By Sabina Mollot
From constant noise to the chaotic construction scene that has effectively hidden a number of local storefronts, the ongoing L train preliminary construction work to the upcoming shutdown has been the primary concern for many fed up residents of Stuyvesant Town.
The issue was among several brought up at a meeting held by the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association on Saturday afternoon at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
At the meeting, attended by local elected officials and around 125 tenants, State Senator Brad Hoylman brought up a few updates to the work schedule that were only shared with his office a day earlier.
“They absolutely have to do a better job of communicating with us,” he told the crowd about the memo. “There needs to be an individual in charge and they need to have an email address on the construction site.”
The updates include:
That a jet grouting operation between First Avenue and Avenue A was just being completed while the same work has just begun last week between Avenue A and B and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Also beginning is excavation for the new station entrance between First Avenue and Avenue A.
The current street configuration, which started being prepared two weeks ago, is scheduled to remain in place throughout the end of the year. It was chosen by the Department of Transportation because it allowed access to the businesses on the south side of 14th Street. Parking on the south side of the street will still be allowed, but it will be eliminated on both sides of the service roads between A and B as well as on the north side of 14th Street.
Equipment is being changed on site, and noise mitigation tools such as sound blankets and sound barriers will be moved with the equipment.
Some construction may take place in the Stuyvesant Town garage area, but there will still be two-way access to it.
In related news, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, touted a contract the MTA and the Economic Development Corporation entered into with NY Waterways to provide larger ferry boats than the ones that were originally planned. As of Monday, there was still no announcement from the MTA, though Maloney, who attended Saturday’s meeting, announced it ahead of time in a press release.
Maloney said she’d pressed the MTA to increase ferry capacity during the L train shutdown. Under the new contract, the ferries will hold 240 passengers each, instead of the originally planned 149, across the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Additionally, NY Waterways will be required to have two ferries in constant operation with a third boat crewed and ready if it’s needed. Maloney said initially the MTA only wanted to make a third ferry available in case of emergency, which means a crew would have to be called in.
According to Maloney, each trip is expected to take roughly 5.5 minutes from pier to pier, with eight ferry trips per hour at peak times (every 7.5 minutes).
As for the ongoing L train construction, at the meeting, ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg shared her general displeasure over the state of the project on East 14th Street, considering the recently shared information that the area could potentially become a 24/7 construction zone.
“I would say it’s a little late in the game for the MTA and the DOT to still be figuring things out,” said Steinberg.
She also encouraged neighbors to sign a change.org petition that’s been started by a resident named Sally Apfelbaum, aimed at keeping the dust clouds choking the surrounding streets to a minimum.
The petition, which has 177 signers as of Monday afternoon, calls for all dumpsters at the site to be covered, to transport the debris in small vehicles and consolidate the schedule so the dust doesn’t fly at all hours. The petition also asks to lower the decibel level of the beeping trucks, to provide 14th Street residents with high quality air filters as one was done in Lower Manhattan after 9/11) and to have an onsite inspector monitoring daily.
Apfelbaum also asked for more electric buses to be included in the 200-bus fleet to be rolled out during the L shutdown. Currently, the city has only committed to 15 of them being electric. The petition also calls for there to be some sort of plan to deal with the loss of parking spots.
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein mentioned he and City Council Member Keith Powers have been in contact with the MTA over the L train site issues and since then have seen some noise mitigation improvements. But, he added, “It’s not enough if construction’s going on until 11 p.m.”
Problems that have remained include sidewalk sheds that have cut off traffic and barriers that Epstein said have created a hazard for drivers turning left or right.
“There are a lot of questions they still haven’t answers on safety mitigation,” Epstein said. “We support getting air filters. As the construction goes on, it’s not going to get better. It’s going to get worse. You’ll not see it (in the tunnel), but there’ll be trucks going in and out.”
Powers said that he has invited NYC Transit President Andy Byford to hear the noise levels of the construction and that this was in the works of being scheduled. He also urged residents living near the construction to say something of the noise levels under their apartments are unbearable.
“Today this is an unacceptable way of treating the 14th Street corridor,” he said. “If you can’t sleep at night, I can’t sleep at night and the MTA should not be able to sleep at night.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman discussed subway improvements he wants to see made in Albany, specifically getting the funding the MTA needs for its improvement plans through congestion pricing and other means.
“Albany needs to get over its aversion to taxes,” said Hoylman. “The subway plan by Andy Byford is billions of dollars and there’s no money for it.”
MCIs, noise, rent regulations discussed
Other issues brought up at the meeting included major capital improvements, dogs and noise at events in Stuyvesant Town, specifically those held at the Oval.
“We’re trying to determine how deep the issue is,” said Steinberg about the noise. In response, the TA and Council Member Keith Powers have developed a survey and said tenants’ response would determine how they approach the topic with management.
On the issue of dogs, Steinberg said there was improved enforcement of rules, including asking non-resident dog owners to leave the property and making sure resident dog owners have the identifying lanyards.
There were also 50 new stations offering dog poop baggies installed around the complex and Steinberg reminded residents of management’s decision to start issuing lease violations starting November 1 to residents who don’t properly clean up after their pets.
Bulk trash being discarded improperly around the complex and left there was another issue, though Steinberg said in response, management has increased the maintenance staff to deal with the problem.
On noisy neighbors, Steinberg said management has enacted a change in policy to have a public safety officer respond to an apartment, where previously there would have had to be three complaints about the same neighbor.
On major capital improvements (MCIs), all current applications or approvals are being challenged by the Tenants Association. Those MCIs are for heat/hot water heaters, façade work and Peter Cooper video intercoms. The approvals by the state housing agency came despite the objection of the TA’s attorney.
Rent regulations were also brought up, with tenants asked by local elected officials to show up in Albany on lobbying days before the rent laws sunset in June 2019. Tenants hope to abolish or reform MCIs, IAIs (individual apartment improvement rent increases) preferential rents and abolish vacancy bonuses and vacancy deregulation.
Along with Maloney, Powers, Hoylman and Epstein, other elected officials who attended Saturday’s meeting were Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Comptroller Scott Stringer.