Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mystery solved (sort of): LIRR was working late in the Vanderbilt Yard (but how about some real-time info?)

At a meeting October 22 of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, as I reported the next day, a resident at Newswalk (700 Pacific Street, adjacent to the Vanderbilt Yard) raised questions about disruptive work late at the yard.

That resident the next day told me that on the previous Wednesday and Thursday nights, work at the railyard "went outrageously late," to at least 11 pm.

He was unable to get 311 to log the call (which said it was a responsibility of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its Long Island Rail Road [LIRR] subsidiary) and unable to get an immediate response from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Among his concerns: workers were not watering down the dust, as required.

Well, after some delays attributable to multiple parties (the ESDC, myself, and the LIRR), I have some answers.

From the ESDC

ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell told me that the LIRR, not the ESDC, enforces the construction guidelines at the Vanderbilt Yard.

She added:
As far as the dust is concerned, ESD asked our mitigation monitor and owner's rep about it. They performed recent site visits and observed no increase in dust. In addition, the air quality monitoring that [Forest City Ratner] FCR is required to conduct did not show any excesses. Nonetheless, we have spoken to FCR about the complaints and reminded them to take note of actual site conditions and take any measures needed to alleviate poor air quality in the vicinity.
From the LIRR

LIRR spokesman Sal Arena confirmed that LIRR employees were working late in the Vanderbilt Yard on those dates. He added:
This was emergency electrical work near the tunnel entrance that required the use of a truck mounted on high rail equipment. However, except for emergencies such as this or critical Railroad infrastructure work, all construction in the yard takes place during day-time hours. My understanding is that there has been no late night work in the yard in recent weeks.
OK, but it would be much better to have closer to real-time explanations for all this. Remember, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said the ESDC was not empowering its AY ombudsman. But how about an Ombudsman's Blog?

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