Construction Noise a Nuisance All Night

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Robison Wells
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Michael Riley, a Manhattan-based research scientist for Google, considered installing $40,000 sound-proof windows before settling on a more cost-efficient choice: a pair of $250 noise-cancelling headphones. He had found out that contractors at a nearby building had received an after-hours variance permit that allowed late-night construction.

Building is booming in New York City, with construction reaching $65 billion in 2018, but it’s almost impossible to get all of that done during daytime, weekday hours. The Department of Buildings issued 67,000 variance permits last year, more than double that of 2012. The permits are lucrative to the Department, bringing in $21 million in Manhattan alone. But as overnight work increases, so do complaints. 3700 noise complaints were officially filed last year.

The balance is trying to get the work done while keeping the residents happy. But there are just some jobs that have to be done when roads can be shut down and traffic is gone.

But residents are fighting back. A councilwoman in Riley’s district, Carlina Rivera, introduced a bill that would limit construction to no earlier than 6 am and no later than 10 pm. The bill was co-sponsored by two other councilmembers and endorsed by mayoral candidate Corey Johnson, a man who has pledged to take no political contributions from the construction industry.

Johnson said that “late-night construction work is often incredibly disruptive to residential communities all over this city,” and that he viewed Ms. Rivera’s legislation as an “attempt to tackle this longstanding problem.”

But not everyone agrees. The New York Building Congress called the bill “misguided” and said it will fight it.

“I think we are living in an era where everyone wants to blame the real estate and construction industries for the woes of society,”said Carlo A. Scissura, president and chief executive of the New York Building Congress. “In reality, we are building everything in New York that people take for granted like subways, schools and affordable housing.”

To read more about this debate, check out the New York Times.

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