Sound and fury!
Residents slam loud, messy school rehab
Gramercy residents are fuming about a 19-month-old school construction project that has turned the neighborhood into an unbearably loud dumping ground, saying their near-daily complaints are routinely ignored by the de Blasio administration and elected officials.
The eye-ear-and-nose sore is Washington Irving High School, whose famous alums include Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, and where the city’s School Construction Authority is in the midst of a $43 million overhaul, but has yet to come up with a proper plan to eliminate the mountain of garbage bags generated by the six schools using the 1913 building.
Though Department of Sanitation officials have supplied the school with tilttruck garbage cans with lids to keep out rats and other vermin, staff at the 11-story school building still dump trash bags in large open-air bins, infuriated residents say.
“There are nine city agencies working on this and collectively they can’t figure out how to put trash in a garbage can?” resident Julie Block railed. “It’s kind of shocking.”
“If it wasn’t so disgusting I’d go over there on a nightly basis and do it myself,” she added.
Block and other residents email photos of the overflowing garbage to a list of city officials almost daily. The Daily News has been included on the email chain over the past month.
The emails are rarely, if ever, answered.
“This should not be the community’s responsibility,” Block said.
School officials told The News that the garbage is sometimes temporarily placed outside the containers while it’s being hauled out of the school. Additionally, Sanitation Department garbage trucks make 14 stops at the school each week, including once each Saturday.
And residents’ noise complaints haven’t been totally ignored. The city now stops construction at 10 p.m., limits weekend work, and provides regular notice for street closings and crane activity.
The noise, however, continues to blare at night, residents say.
“I had to have my TV on volume 42 to drown out the noise,” Block groused in an email last Wednesday. “You keep telling us you’re in compliance with noise regulations, can you please show us a single independent report that confirms that?”
Construction officials say they’ve installed noise-muffling blankets wherever possible.
Gramercy residents also are aworried about dust from the site, suspicious it’s toxic and has caused health issues.
School officials counter that the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and an independent monitor hired by the authority have completed several inspections for dust, and no violations have been issued.
Meanwhile, residents have repeatedly asked for the reports, to no avail.
“We don’t believe they exist,” Block said. “There’s an environmental problem that no one is watching.”
Block contends the construction project is in violation of multiple city regulations.
During a meeting at the Manhattan Borough President’s office in June, one sanitation senior staffer told residents that departments responsible for enforcing the rules are reluctant to issue fines to other agencies.
“Why isn’t the SCA being held to the same standard as a private contractor?” Block asked. “Why have I had to spend close to 1,000 hours monitoring this project and ensuring that it gets done in a safe manner?”
Block, a former assistant Department of Investigation commissioner, has filed a complaint with her old agency.
SCA spokeswoman Isabelle Boundy defended the city’s response to community complaints.
“Trash is a concern for all New Yorkers, but the unique challenge our neighborhood faces balancing a major structural repair…with the continuous operation of six schools in the building requires us to work closely with community members and city agencies,” she said.
“That is why we have conducted walkthroughs of the site and continue to hold monthly calls” with multiple involved parties, she added.
Washington Irving H.S. campus in Gramercy is undergoing a massive renovation, but residents say the noise goes on until late at night and garbage (below) is not properly disposed of despite numerous complaints.