Floods and high winds plague residents of Rafael Viñoly's 432 Park Avenue

Residents of Rafael Viñoly-designed supertall skyscraper 432 Park Avenue in New York have reported "catastrophic" floods and getting trapped in the lifts during windy weather.

According to a report in the New York Times, complaints have been mounting as engineering issues impact the 425-metre-tall skinny skyscraper.

On 31 October 2019, a resident was stuck in an elevator of the 85-storey tower for almost an hour and a half during high winds.

Homeowners also complained about loud noises such as clicks and bangs in their homes, possibly as metal partitions shift or air whistles through the lift shafts.

Floods affect upper floors

Designed by New York-based Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly for developers Macklowe Properties and CIM Group, 432 Park Avenue completed at the end of 2015. The project's construction manager is Lendlease.

In 2016, the anonymous buyer of 84B – an apartment covering half of the 84th floor – reported a "catastrophic water flood" that damaged the 83rd and 86th floors leading him to back out of the purchase. Apartment 84B subsequently sold in 2017 for $44.6 million. The developers included mechanical floors in the count, so apartments are numbered up to floor 96.

Two more water leaks were reported in 2018. On 22 November a flange blew out from around a high-pressure water pipe serving the 60th floor, and on 26 November a pipe failed on the 74th floor causing water to flood two of the building's four residential elevator shafts.

Supertalls at risk of technical issues

Engineers familiar with the matter warned the Times that these issues are affecting new supertall skinny skyscrapers all across the city.

One reason for this litany of issues, the Times suggested, could be the use of mechanical floors that allow developers to build higher than New York's building regulations normally allow.

A mechanical floor is a design feature of high rise buildings where an entire floor is given over to service elements such as water supply and ventilation.

These floors do not count against the building's allowable height, so increasing the height of a mechanical floor will also raise the height of the apartments above them. Higher floors require increased pressure for the water supply and as winds are higher further up, the building can sway causing elevator cables to flap.

432 Park Avenue residents mourn free meals

The highest homes command the steepest price tags. In 2017 three apartments located above the 90th floor of 432 Park Avenue sold together for a reported $91 million.

To add to their woes, homeowners in the tower have been hit by rising insurance and service costs and their free breakfasts have been taken off the menu of the building's Michelin-star restaurant. Residents have access to three floors of amenities, including the restaurant, a spa and a cinema.

432 Park Avenue, briefly the tallest residential building in the Western hemisphere, has made headlines before. In 2015 work was halted on the site after reports of falling debris.

Viñoly himself was forced to apologise in 2016 after he made comments about "screw-ups" in the interior design of the tower such as the locations of the bathrooms.

Photography is by Arturo Pardavila.