Garodnick calls for transparency on construction noise

Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick (pictured at City Hall) have co-sponsored legislation aimed at making noise mitigation plans for construction sites less of a secret.

By Sabina Mollot

In New York City, especially in Manhattan, construction noise is usually impossible to escape. This is even true early in the mornings or later in the evenings at some construction sites, for what, to sleep-deprived neighbors, at least appears to be non-emergency work.

On East 14th Street, Stuyvesant Town residents have complained of late night Con Ed work. Meanwhile, on East 23rd Street, Peter Cooper residents have been dealing with on-and-off pre-sunrise construction relating to the VA Medical Center’s construction of a flood wall.

The canned response to New Yorkers facing what they consider excess noise is to call 3-1-1. However, that doesn’t always work because if work is being done at night, an inspection isn’t going to be scheduled until another day and at that time, there may not be an unacceptable level of noise.

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Con Ed crew at work on East 14th Street in wee hours on Tuesday

Con Ed trucks on East 14th Street (Photo by Sherman Sussman)

By Sabina Mollot

With construction a constant in Manhattan, some residents have the misfortune of hearing trucks back up, pile drivers pound and re-directed motorists curse as the soundtracks to their day. However, one resident of Stuyvesant Town, who lives down the street from the Extell development site and across the street from Con Ed, reached out to us after being woken up at 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday due to work crews on the street.

According to Sherman Sussman, it was at that time that he saw a crew in Con Ed trucks doing non-emergency work in front of 635 East 14th Street. He knew it was non-emergency work after heading downstairs and speaking with the foreman. There were also other trucks idling for over 15 minutes by then, he told us.

“We have been putting up with construction noise both from the site on 14th Street and Avenue C as well as the L train tunnel reconstruction and some sort of Water Authority construction at East 13th Street and Avenue C for months,” he said in an email. “Work often starts at 6:30 a.m. It has become our alarm often for six days a week, not that there aren’t the occasional Sunday mornings!”

As for Con Ed, since the area that is being worked on is already blocked off from traffic, Sussman said he couldn’t understand why it couldn’t be done when the other projects, or rather, “the usual cacophony of noise,” begins each day.

In response to his request, Town & Village reached out to Con Ed, where a spokesperson, Sidney Alvarez, confirmed that the work wasn’t due to an emergency but was affiliated with the ongoing L train reconstruction project that’s already taken over an island on East 14th Street. Other agencies besides the MTA were also involved.

Specifically, the work was aimed at cleaning a manhole with a vacuum truck, which was likely the source of the noise. Alvarez said the reason it was being done at night is because if it were to be done during the day, the project would require closing off or redirecting traffic, which would require a permit. However, he added, following Town & Village’s query as well as the Con Ed crew’s verbal “exchange” with Sussman, work times will be shifted from the current, wee hours to 3-11 p.m., although Alvarez admitted he didn’t know how soon the schedule would reflect this decision.  Alvarez was also unsure of why the manhole needed cleaning but said there could be a number of reasons, like dialectic (mineral) fluid or debris getting inside.

Local Law 11 facade repairs begin in ST

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Repairs on Stuyvesant Town building facades began last Monday and will continue through October 2017. Management announced the work in a newsletter sent to residents earlier this month, noting that the work is being done to comply with Local Law 11, a citywide program through the Department of Buildings that requires owners to inspect and maintain building facades.
StuyTown Property Services community affairs manager Marynia Kruk said that the amount and scope of the work are building-specific based on what repairs are necessary, but most of the work may result in noise and will require scaffolds that will be dropped from the roof of the building.

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WIHS neighbors blast lack of notice on planned construction

Council Member Rosie Mendez at a meeting held at the school building (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of East 16th and 17th Streets expressed frustration about the planned construction for Washington Irving High School’s façade at a meeting hosted by Council Member Rosie Mendez inside the building on Monday.

