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11.19.2008
We Don't Testwell
Concrete contractor indicted for ignoring 102 projects
One of Testwell's many strikes.
Roo/Flickr

At one point in time, the name Testwell Laboratories was probably an accurate moniker, but now it just seems like a bad joke. On October 30, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau indicted the company and seven of its operators on a litany of racketeering charges for not testing at all. According to the indictment, the firm, which is one of the city’s busiest concrete testing companies, did not perform work it had filed—and billed—for on 102 projects, including some of the city’s most significant and recognizable, both under construction and long-complete.

Both Morgenthau’s office and the Department of Buildings said they have investigated some of the buildings and intend to do so for all, but the buildings do not appear to be in danger of falling down, though the concrete used could have a shorter lifetime than it otherwise would. “These charges are serious,” Morgenthau told the Associated Press. “But these actions endangered lives of people, and that makes them doubly serious.” (Calls to the company and its attorney were not returned.)

The indictment includes a full list of the projects affected by Testwell, which, from a design perspective, is dizzying. Most notable is the Freedom Tower, as well as 7 World Trade. There are some projects—the Hearst and Beekman towers by Lord Norman Foster and Frank Gehry, respectively, as well as a number of other celebrated icons: FXFowle’s One Bryant Park and 11 Times Square, Polshek’s Brooklyn Museum expansion, the new Goldman Sachs headquarters in Battery Park City by KPF, Beyer Blinder Belle’s new Greek and Roman galleries at the Met, and Gensler’s new Terminal 5 for JetBlue.

Roughly half the projects are straightforward condo towers, like 10 Barclay, 150 Lafeyette, 801 Amsterdam, and the Latitude Riverdale; such work constituted the majority of construction in the city during the recent boom. A number of government projects, big and small, local and federal, are listed, including Brooklyn Borough Hall, I.S. 303, and Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse, as well as a number of collegiate buildings. The list also includes a range of infrastructure projects the company worked on, such as the Second Avenue Subway, New Rochelle Metro North station, and, scariest of all, the deck replacement of the Triborough Bridge. There are a few others, too: the USS Intrepid’s refurbished Pier 86, the Pier 90 cruise terminal, Yankee Stadium, the massive Xanadu commercial complex at the Meadowlands.

Indicative of the sensitive nature of the indictment, a number of architects contacted about their work with Testwell declined to comment on the record, though one did mention that his firm found the contractor’s work to be “shady,” leading the firm to look elsewhere for its concrete testing.

Matt Chaban