Photo: Busà Photography/Getty Images
Over the past year, anyone visiting the High Line would have to pass under a stretch of scaffolding that surrounded the Standard Hotel. Nothing out of the ordinary for a New York building. Probably a renovation, one might think for the briefest moment before proceeding with their day. In fact, it’s been up so long that you would be forgiven for completely forgetting that a surfboard-size hunk of cement-and-fiberglass paneling had fallen from the 12th story of the hotel and crashed onto the roof of a neighboring building last January. One freaked-out 311 call later, and city building inspectors arrived on the scene; thankfully, no one was hurt, and no substantial damage had been done. The Standard’s owner, Gaw Capital, was hit with a violation and ordered to conduct a full review of the building’s exterior to answer the question: Why was a 12-year-old building falling apart like that?
The day after the incident, Gaw Capital hired Forst Consulting and Architecture to assess the facade, which is covered with such panels. The company should have delivered a full engineering report last spring, but it wasn’t handed to the city until October, Curbed has learned. You can imagine why Gaw might not have rushed to share it: Inspectors found that it wasn’t just one piece that was improperly installed — many of the gray panels that frame the hotel’s distinctive windows were improperly installed and at risk of falling off.
The problem lies in the rivets that attach the skin to the building, which was designed by Ennead Architects and opened to much fanfare in 2009. Some rivets were driven into too-large holes; others weren’t driven deep enough; some panels also didn’t have enough of them. The piece that flew off last winter was likely installed without an expansion gap, so the panel couldn’t move as it should with the heat and cold. It’s unclear who is at fault for improperly installing the panels — facade reports don’t name the culprit — but Pavarini McGovern LLC was the general contractor that oversaw the building’s construction (the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment). Forst has begun reinstalling panels throughout the building and say the north side is now secure. But engineers told the city they could not give a firm timeline for when the work will be complete because they simply do not know how many panels were improperly installed. As a report from Forst put it, “This work will take months.”
The slow-moving (and likely expensive) repair project is another setback for the Standard, which, like many hotels during the pandemic, is on the brink. Last May, Gaw stopped paying its mortgage on the hotel, and it owes at least $187 million to bondholders. It seems that even after the hotel’s face-lift is complete, it will probably take a lot more for it to fully bounce back.