East 16th Street resident Julie Block said that she was frustrated by the lack of communication on the part of the School Construction Authority about the project.

“Shame on you for the lack of community input until now,” she said. “We’re the stakeholders in this and we deserve to know what’s going on.”

The purpose of the project, Mendez said, is to repair the facade because of the cracks in the masonry. Netting and scaffolding has been put up to prevent pieces from falling onto pedestrians and some parts of the facade have been temporarily fixed, but some of the more severe cracks have caused water damage and staining inside the school. The budget for the project is $40 million and the expected completion date is March 2020.

The Department of Education did not have representatives at the meeting.

Residents who attended, however, were also concerned that the project will take longer because the work has to be done outside of school hours, with some asking why the work couldn’t get done when the main school closed in 2015 and before the multiple charter schools started moving in.

“If you find a way to stop Eva Moskowitz, let me know,” responded Mendez. “There’s a K-4 school here now and I don’t think we should even have elementary students in this building, but I wasn’t able to stop it.”

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Leases indicate plan to submeter, but management said language is nothing new

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg

By Sabina Mollot

Language in leases signed by Stuyvesant Town residents indicates that the owner has plans to submeter Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, which would make individual tenants responsible for paying for the electricity they use.

However, according to StuyTown Property Services, there is no plan to submeter the property any time soon.

The issue came up this week after a resident pointed out the language on Facebook and wondered if this meant Blackstone intended for file an application with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to have the property submetered.

In response, a property spokesperson, Marynia Kruk, told us, “The Facebook post (on the ST-PCV Tenants Association’s page) is accurate in that our current lease does have a clause about submetering or direct metering. However, this is not new language. New leases have contained the same language since 2009. Ownership has no current plan for submetering.”

Meanwhile, if Blackstone does eventually decide to submeter, it would be the second attempt by a Stuy Town owner to pass on the costs to renters. Tishman Speyer had planned to do this but then abruptly dropped the project upon losing the Roberts v. Tishman Speyer lawsuit at the Appellate Court level.

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WIHS to get facade fixed and neighbors worried about noise

Councilmember Rosie Mendez

Councilmember Rosie Mendez

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.

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City proposes reconfiguring 2 playgrounds as part of East Side flood protection plan

nov24-asser-levy-playground

Asser Levy Playground (pictured) and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground will be impacted by the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. (Photo courtesy of Parks Department)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The city has been exploring options to redesign Asser Levy Playground and Murphy’s Brother’s Playground, since both will be affected by the construction of flood protection along the East Side of Manhattan from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street.

Earlier in the month, representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency discussed the proposals at a community meeting held at Washington Irving High School.

Carrie Grassi, the deputy director of planning for the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, mentioned how the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will run adjacent to both parks and construction will disturb activities there.

However, since the city is only in the concept design stage with the project, Grassi said that decisions for all aspects aren’t necessarily final yet. One such instance is the placement of the floodwall as it approaches the Asser Levy Playground. One configuration has the wall bordering the park along the FDR Drive, turning along East 25th Street and connecting with the floodwall that the VA Hospital is working on.

“But some feel that would be too imposing,” Grassi said.

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ST-PCV Tenants Association to fight video intercom MCI

By Sabina Mollot

The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association is seeking neighbors’ help in an effort to challenge the recently announced video intercom MCI.

The major capital improvement rent increase, if approved, will impact the following Peter Cooper Village buildings: 420 and 440 East 23rd Street, 350, 360, 360 and 390 First Avenue, 2 and 3 Peter Cooper Road and 431 and 441 East 20th Street.

Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Susan Steinberg, president of the Tenants Association, said this particular MCI, one of four on the horizon, is expected to cost tenants $2.13-$2.50 per room per month.

At a meeting last month, Steinberg said the four MCIs would be challenged for different reasons, including issues with paperwork.

