Unpaid construction bills are piling up; contractors sue

Tishman, which built the original World Trade Center in 1973, owes electrical company Alternate Power Generation $136,000 for a job at Waterline Square, a luxury waterfront community it built at 400 W. 61 St.

Alternate is going after the developer, GID Development, as well, according to a complaint filed Monday in Supreme Court in Manhattan. 

The project, which cost about $816,000, ran from September 2016 to December 2019, court documents show. After eight months of nonpayment for the unpaid balance, the electrical company filed a lien against the property in July. Alternate is suing Tishman for the remaining balance, plus 1% interest for each unpaid month after the work was completed.

Cash flow is a contractor’s lifeblood, Coletti said. With the lack of new work in the city, he said, not getting paid is going to keep the construction industry from returning to any sense of normalcy.

Two liens were filed against 61 Broadway, a 753,000-square-foot Financial District office building owned by RXR Realty, totaling $124,000, according to another Monday lawsuit. Vanguard Construction, which is suing the developer for money it says it’s owed, completed two projects at the building in 2018. Vanguard in July filed the liens, which have gone unaddressed.

Vanguard’s attorney, John Simoni, blamed the pandemic for the backlog of nonpayments and is also seeing a surge in liens.

“In pandemic times, hoarding cash is more of a priority,” Simoni said. “It is easier to rationalize spending [on lawyers] to stall in the very slow moving court system so people can hold onto cash, even relatively small amounts of cash.”

A spokesman for RXR, however, said the nonpayment has nothing to do with conserving cash but is about a dispute with Vanguard over the project. “Vanguard Construction failed to perform the work that was requested in a professional manner,” the spokesman said, adding that the developer is caught up on payments with all of its other vendors

Omnibuild Construction filed a $102 million lien against HFZ Capital Group early last month for work it did on the High Line between May 2017 and June of this year, Crain’s reported—which dissolved the working relationship Omnibuild had with HFZ. 

“Filing a mechanic’s lien or litigating to get paid is the absolute last thing any contractor wants to do,” Coletti said. “It’s going to impact the relationship with the owner you’re working for. When you’re at that point, it’s a real danger signal for contractors.”

Tishman Construction, Alternate and their attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.

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