Downtowners fear construction chaos if dedicated DOT office closes in March

Downtown Express photo by Yoon Seo Nam. Street repairs have closed parts of Broadway down to one lane.

Photo by Yoon Seo Nam
Construction-clogged streets are an all-too-common fact of life for Downtowners.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC |

The city’s plan to shut down an office dedicated to coordinating nearly a hundred ongoing construction projects in Lower Manhattan could do serious harm to residents’ quality of life, say Downtown leaders.

The Dept. of Transportation blames a lack of funding for its decision to “phase out” its Lower Manhattan Commissioner’s office — charged with coordinating around 90 major ongoing construction projects below Canal St. — and hand its duties over to the agency’s larger Manhattan office in March 2016.

Community Board 1 Chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes said the dedicated Downtown office has been vital for protecting residents throughout the process of rebuilding and developing an area that is recovering from repeated disasters to become the most dynamic neighborhood in the city.

“Fourteen years after 9/11 and three years after Sandy, [construction has] a major impact on quality of life Downtown,” Hughes said. “It’s really important there is coordination.”

The Lower Manhattan Commissioner’s office does just that: it coordinates with several city, state, federal agencies and other parties about details of construction projects. It also provides a place for residents to register complaints and it helps mitigate quality of life issues connected with construction, such as noise, traffic, street closures, and after-hour and weekend work.

The office lost its state funding in September and the city has been providing funding on a month-to-month basis, said district manager Noah Pfefferblit at CB1’s Quality of Life Committee meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10.

The plan to close the office feels like déjà vu for many Downtowners. In early 2014, the city shuttered the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center — often called the L.M.C.C.C. or LM-triple-C — much to the consternation of the community.

“This is what we were worried about when they got rid of LM-triple-C,” said committee member Marc Ameruso.

Committee chairwoman Pat Moore lives near the World Trade Center complex and recalled a time there was “jackhammering 21 hours a day, 21 days in a row.”

The Lower Manhattan Commissioner’s office was supposed to take the place of the L.M.C.C.C. and do the inter-agency work addressing those problems, she said.

“We thought you were going to navigate these rough waters for us,” Moore told the D.O.T. rep at the meeting.

The agency’s director of construction coordination, Frank Hrubes, gives monthly updates at the committee meetings, but said that the steady erosion of funding has made the office’s work increasingly difficult.

“We do as much as we can,” he said. “But as you know, we’ve been reduced, reduced, reduced.”

Hrubes pointed out the L.M.C.C.C. was created after 9/11 to handle reconstruction and was only supposed to be funded for five years, but committee members reminded him that reconstruction has dragged on long after that, and is still going on nearly 15 years later.

“Oh, and all the problems have gone away now?” Moore quipped. “We’ve already lost LM triple C, so now we need someone to do that work.”

The committee passed a resolution at the December meeting “strongly” urging the city and state provide funding for the office. But CB1 passed eight resolutions in support of the L.M.C.C.C. since 2007, and another for continued funding for the commissioner’s office in July last year.

One new resident who just moved to the Financial District from Brooklyn and came specifically to complain about construction woes, underlined the need for the office, saying about her move, “I have to tell you, I’m regretting it.”

N.Y.C. Dept. of Transportation This map shows the many ongoing construction projects south of Canal St. currently being coordinated by the Lower Manhattan Commissioner’s office of the city Dept. of Transportation, which the city plans for shutter in Mach due to lack of funding.

N.Y.C. Dept. of Transportation
This map shows the many ongoing construction projects south of Canal St. currently being coordinated by the Lower Manhattan Commissioner’s office of the city Dept. of Transportation, which the city plans for shutter in Mach due to lack of funding.

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