The Leaning Tower of Seaport May Finally Break Its Bad Luck

Photo: Fortis Property Group

Some buildings just seem to have bad luck. Take 1 Seaport, a 670-foot-tall condo tower which leans ever so slightly to the north — three inches, to be precise. The developer blames the contractor’s sloppiness, and the contractor claims the developer cheaped out. And nobody wants their luxury high-rise to be leaning. (San Francisco’s Millennium Tower is leaning 14 inches to the west and has sunk nearly two feet; fixing it has proved a challenge.) Buyers, of course, nervous or just exhausted by the back-and forth-and delays, have pulled out. But this isn’t the only issue the building has had. Here’s everything we know so far about the embattled building.

How’d the project get started? 
In 2013, Fortis Property Group bought the site that would become 1 Seaport from the Key Development Group. It wasn’t until 2016 that construction finally got under way on the glassy Hill West Architects–designed building. Sales launched to much fanfare on April 19 that same year, and a day later, contracts were sold on some 20 percent of the just-shy-of-100 units. Sales started at $1.2 million for a one-bedroom and reached up to $20 million. Million Dollar Listing star Fredrik Eklund was among the initial buyers, shelling out $4.6 million for a duplex on the 46th floor. Truly, the building is designed as a luxury retreat, with a hydrotherapy spa, floor-to-ceiling windows everywhere, and, at one point, access to three Hinckley yachts docked across the street on the East River. Essentially, residents would have yachts on call. But that amenity is no longer listed on the building’s website.

Why is the building leaning in the first place?
The problem lies beneath the 60-story building’s concrete foundation, where the dirt probably shifted a bit during construction — pulling all of the concrete, steel, and glass along with it. At least that’s according to the building’s former contractor, Pizzarotti. In a 2019 lawsuit, Pizzarotti accused Fortis of ignoring its recommendation to drive structural supports into the earth beneath the tower. Instead, Pizzarotti claims Fortis opted for the cost-saving alternative of “soil improvement” — basically shoring up the earth at the base of the building. Workers poured a concrete slab over the improved soil, and construction on the tower progressed. But in April 2018, a subcontractor discovered that the building hadn’t settled on its foundation properly and was displaying “a bowing or curve in its verticality,” according to court documents. In other words, it was leaning. Fortis countersued Pizzarotti and claims the problem was caused by the building’s concrete slab being poured improperly.

What’s happening now?
The good news is that we may be closer to a resolution on the project’s legal and financial limbo. After Bank Leumi USA, the lender behind the building, was getting ready to foreclose on the $120 million in loans issued to Fortis after months of construction delays and cost overruns,  the developer and the bank filed dueling lawsuits against each other over alleged contract violations. Now they have agreed to try to hash out a resolution in the coming weeks, which could finally get the Seaport project finished.

What’s the deal with Fortis?
The Dumbo-based developer is behind several residential and office properties peppered across Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Leaning Tower of Seaport may be its first project to tilt, but it’s not unaccustomed to weird construction drama. Consider the redevelopment of the former Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill: That multi-building project includes a 15-story apartment building that, because of balcony railings that vibrate in the wind, started shrieking in April (it also, much to elected officials’ dismay, includes zero below-market-rate housing).

Is the building just cursed? 
It sure seems that way. Construction halted in 2017 after Juan Chonillo, who worked for a concrete subcontractor, fell 29 stories to his death. The 36-year-old was wearing a safety harness, but it wasn’t tethered to anything. Chonillo’s employer, SSC High Rise, was charged with second-degree manslaughter, and pleaded guilty. The following year, a crane operator smashed building materials into the 34th floor, spilling concrete onto the street below. And in 2015, developer Jack Resnick & Sons sued Fortis over the building’s name, One Seaport, claiming it violated the trademark of an office tower of the same name two blocks away. Fortis eventually renamed the building 1 Seaport.

Will the tilt ever be fixed?
Not likely — since doing so would require digging up the foundation or other costly efforts. But amazingly, it isn’t that big of an issue. In 2019, engineering firms Arup and WSP surveyed the building for Fortis, and concluded that its structural integrity is intact and construction could safely continue. The tower’s slight lean did make it tricky to install the glass-curtain wall that covers the façade, a nonstructural element that had to be redesigned by the new general contractor, Ray Builders.

Will this building ever open? 
Not for a while. In July 2020, work stalled when Ray Builders stopped working after months without pay, according to court documents. Ray finally withdrew from the project in April, and the Department of Buildings hit the tower with a stop-work order since it was without a construction manager. The tower has been stalled ever since.

So does anyone want to live in this building?
At one point, buyers had signed contracts for 71 of the building’s 99 units, but due to delays, all but eight have pulled out, according to court documents. No units are currently listed for sale on the building’s website.

The Leaning Tower of Seaport May Finally Break Its Bad Luck