A 58-story residential skyscraper in Manhattan is reportedly tilting to the side, and there's a battle over who's to blame

Leaning tower nycAlexis Gonzalez T/Shutterstock

  • An unfinished skyscraper in Manhattan is reportedly tilting three inches north.
  • The tower's contractor is now suing the developer.
  • The developer alleges there is no safety issue, and that the contractor is trying to distract from its inability to complete the project.

New York City is home to an eclectic mix of towers: ones that twist, ones that curve, and ones that look like an uneven stack of presents.

As of March, the city can now add a leaning tower to its portfolio - but this time, the design isn't deliberate. On March 22, a contractor for a 58-story skyscraper in Manhattan sued the tower's developer after a subcontractor discovered that the building was tilting three inches north.

Read more: A 58-story luxury condo skyscraper in San Francisco is tilting and sinking - here's everything that's gone wrong in the past decade

The contractor, Pizzarotti, alleges that the developer, Fortis Property Group, allowed for the tower to be built on a shoddy foundation. Fortis Property Group said that Pizzarotti filed the suit to distract from their inability to complete the project. Both parties claim to have terminated their mutual contract.

The tower, known as 1 Seaport or 161 Maiden Lane, stands at the tip of Lower Manhattan along the East River. When it's finished, the shimmering glass structure will become downtown Manhattan's first residential skyscraper.

161 Maiden Lane Hugo Cadavez/Flickr

Though most new towers don't lean or tilt, 1 Seaport isn't the first of kind. The Millennium Tower in San Francisco has tilted 14 inches to the northwest since opening in 2009.

The issues underlying both structures bear some striking similarities.

The Millennium Tower developers contend that nearby construction workers pumped too much water out of the ground, causing the sand to compress and the tower to sink. That same developer has been accused of failing to anchor the structure to bedrock to support its weight.

In the case of 1 Seaport, Pizzarotti alleges that the developer ignored the recommendations of a geo-technical report, which said to drive piles in the ground before laying the foundation.

A Fortis spokesperson said that two top engineering firms, Arup and WSP, assessed the building and found no safety issue.

According to the spokesperson, the leaning is "a misalignment issue" that can be addressed with a "slight redesign of the building's curtain wall, which is already being installed." They also said that Pizzarotti owes Fortis tens of millions of dollars due to defaults and delays.

"Pizzarotti is now in panic mode and has filed a frivolous lawsuit in attempt to avoid paying even more in additional damages," the spokesperson said in a statement. Pizzarotti had no comment for Business Insider.

Before the lawsuit erupted, the tower had already endured a highly public scandal. In late 2017, a worker on the tower fell to his death after being instructing by his foreman to release his harness. The site's previous contractor, SSC High Rise Inc., pleaded guilty to manslaughter in July.

Despite this bout of negative attention, Fortis has hired a new general contractor and plans to complete the skyscraper this year. Only time will tell if the misalignment can be fixed - or if Manhattan will welcome a shiny new building that's tilting to one side.

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