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Service roads and islands around Stuyvesant Town getting $200G renovation

The project is aimed at making the streets easier to manage for disabled pedestrians as well as anyone pushing a stroller. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The project is aimed at making the streets easier to manage for disabled pedestrians as well as anyone pushing a stroller. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The streets surrounding Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village are getting a $200,000 facelift.

The project, which is being paid for with funds allocated by Council Member Dan Garodnick, isn’t just cosmetic, however.

Service roads around the property from 14th to 23rd Streets will be repaved as will any curb cuts in need of smoothing, and the medians or islands on 14th Street, 20th Street and First Avenue will be repaved to make them wider for wheelchair users. Some, though not all of the cobblestones along with islands will be removed in order to do this. Currently, obstructions for anyone in a wheelchair user include signs and bus stops. Additionally, any cracks along the medians will be filled.

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Residents mixed on plan for Target to open on East 14th

Target has signed a lease for a space at what is now a construction site across from Stuyvesant Town. Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Target has signed a lease for a space at what is now a construction site across from Stuyvesant Town. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Recently, a plan to open a Target store on East 14th Street at the future residential development that’s now a construction site between Avenues A and B, was made public. The news, first reported by the Real Deal, also mentioned that the store to open at the site, which is leased by Extell Development, will be smaller than most of the other Target locations.

This week, Town & Village asked around in Stuyvesant Town for residents’ thoughts on the neighborhood’s first big box store. Responses were, as expected, mixed, though most of the people interviewed indicated they would shop there.

Stuy Town resident Kay Vota noted, “I think it’s wonderful. Their prices are very reasonable. You can’t go anywhere else for those prices.” Still, she expressed some concern about competition for the surrounding existing businesses.

“What’s going to happen to the Associated?” asked Vota.

Another resident said she was concerned about the supermarket as well. The woman, who said she was one of Stuy Town’s first black residents, declined to share her name, explaining that with the low rent she pays, she doesn’t like to remind the landlord that she exists.

“Forget Target,” she said. “I want to keep the Associated. Will Target be selling food? Associated is more important. They got rid of (Stuy Town’s) D’Agostino. Will we be importing our food soon?”

The woman also said she had no need for the business. “I don’t want to rush to Target to buy any new things. It wouldn’t be helping me.”

Asked if she’d shop there, another resident, Elvina Oey, told T&V, “Probably yes. Because the closest one to us is the one in Brooklyn.” As for what she’d get there, Oey guessed, “Household cleaners, cleaning supplies like paper towels and soaps. That kind of stuff.”

An original tenant and retired cop who would only give his first name, Thomas, had conflicting views. On the one hand, when asked if he’d shop there, Thomas responded “yes,” but then said he was worried the store would become a destination for non-locals and end up raising crime stats in the neighborhood.

“I see the Target bringing crime,” said Thomas, whose beat was his own neighborhood. “Target’s going to, I feel, have a major shoplifting problem. It’s going to be one of those things where we’ll see what happens.” He added that he’d prefer to see a Trader Joe’s in the space, which according to rumors, is also in talks for a retail space at the Extell site.

A 15-year-old resident, Daniel, also gave the plan a thumbs down, figuring it would just lead to crowding.

“I don’t think it’s going to be good,” he said. “It’s going to bring a bunch of people in here. People are going to walk through the property and it’s going to get congested.”

One couple also said they were not looking forward to the big bull’s-eye’s arrival and guessed the future residents of the building to house it wouldn’t want it either.

“I wonder what the tenants paying high rent think about having a Target below them,” said Peter Harris. “They’re definitely getting hit with high rents.” He added, “As a small business owner, I’d be concerned. It’s going to knock out some of the little places.”

Harris’ wife, Frances, added, “I don’t like that part of it” and said she thought it was “too bad” about a major fire at the location in 2010 that displaced five small business storefronts. Frances also said if the store ends up bringing more foot traffic to the area, “I wouldn’t like it. And I wonder if it would take a lot of parking spaces away from us.”

