and noise intrusion in some of the buildings and structures.

The lawsuit filed April 26 in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County seeks damages expected to exceed $3 million, plus related costs.

Attorney Joel M. Howard III of the Albany law firm Couch White brought the complaint on behalf of Maxon Alco Holdings LLC against architect J.T. Pollard and his firm, Re4orm Architecture of Schenectady, as well as engineer Dale Meszler and his firm, 260 Structural Engineering of Albany.

Pollard did the architectural work for the project and Meszler the structural engineering work.

Maxon Alco is a subsidiary of the Galesi Group, developer of Mohawk Harbor, and lists the same address as the Galesi Group’s new headquarters: 220 Harborside Drive, which is one of two office buildings at the waterfront development.

The lawsuit makes the following assertions and allegations:

  • In late 2013, Maxon Alco retained Re4orm to provide a range of architectural and design services for a fee equal to 3.85% of the  construction cost of the structures Re4orm designed; this ultimately totaled more than $3.5 million.
  • Re4orm entered an agreement with 260 Structural to perform structural engineering work on the project.
  • Pollard approved shop drawings on submittals by contractors that did the work on exterior doors, windows, balconies and curtain wall systems. These have been plagued by numerous design defects, errors and omissions that have led to water leaks that have caused significant interior damage.
  • These defects also allow significant sound transmission within the buildings between residential units as well as between commercial and residential spaces.
  • Meszler and 260 Structural designed the parking structures and promenade decks without reinforcing steel in the concrete decks and without provision for blocking water intrusion; the design of the parking structure was in violation of state codes and industry standards.
  • The elevated parking decks and promenade deck are not suitable for their intended purpose as they lack sufficient load-bearing capacity and were not designed to block water intrusion; Maxon Alco has had to retain other consultants to design remedial or replacement work.

Howard divides the case into three causes of action — one against Pollard/Re4orm, one against Meszler/260 Structural Engineering, one against both.

The lawsuit seeks judgments expected to be in excess of $1 million each in the three causes of action to cover costs of repairs, remediation and replacement of exterior doors, windows and balconies, exterior openings, the exterior curtain wall system and the parking and promenade decks.

It also seeks to hold the defendants liable for consequential and incidental damages, plus costs, interests, attorneys fees and anything else the court deems proper.

When contacted Thursday, Howard, Meszler and Pollard each declined comment for this story.

On Friday, a spokesman for Maxon Alco clarified that the alleged problem with the decks is not their strength or stability but their expected lifespan: They are able to be used in their intended manner, and currently are, but they won’t last as long as they should if they remain in their current configuration.

In an emailed statement, the spokesman said:

“Maxon Alco Holdings is in litigation with the architect and structural engineer. While it is not our practice to comment on pending litigation, we will state that the issue involves some leakage that has occurred on underground parking decks. Repairs will be made. The decks were designed for a lifetime of several decades, so it is the developer’s intention to recover repair costs through this claim. The owner will continue to use the decks in the normal course of business.

“The decks have been examined by independent professional engineering consultants retained by the owner who have indicated that while a repair and maintenance program is needed, the decks can continue to be used in the normal course of operations. However, the decks will not meet their intended lifetime of several decades without repair.”

Counting all buildings constructed and all the site work where a locomotive factory once stood, Mohawk Harbor took nearly $500 million and more than seven years to complete. It was a transformative project, and one of the largest in city history.

Schenectady Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said Friday that inspectors from the city Office of Code Enforcement and consulting engineers from The Chazen Companies reviewed all of the plans before construction began and conducted daily inspections during the construction phase.

Everything was up to code, he said.

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