Saturday construction on Amsterdam Avenue near Lincoln Towers.

With the economy improving and financing becoming more available, developers are once again building high-rises on the Upper West Side. The city is clearly excited about this, and has given contractors wide latitude: the Department of Buildings has been allowing many contractors to work on the projects at all hours of the day, and on weekends and holidays. We’ve heard about some construction starting as early as 5 a.m. and other projects ending as late as 2 a.m. (hey, all you really need is three hours of sleep, right?).

The constant noise and disruption is driving lots of Upper West Siders nuts.

Construction at the Apthorp on 79th street (at right), and a new development at 166-178 Amsterdam Avenue (68th street), among others, have caused an increasing number of complaints and prompted local politicians to write to the Department of Buildings. We’ve posted the letters below.

“With increasing frequency, I am hearing from constituents throughout my district who are plagued by construction that wakes them up each morning and is so loud that they must shout to be heard in their own homes,” wrote Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. The Buildings Department has “decided that Saturday is just the next work day after Friday,” she tells us.

At the Apthorp, she wrote last month, the city has given out numerous permits for construction companies to work on the weekends (called After-Hours Variances), and the work continues even when contractors don’t have permits.

“One such After-Hours Variance (00467198) even states that there are no residential dwellings within 200 feet of the site—a virtual impossibility in the interior of a dense, residential building like the Apthorp—and allows for demolition and other work on weekdays until 2 a.m., on Saturday until 2 a.m. and on Sunday until 7 p.m. Taking advantage of the new AHVs issued for other jobs, the contractor for job 120948298 resumed Saturday work without an AHV on 1/19/2013. Neither this 311 complaint nor the earlier one regarding after-hours work without an AHV has been investigated to date.”

The Buildings Department did not respond to our requests for comment. We also haven’t heard back from Apthorp management. Rosenthal’s staff tells us that the city has since “revoked variances granted for work on weekends only, and put a hold on the issuing of additional weekend variances” at the Apthorp. The buildings department also made contractors stop work on a Chase bank at 9 p.m., instead of 2 a.m., and disallowed work there on weekends.

Rosenthal told us that the city does not coordinate construction information, so a weekend Department of Transportation project might be going on at the same time as a building project. That’s an issue she says she’s trying to get fixed.

“For far too many people living in my district, the weekend has become a cacophony of construction noise, partly because City agencies do not coordinate or communicate with each other. It is imperative that City agencies collaborate before issuing permits for weekend work to keep disruption to neighborhoods to an absolute minimum.”

Other projects have also been keeping locals up at all hours. We received an email last month from one local on 69th street who dealt with three straight months of construction noise starting as early as 5 a.m. on weekdays, and continuing throughout weekends and holidays. Despite what seem like very clear problems, he didn’t get much help from anyone:

“My wife and I rent an apartment on one of the brownstone blocks of the Upper West Side and for the last year and a half + there has been a major renovation project happening next door – basically a wealthy hedge fund manager purchased the building and has been converting it from apartments in to a single-family home (I have no problem with someone doing this).

While we understand that such construction is going to cause some disruption to people living around it we’ve grown increasingly frustrated at their lack of regard for their neighbors – primarily the fact that for the past 3 months now they’ve been granted weekend construction permits (consecutive weekends so there has been no break). Well, that in addition to their general disregard for construction hours (like the hammering at 5 am this morning). While we and many others around have filed complaints (311) they generally get rubber stamped as “no violation when inspected” and so on. I recently sent a letter to the community board but have not heard any response.

What I was wondering was is this common? I think everyone understands there is going to be construction and that it isn’t always going to be convenient, heck I think we even understand that there will sometimes be construction on the weekends but what has been so bothersome is the fact that the weekend work has been allowed for 3 straight months (including the holidays). Is that normal on the Upper West Side and do you know how you go about fighting this constant granting of these weekend variances? I tried writing the building department but that, I’m guessing, found its way in to a giant black hole there.”

We checked in with him again today:

“Relief came in the form of the job being completed (of course they finished on a Saturday for which they did not have a permit!). I did contact both the community board and our city council rep but never heard from either – much like when I contacted the building department. Seems like all communication related to this ended up in some dead letter queue.

Now in my case while I found the noise during the day to be a little frustrating (when working from home) I never complained about it as they were well within their rights to make whatever noise they needed to make (I understand construction can be a loud business), my only beef was with the 3 consecutive months of weekend permits granted – I felt that while an occasional variance was understandable 3 months in a row of non-stop weekend work was out of line and not fair to the surrounding community. And the fact my, and others complaints fell on deaf ears was disheartening.

I should also note that when complaints were filed it often seemed like resolution came many days later with “no violation found” type of response as the inspector from the building department’s “emergency response unit” didn’t do an inspection until many days later. Now I don’t think any of my weekend work complaints fell in this bucket (not sure any of my complaints found their way to the BIS system from 311) but when you complain about after hours work and the inspection is done 2 or more days later something seems a bit wrong!

At least I’m finally resting easy!”

Letters from Rosenthal and Gale Brewer about some of the other complaints are below. Let us know in the comments if you’ve had similar problems.

2013.01.22 AM Rosenthal Letter to DOB Re Apthorp Weekend Work by westsiderag

2012.12.18 Letter to DOB and DOT Re Construction Noise and Weekend Variances by

LiMandri, Robert 2013-01-30 After Hours and Weekend Work by westsiderag

Construction photo by Avi. Apthorp photo by Cresny.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 6 comments | permalink
    1. UWSPebbles says:

      I live in The Dorchester, directly across from two construction sites: Lincoln Square Synagogue (nearly done) and the pit next to it, which I imagine will be a luxury apartment building.

      For many months, I have endured construction starting at 5am, some done evenings as late as 11pm and construction all weekend. I have called 311 and the synagogue and apparently, they did have special permits to allow construction on the weekends.

      It’s really awful. The upside is I don’t need an alarm clock anymore.

    2. Batya Lewton says:

      Thank you for your excellent coverage. I am sending your link to Coalition’s email list.

    3. Angry says:

      It’s about time this city started thinking about the people who ALREADY live and pay taxes here. There is NO good reason the city should be allowing such ridiculous hours for construction.

    4. Pedestrian says:

      The City doesn’t care about tax paying residents. It doesn’t care about our streets, our storm drains or our sleep. The City or should I say mayor Bloomberg only cares about the care and feeding of billionaire developers who get development right give aways, millions of dollars in tax breaks and free rein to destroy the livability of our city any time they want. Permits mean nothing, zoning means nothing, health and safety laws mean nothing, noise and construction hour laws mean nothing. The City will always accommodate a developer. After all aren’t developers the only ones who matter in the City. Until the voters of this City make it clear to the mayor and the City council that they want a voice and they want protection from these profit hungry neighborhood destroyers this will continue happening.

    5. CN says:

      My senior parents live across the street from P.S. 63 on East 4th Street in Manhattan. The school is being renovated and because the students are in school during the day, constructions only takes place after 8 pm. The poor tenants at the Village View apartments are hearing hammering, grinding, loud talking, and the slamming of equipment till midnight, Monday through Saturday.

      Complaints to 311, NYC School Construction Authority, DEP and the mayor have fallen on deaf ears!

      Stay tuned…there is a feisty old lady living there that won’t give up the fight for her right to a better quality of life!