Thursday, July 26, 2012

Promises, promises: how the ESDC said care would be taken at the construction site, how complaints have been documented, and what might be done about noise

As I wrote yesterday, a new report validates neighbors' concerns about disruptive Atlantic Yards constructions, and documents suggest that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and its environmental monitor have condoned a cover-up of a Forest City contractor's falsification.

Some 19 months ago, an ESDC attorney--in retrospect, not so wisely--assured board members that all commitments to mitigate neighborhood concerns would be followed.

The comment came in the wake of the ESDC's breakneck preparation (via consultant AKRF) that a 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout would not result in any community impacts not disclosed in the agency's previous study of an official ten-year buildout and a five year delay.

Such a finding, in a Technical Analysis (not to be confused with a Technical Memorandum issued in June 2009), was ordered by Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, who ultimately ruled that it was inadequate, and that the agency had to perform a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to look at a 25-year buildout.

The ESDC and Forest City Ratner lost an appeal last month, though no SEIS has begun.

Board member's concern

After receiving the Technical Analysis (though with no evidence they'd had time to review it), the ESDC board on 12/16/10 unanimously approved the findings.

After the vote, public policy consultant Joyce Miller, as of June 2010 a new board member, offered a small olive branch to community members who'd expressed dismay and incredulity that a 25-year buildout, however attenuated, was no worse than a ten-year one.



"Having lived next to a construction site," said Miller, who lives on the Upper West Side near Riverside South, "I'm sympathetic to some of the complaints that are being made and I would like to know and be reassured that some of the complaints regard to construction hours, et cetera, noise you can't do anything about, obviously, pile drivers are pile drivers, but that care is taken to ensure that regulations and laws regarding the maintenance of the construction site, the hours of construction site, et cetera, the safety of the construction site, are all adhered to."

"Yes," came the response from ESDC attorney Robin Stout. (Video by Jonathan Barkey.)

Actually, as the report compiled for Atlantic Yards Watch indicates, care has not been taken to follow the rules.

What to do about noise

The report even counters Miller's observation that "noise you can't do anything about." It suggests that established mitigation protocols are insufficient, and not enforced, and that numerous steps could be taken.

What to do about extended periods of truck idling, a source of noise complaints? Reevaluate the volume and hourly distribution of trucks, and their associated air/noise impacts

What about numerous nighttime noise complaints? Schedule work that would generate high noise levels during weekday daytime hours to extent feasible. Provide required noise shielding to residents, beyond what's already been done. Monitor nighttime noise levels. Replace loud back-up beepers with lights or quieter devices. Incorporate modifications to dumpsters such as rubber wheels.

What about noisy equipment? First, follow the code. Then go beyond it, banning the use of impact devices (jack hammers, hoe rams, pavement breakers ) at night. Require noise measurements to be submitted on a weekly basis. Require contractors to use newer, quieter equipment, such as generators that have soundproofing. Design truck patterns for pick-up and delivery that minimize the need to back up.

What about the promised placement and shielding of equipment? Use noise curtains and equipment enclosures beyond the current plywood. Cover joints with duct tape. Monitor daytime and nighttime noise levels at residential buildings during noisy nighttime work.

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