Meanwhile, one neighbor of the construction site, who said he lives in the next building over, had this to say: “I don’t care much either way.” The resident, Zac Hoffman, who’s lived in his apartment for the last two years, seemed more irked about the ongoing construction noise, which, he pointed out, starts every day at 7 a.m. Hoffman isn’t planning to move though, explaining that rents have gone up significantly since he last had to look. So, when asked if he’d give the new inconvenience store some business, Hoffman answered, “Probably.”

Target does however have a supporter in Susan Steinberg, president of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association.

“I’m for it,” she said. “As long as it’s not a Walmart.”

A spokesperson for Target declined to comment on what the new store would offer, only confirming that a lease had been signed, “contingent on approvals.”

UPDATE: The company has released further details on the store, which is expected to open in 2018.

The Real Deal reported the lease is for 30 years and the location is at the corner of Avenue A.

Former Gramercy police precinct to be auctioned off

June30 21st Precinct

327 East 22nd Street, originally home to the 21st Precinct (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Two years ago, a Gramercy building that was once home to the NYPD’s 21st Precinct was sold to developer Sam Suzuki, who planned to convert the building to luxury condos.

However, the building, located at 327 East 22nd Street, is now scheduled to be sold at a public auction on Thursday, June 30 at 11 a.m. The upcoming sale, which was mentioned in a public notice in the New York Times, will take place at the New York County Courthouse and is being facilitated by Mission Capital Advisors. In the notice, the property is referred to as “SCPD Gramercy 1 LLC.”

In April, 2014, Suzuki bought the four-story building between First and Second Avenues for $11.5 million, securing an $18 million mortgage. As a condition of the sale, Suzuki also got 7,000 square feet of air rights. In February of 2015 the owner got a permit to demolish the property. However, today it still sits — at least the outside of it — boarded up and covered by a scaffolding. The permit to fully demolish the building expired this February, and the owner hasn’t since filed for a new one.

Prior to this, the building was used as a home for LGBT young people, and run by Green Chimneys, a nonprofit based in Brewster, New York, that owned the building.

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E. 14th St. firehouse gets renovated

The firehouse on East 14th Street was empty this week.

The firehouse on East 14th Street was empty this week.

By Sabina Mollot

The firehouse at 340 East 14th Street known as Engine 5 is getting a makeover.

The station, which is marked by a flag announcing its 150-year legacy over the bright red building, was being emptied out this week, an eagle-eyed reader informed T&V. The reader, who’d passed by on Monday, and snapped this photo, witnessed as a moving truck was parked outside while the firehouse appeared empty.

Town & Village then reached out to the FDNY to ask if the firehouse would be shut down or relocated but got no answer.

However, a man who answered the door for our reporter later said it was just in the midst of a renovation. The man, who said he was a contractor, said things were already being moved back into the building, where all three floors are apparently “all new.” Asked where the firefighters were during the project, he said they were sharing space with another firehouse though he didn’t know which one.

CB5 divided over landmarking of Flatiron buildings

One of the buildings up for landmarking debate, 16 West 18th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

One of the buildings up for landmarking debate, 16 West 18th Street (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A developer’s plan to demolish two buildings near Union Square and replace them with towers was recently shot down by Community Board 5. However, the board’s landmarks committee was split on whether or not the two buildings are historically significant enough to be protected under preservation laws. The committee discussed the plan at a meeting on May 31 to a packed room of community members and business owners who wanted to learn more about the proposal to demolish the two small buildings at 16 West 18th Street and 21 West 17th Street and replace them with apartment towers.

Real estate developer C.A. White has plans to tear down the two buildings and build 11- and 13-story buildings in their place. In comparison to the current buildings, the proposed apartment towers are much taller but the project’s architect Morris Adjmi said at the meeting that the firm didn’t max out the space allowed, keeping the proposed buildings level with those around them. The community board’s role in the process is only advisory and the Landmarks Preservation Commission will make the final decision on whether or not the buildings can be demolished.

