The Tribeca neighborhood — located almost at the very lower tip of the island of Manhattan, New York — is named for the Triangle Below Canal Street. The 213-acre (0.9 km2) neighborhood (about 1.5 percent of the entire island) is home to a popular indie film festival as well as the Community Center at Stuyvesant High School and BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Connecting those two schools, and enabling students, staff, and others to cross the seven lanes that make up the very busy West Street, is a pedestrian bridge that was in need of a new paint job.
A construction project in New York City is going to be busy, but put it over top of the main western thoroughfare — also known as Joe DiMaggio Highway — and you’ve got lots of cars, tons of people, and “restriction on the closures,” said Declan Farrington, northeast senior project manager for Champion Painting Specialty Services Corp. (CPSSC), the coatings contractor on the job. “I think the city was only allowing it to close during the day for three hours at a clip, which does not give you a lot of time,” Farrington said. But Champion Coatings was up to the challenge — and had one big trick up its sleeve.
“We sat down with the owners, and we put a proposal together to install a full platform spanning the roadway where, once the platform was installed, we could continue with our operations with a shielding platform above the roadway ‘round the clock,” Farrington explained. “And they went for it.”
The bridge’s owner, Battery Park City Authority, was aiming to get the project completed before school started back up in the spring. CPSSC didn’t get on site until the previous fall, so they needed strategies to keep them on schedule. Building a platform under the bridge was a big one. That enabled the crew to have access to the project 24/7, helping them to complete the job much quicker than the client was asking — two to three months ahead of schedule, in fact!
“It was down to we worked seven days a week with double shifts — we had day shifts going on there and we had night shifts. We were also heating the containment to promote quicker cures on the coating system. This was a ‘round the clock job,” Farrington explained. “Most people wouldn’t imagine taking on a job like that in the middle of winter and trying to guarantee to an owner that you’re going to be done within the contract time, which we did.”
The platform system that the Champion crew used took about two weeks to install and was from Safespan. “They wanted a really, really rigid platform in case of anything falling above live traffic,” Farrington said of the client.
The crew stayed connected when installing the platform by using Guardian fall protection. That included beam clamps, cross-arm clamps, tie-back self-retracting lifeline (SRL) double lanyards, and Diablo double cable SRL-LE (leading edge). “This is something that we’re pretty used to doing,” Farrington said. “We do a ton of access installation for various general contractors and owners, where we’re installing hundreds of thousands of square feet of platform systems, so we have a requirement for all of that.” They also wore American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) Cut Level 4 gloves and Kevlar sleeves when installing the platform.
The Champion crew worked all the way to New Year’s Eve on this project. The crew said working through the holidays helped, though, because there were fewer students due to school being out of session. But working in December in New York also meant dealing with cold weather. Luckily, they had a mild winter that year, and they also had a Class 1A containment around the structure that helped them keep the substrate — and crew members — warm. That containment didn’t have ventilation, so they were able to use two 1 million BTU heating units. They also used a variety of tasks to pick and choose from on those colder days.
“When you get down to 17 degrees [–8.3 °C] and the nighttime is dropping down to 5 [–15.0 °C], getting that steel back up to 40 degrees [4.4 °C] is a chore,” Farrington explained. Those colder days, instead of applying the coatings, the crew would work on other tasks. But the heaters helped them keep everything at a working temperature — for the substrate and the crew. “It’s the same things with the guys: Guys don’t work well when it’s 5 degrees,” he said.
The crew worked off of scaffolding inside the containment, which was installed around outriggers surrounding the bridge’s arch.
This project also required coordinating with the schools when it was in session. The students needed access to exits, which meant that the entire bridge — with stairwells on both sides and an elevator shaft on one — couldn’t all be taken offline at the same time. “Now, that became a bit of a pain in the butt for the students because they had to cross the street and not use the bridge, but they put up with it. There was a lot of signage,” Farrington said.
Because the main goal for this overcoat project was aesthetics, the crew didn’t have to take the entire existing coating system down to bare metal. They started with power washing, using Mi-T-M JP series cold water equipment with 3,500 psi (24.1 MPa), and they added in HoldTight.
Some of the paint did end up going down to bare steel after the washing. In those areas, the crew achieved the SSPC: Society for Protective Coatings Surface Preparation (SP) 11, “Bare Metal Power Tool Cleaning” standard using needle scalers that have vacuum attachments and Black Beauty abrasive pads.
The structure was built in the ’80s, which helped, as that meant there was no lead and, therefore, no need for lead or water capture and containment. The spent water was tested and allowed to go right into the drains. “As soon as they found out that the bridge was non-lead, it made things a lot easier for us,” Farrington said.
Some areas were prepped to an SP 1, “Solvent Cleaning” standard. In other areas where the coating was still intact, they completed an SP 2 and 3, “Hand Tool Cleaning” and “Power Tool Cleaning,” respectively.
Bare metal was spot primed with a high-build epoxy. On the entire structure, the crew spot used a stripe coat and full coat of PPG’s Amercoat 399, followed by a full coat of Amercoat 450H. Everything was applied via brushes and rollers due to the constant flow of cars below. “This was not a place that you wanted to start spraying, you know?” Farrington said.
Solutions and Strategies
One of Champions’ tools on this project, and others, was TruQC. The cloud-based software helps the contractor keep in contact in real time with project stakeholders, including the bridge’s owners. “It’s got incredible features,” Farrington said. “The thing about it is they work with you. When we want to add certain documents that an owner might want to include, we send it over to them, they work it up, and they get it into a job in no time for us.”
Ross Boyd, TruQC’s CEO, had equally complimentary comments to make about Champion: “Over the years that Champion has been a customer of TruQC, they have graduated from simply collecting QC [quality control] info electronically to actively leveraging the data they’ve amassed for process improvement and knowledge growth. The quality and professionalism are evident in all they do, and we are glad to call them a partner.”
All of CPSSC’s solutions and strategies seemed to work on the Tribeca pedestrian bridge. Farrington said the client loved the project when they were done. “It was a great experience with a new customer,” he said. “We always look to just do our best out there, and this was a really high-profile job to be doing for a new customer. And I think it was really successful — I really do.”