An Anecdote about Something Missing

City's Hall's release of the Sinatra Drive Collapse Timeline yesterday brought something I've thought about for awhile off the back burner.

It's anecdotal.

Sometime last January, I was contacted by Dan Bryan, the mayor's aide, to ask if I might help them with a proposal to get funding for repairing the collapsed walkways in Sinatra Park and Castle Point.

They needed a simple diagrammatic drawing of Sinatra Park in the written proposal to 'tell the story' of the collapse-- showing the affected area and extent of damage to it. The problem: there were no digital files, only an old set structural drawings. The area had to be drawn to-scale first before any rendering could be done. So, I was asked to help.

The process would be drawing the Sinatra Park plan in AutoCAD, then rendering it in PhotoShop. It sounded like my kind of fun. So I picked up the structural set from City Hall and took it home to work.

What to do next?

In order to document the failure I had to understand what was there, meaning both existing structure (original) and new (added in the Sinatra walkway construction).

So I looked for the Steel Schedule. And a (plan) layout drawing of ALL the new steel in the built-out area.

There were NONE.

What's a Steel Schedule?

Basically a list of all the new steel on the project, member shapes, sizes, and detail references back to the drawings, and any notes specific to that member. New steel would be tagged on the plan, located on 'x' and 'y' grid lines.

Now, it is possible that a written specifications book containing schedules may have been issued with the project, but there were no references to that on the plans, and still there would have to be a plan-drawing showing scope and locations to reference back to the schedule.

No plan, No schedule.

So what the hell was there and how did they build it?

And how did they price it? What was bought?

And how was it engineered? Live load, dead load calculations and such...

There should be a set of As-Builts, done after project completion to document all new construction with all changes to the scope made during construction.

Or was there? I didn't have As-Builts in any case.

What about Shop Drawings, the subcontractor's drawings which are final design documentation prior to fabrication and installation and which would have required review and approval by the project's Structural engineer prior to furnishing and installing work?

Maybe long gone. Shop drawings are generated from the design and specifications on the contract documents- in this case the structural drawings and specifications book, if there was one.

Now, I am no structural engineer. I can tell you what was shown on the drawings was a cut-away plan-view of one corner of the walkway which showed several existing wood timber piles with new supplemental steel supports. A part-plan.

Because I had wanted to show the timber piles and new steel locations on the diagram and information was missing, I had to do something more simple.

With City Hall's permission, here are the completed renderings:

click to enlarge

Now, let me repeat that I am not an engineer, and these were just my observations about one set of drawings, but... these were supposed to show the project scope and design, and those fundamentals were glaringly absent.

Maybe they exist elsewhere.

If they don't, be very afraid.

No matter where your politics lie, this affects all of us and the people we know and love.

Now, go back and read this.


  1. GA

    On a visceral level, as someone from a family steeped in the construction biz, I get IT! And IT is scary. VERY SCARY. IT is the fact that under design of such public amenities/structures is criminal, in both the literal and figurative sense of the word. IT is a complete and total disregard for the life and safety of the PUBLIC, you and me, everyone, including babies in strollers, dog walkers, joggers, grandparents in town for a visit. Who in the hell was depraved enough to allow IT to occur? IT could not have happened in isolation or a vacuum. IT could only have occurred with a group of people entrusted with the public safety tossing their morals and principles aside. IT begs the question, what happened to all of the bond funds that the HCIA floated to pay for the construction, because they were not used for a proper design/construction. But something tells me that the amounts raised in the bond offering promised a Cadillac installation. We know where at least 144k went - to the criminal Janiszewski. Funny, but 144k would have gone a long, long way to the delivery of a proper design. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, I am not sure the average voter, laymen in Hoboken understands IT, just how outrageous IT is and just what a despicable abuse of the public trust that IT is; and that the progeny of IT are celebrating their recent "victory".

  2. Excellent post.

    I just spoke to an intelligent friend who read the piece but sorta missed the point as well.

    We're NOT talking about contractors' not conforming to plans and specs and building it on-the-cheap.

    We're talking about (the possibility of) building something WITHOUT a design... that is simply astounding. So what the hell was built?

    How was it engineered to support it's own weight- 'dead loads', or the weight of 'live loads'- people, wind and river stresses, or the imminent failure of existing 100 year-old ship-worm ravaged wood pilings...

    Is it in any wonder that it's collapsing incrementally and unpredictably? Will anyone die or be disabled as a result of this? A child?

    IF this in fact true- mine is an observation-- and it's up to others to verify, it IS a crime of the highest order.

    As you say, building a project this way involves many people in many trades and on many levels of management and engineering... it's a huge conspiracy.

  3. Thanks for good coverage of an appalling and frightening issue, GA.

    When you start connecting the dots with the players involved---it's still more of what's been sick and wrong with Hoboken & Hudson Co. for decades.


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