We hired Jeff Etelamaki in 2016 to design and supervise renovation of a two-family home in Brooklyn. After 5 years, he basically ghosted. It has been just over one year since he stopped moving the project forward, because he is “swamped” with other work. Although construction is complete, building permits remain open, and Jeff has been unresponsive. It is the current situation that has prompted us to write this, but it is not the first time that we have experienced unprofessional behavior. Jeff has some good aesthetic sensibility, but, in our experience, he was disorganized, could not manage a project or communicate professionally, and ultimately cost us countless headaches and years of delays.
During the construction phase of the project, Jeff was often unresponsive to clarification requests from the contractor. He did not visit the site frequently enough to catch mistakes. Ceiling height framing and one toilet location had to be corrected late, only after we, the owners, pointed out discrepancies. The interior stair fabricator refused to build what Jeff had drawn up because of structural weakness, and we had to redesign the stairs ourselves when Jeff went silent. Concrete footings in front and back of the house had to be re-poured. Importantly, Jeff forgot to start a key process with the department of transportation necessary to clear the way for construction of an exterior front stair, resulting in a six month delay and thousands of dollars in added costs. Still other problems were not caught until they were entirely too late, such as the pitch of the roof, presenting hazards in front of the house during snow accumulation.
Because of delays and cost overruns (not all of which were the architect’s fault), we reached an agreement with the contractor to terminate the contract in 2020. We worked with the plumbers and electricians to complete their final inspections and sign-offs. We had exterior stairs fabricated to our own design. We only then asked Jeff to complete the necessary sign-offs so that we could close the building permits. This conversation began in January of 2021. Jeff did not respond, despite dozens of calls and emails, over a time span of six months.
We eventually reached out to the expediter that Jeff hired and found out that some special inspections remained (e.g., engineering, mechanicals, fire stopping). We engaged the inspectors ourselves and got sign offs where possible (2 out of 3). However, according to the last inspector and also the expediter, a post-approval amendment needs to be filed by the architect to correct certain things. The expediter communicated this to Jeff in December of 2021, and Jeff (finally!) wrote back to the expediter to confirm that he understood what needed to be done. But then... nothing. No amendment or communication from Jeff in two months, in spite of a weekly calls and emails.