By Carol Tannenhauser
A 19-story cantilevered building is going up fast on the northwest corner of 91st and Broadway, but the construction schedule has left at least one neighbor sleepless.
“You can’t imagine what they were doing just minutes ago,” Jamie Leo, an artist and writer from West 92nd Street, emailed WSR at 3:50 a.m. on Thursday. “Between groups of men shouting and explosive jackhammers and giant steel girders slamming…it’s really beyond belief.”
But not illegal. The owner and contractor received what is known as an After Hours Work Variance (AHV) Permit from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), allowing construction for 61 hours straight, from Monday, January 4th at 6 p.m. through Thursday, January 7th at 7 a.m.
“After-hours variances are granted primarily when it’s safer or less disruptive to a neighborhood to perform the work at night or on weekends,” explained Andrew Rudansky, Press Secretary of the DOB. “For example, variances are granted for work done near schools or public spaces, for heavy construction work that might require sidewalks to be closed to protect pedestrians, or for work that would cause traffic gridlock if it’s done during the day. Certain types of work such as concrete pours and adjustments to cranes need to be performed when there is minimal pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area, or when stopping extended operations midstream may pose a hazard to workers and the public.”
What about the hazards of sleep disruption and deprivation?
“As a 66-year-old working person I can tell you that losing sleep every night this week to ALL NIGHT construction is taking a toll,” Leo wrote. “It really could be the death of me.” He’s also critical of the design, calling it a “cantilevered monstrosity.”
Some other neighbors have also been up in arms about the cantilevered design since it was revealed in December 2019. Developed by Hampshire Properties and Adam America Real Estate, with financing affiliated with computer magnate Michael Dell, it was made possible by the purchase of air rights from 2465 Broadway—the low-rise building next door, housing an Equinox gym.
Calling the proposed building “ugly” and “out of context with the neighborhood,” neighbors formed the West 91st & Broadway Cantilever Opposition Group (C.O.G.), hiring urban planner George Janes to mount a zoning challenge. “I wrote the zoning challenge back in April,” Janes emailed WSR. “It was partially accepted and required new plans. The cantilever, however, was allowed to go ahead despite neighbors’ objections to it.
“There is no legal limit as to the size of a cantilever, though there are practical limits,” Janes added. “This one is approaching those limits and so looks huge.”
Chances are the overnight construction will reoccur; they have only reached the 11th floor. “It happened in September, October, November, December, and now,” Leo said. The future seems predictable…and, to him, puzzling.
“As every other business on Broadway’s UWS is closing, the fact that these Broadway skyscrapers are going up (a year into us being bunkered-down in our apartments due to Covid), it’s just a sick torture that’s hard to fathom,” he said. “But I am very aware that the problems I’ve been facing are very small compared to all the people in all of the closed businesses along Broadway (as in so many places) who have had no work for almost a year. Now, I’m going to do my best to try to salvage the rest of a night’s sleep.”
Here’s what Rudansky explained about noise and construction complaints in general: “When someone submits a noise complaints to 311, the complaints are routed to the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the NYPD. They enforce the Noise Code. If someone submits a complaint of illegal overnight building construction (without an AHV) to 311, the complaints are routed to DOB. We enforce the Construction Codes.”
WSR called Adam America Real Estate and the general contractor several times for comments on this story, but were unable to reach anyone. We have also not yet received responses to emails. We’ll update if we do.