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BY ALINE REYNOLDS | Residents in the Financial District, the South Street Seaport and the Lower East Side are fed up with the noise from the construction on the Brooklyn Bridge.
The late-night jackhammering and other construction-related noise coming from the Brooklyn Bridge, is causing some of them to not only lose sleep, but is also making them pursue the idea of suing the city.
However officials from the city Department of Transportation contend that the nighttime work is legal and that shifting the constr
uction work to the day, as the residents would like, is out of the question because of the traffic nightmare it would cause.
Nighttime noise generated by the bridge’s large-scale overhaul might get worse before it gets better as workers begin to renovate the Frankfort Street ramp in the coming weeks, according to officials from the city D.O.T., the agency overseeing the $508 million project, slated for completion in 2014. The project involves replacing existing roadways, adding lanes to ramps and rebuilding rusty railings and safety barriers.
Since it will require extensive closures of bridge lanes, the majority of the construction moving forward will occur overnight when traffic volume on the bridge is the lightest, according to D.O.T. Spokesperson Seth Solomonow. As a result, he said, all Manhattan-bound traffic will be diverted to other East River crossings.
Fulfilling the community’s wish would entail shutting down parts of the bridge during the day, which would upset the traffic flow for the more than 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bikers who cross the bridge daily, according to the D.O.T.
“It would displace tens of thousands of vehicles onto local streets during the busiest periods, including on weekends, having a tremendous impact on traffic, emergency responders and the many truck-dependent projects underway in Lower Manhattan, all while significantly lengthening the overall duration of this and many projects,” said Solomonow.
The D.O.T. is currently abiding by noise regulations, which is overseen by the city Department of Environmental Protection, and is working with the D.E.P. to use sound mufflers and other techniques to mitigate the disruptions to the community, according to Solomonow and D.E.P. Spokesperson Mercedes Padilla. The D.O.T. received noise violations last summer when workers had to blast through trolley tracks that were found underneath the bridge’s roadway.
“We are taking steps to significantly reduce the long-term duration of work at this location,” said Solomonow.
Local residents desperate for a good night’s sleep allege that they’ve endured more than their fair share of overnight commotion since the bridge construction began in 2010. Democratic District Leader Alice Cancel, a resident of Southbridge Towers, is considering moving out of her apartment because of the noise, which entitles her to a mere three hours of sleep per night.
Cancel has attempted to drown out the piercing sounds with white noise and earplugs, but the drilling continues to rouse her at 2 a.m.
“The sound is unbearable. It’s been two years of abuse,” said Cancel. “I think our best bet is maybe to take them to court.”
Patrick Samtani, a resident of the Gehry Building at 8 Spruce Street, said the constant buzzing has become more and more bothersome in the last month and typically keeps him tossing and turning in bed until 5 a.m.
The D.O.T. should schedule daytime work in between the morning and evening rush hours, Samtani asserted.
“If I had known the noise would get this bad, I wouldn’t have moved here in the first place,” said Samtani. “This really has to stop.”
The D.O.T. must find a way to work during the day, echoed Patricia Ryan, a Southbridge Towers resident for 35 years.
“We love the bridge, and we all understand that the bridge has to be fixed,” said Ryan. “But there are some nights where you want to tear your hair out.”
Backing the residents’ plea, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wrote a letter to D.OT. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan last week asking that the D.O.T. and the city Department of Buildings cease issuing after-hour work variances outside of the standard business hours of Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Silver, along with NYS Senator Daniel Squadron and Council Member Margaret Chin, previously wrote to Sadik-Khan in January, asking the D.O.T. to perform the loudest work during daytime hours only.
“I understand that in the days before our residential population boom, granting lots of after-hours permits made some sense and did not cause too many problems,” Silver wrote Sadik-Khan. “Today, however, it is simply too disruptive to our residents’ quality of life.”
In a phone interview with the Downtown Express, Silver said a law suit may be the community’s only recourse.
“It’s just getting out of control,” said Silver. “The fact remains, the only solution is daytime construction.”
According to housing attorney John Gorman, however, residents would be on shaky legal grounds to sue the city for the disturbances caused by the project.
“A court is going to recognize that having the bridge functioning safely is going to outweigh the inconvenience and disturbance to the residents,” said Gorman. “It doesn’t mean they can’t sue, but their chances for recovering are going to be slight.”
Residents were particularly infuriated when the D.O.T. recently asked them to file a Freedom of Information Law (F.O.I.L.) request to find out the decibel levels of the bridge work.
Asked about the policy, Solomonow said it’s standard procedure.
“We use the F.O.I.L. process for documents such as these, for this and on many other projects,” said Solomonow.
But the residents and elected officials believe it’s a sign of non-transparent and uncooperative behavior.
“The community board is a city agency, and we have to F.O.I.L. information? It’s nonsense,” said John Fratta, chair of C.B. 1’s Seaport-Civic Center Committee, which drafted a resolution last week requesting that the D.O.T. close off the bridge to traffic during the day so as to eliminate nighttime work.
Silver also deemed the D.O.T.’s response unacceptable.
“To me, it’s a total disrespect to the community,” said Silver.
The bridge will be closed to Manhattan-bound traffic between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday night to Friday, Saturdays between midnight and 7 a.m. and Sundays between midnight and 9 a.m. For more information, contact Community Affairs Liaison Sabrina Lau at Brooklynbridgeoutreach@gmail.com.