Residents and committee members who opposed the demolition pointed to the overall character of the neighborhood as one of the main reasons to preserve the building, especially related to the “saw tooth” nature of the structures, because the current buildings are shorter than those around them and the developer’s proposal would mean leveling the buildings out.

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Elevated park option for East River waterfront

Those in attendance at the  meeting last Tuesday sat at tables while the pros and cons of each option for the project were discussed. (Pictured) Guests seated before the presentation began (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Those in attendance at the meeting last Tuesday sat at tables while the pros and cons of each option for the project were discussed. (Pictured) Guests seated before the presentation began (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

 By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood residents recently learned that the East River may be getting a new elevated park along with flood protection. The discussion about the park took place at the most recent workshop for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, held at the Stein Senior Center last Tuesday. Representatives from the mayor’s office and BIG U, the winning design firm in the Rebuild by Design competition in 2013, said that this type of flood protection was one of the most popular with residents, according to feedback from the community at the previous workshop in May.

Carrie Grassi, senior policy adviser at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also discussed the three options for flood protection in the area along the East River between 14th and 23rd Streets, which includes a berm, which would have a park on top, a flood wall or a deployable, and noted that community members saw the advantages of all three depending on the area.

The area along the river from 14th to 23rd is known as Project Area 2 and Project Area 1 extends south from 14th Street to Montgomery Street. The workshops have been split along these boundaries to focus more on the specific needs of each area.

Grassi noted that there is a need for compromise when considering different characteristics even within each designated project area and the specifics of each kind of flood protection, and they’re hoping the workshops will help find the right balance for Project Area 2.

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Former ST leasing agent says she was fired over sick days

Annette Beatrice said she started suffering from respiratory issues and migraines after construction began at the leasing office. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Annette Beatrice said she started suffering from respiratory issues and migraines after construction began at the leasing office. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A former leasing agent working for Stuyvesant Town filed a lawsuit against CompassRock on Friday, saying she was wrongly fired after becoming sick during a construction project at the First Avenue leasing office.

The former employee, Annette Beatrice, said she’d been working at the property since getting hired by Tishman Speyer in 2009. However, it was during February of 2013 when a project to expand the leasing office caused her workplace to be “filled with dust, pungent smells and the constant ear-piercing sounds of drilling and hammering.” As a result, Beatrice said that she started to suffer from migraines as well as respiratory issues and was vomiting at work.

Beatrice said that in an attempt to recover, she was out of work for three weeks. She’d discussed the matter of her health problems stemming from the office environment, but then nothing was done about it, she said. Meanwhile, her condition left her unable to focus at work.

Beatrice said it was on or around July 12 of 2013 when she spoke with a supervisor to request taking a few days off to try and recover from her ongoing symptoms. She was then told she could, as long as she provided a doctor’s note upon her return. However, after 10 days passed, CompassRock’s human resources manager, Hope Gause, called her to inform her she’d be terminated if she didn’t “immediately” provide the note, the suit said. Gause is named in the complaint as a co-defendant. The next day, Gause fired her, Beatrice said.

In the suit, the former employee accused CompassRock of not engaging in a “good faith” process, adding that her symptoms, such as migraines and respiratory issues, constitute disabilities under the law. She claimed her request for time off constituted “a reasonable accommodation under the (New York City Human Rights Law).”

Beatrice is suing for a total of $2,500,000 ($500,000 for lost pay and benefits as well as $2,000,000 in damages including “pain and suffering, anxiety, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, physical injury and emotional distress and medical expences”).

Beatrice’s attorney, Douglas Lipsky, declined to comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson for CWCapital also declined to comment.

According to Beatrice’s LinkedIn profile, she currently works for Stellar Management. An email sent to a company email address requesting comment wasn’t returned.