By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The School Construction Authority is planning a major project to repair and renovate the façade of the Washington Irving High School building and neighbors are already concerned about how long they’ll be dealing with noise from what is sure to be a lengthy project.
The neighborhood residents made their views heard at a meeting hosted inside the school on Monday by Council Member Rosie Mendez.
Due to the constraints on construction for schools, the work on the building can only be done on nights and weekends, which concerned residents who live on adjacent streets who have already been dealing with periodic construction noise from the school, even though this major project has not started yet.
Joseph Bova, chief project officer for the SCA, specified that nights and weekends meant 4 p.m. to midnight during the week and as early as 8 a.m. on weekends, although due to objections from residents at the meeting, he said there may be flexibility on the weekend start time and he noted that only clean-up would happen between 11 p.m. and midnight.
Because the building is so large and houses seven different schools, it would be impossible to relocate the students so the work can be done on weekdays during 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., representatives for the SCA said at the meeting.
Bruce Milligan, the principal on the project for SCA, explained that the project is necessary because there are a number of ongoing issues that need permanent renovations. He said that there are cracks in the masonry on the Irving Place building which is causing pieces to fall, and while the school currently has netting and sidewalk sheds to prevent the pieces from hitting passersby and the façade has been temporarily fixed, it has gotten to the point where a capital project is necessary to repair the damage. The cracks in the limestone on the exterior of the building are also causing leaks, leading to water damage and staining inside the school.
The budget for the project is $43 million and it is expected to take three years, with the projected date of completion in March 2020. Although most of the work will be limited to nights and weekends because the building will be occupied by students, work can be done during normal business hours during the summer when school is out.
Councilmember Mendez noted at the beginning of the meeting that she pressed the SCA to come and speak with the community because she frequently receives calls from angry residents after construction has begun on projects, so she was hoping to mitigate the problems beforehand.