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2006 environmental analysis underestimates extent of construction noise impacts; affected residents left without recourse


AYW has received numerous incident reports about noise from nighttime work in the vicinity of Pacific Street, 4th and Atlantic Avenues beginning in late July.  Similar complaints have also been posted on Brownstoner and made to elected officials. The work involves infrastructure for the Barclays Center, and includes street construction with jackhammering.  

After following up with the residents who submitted incident reports, AYW has observed the following:

  • Some affected residents live outside the zone identified in the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) where significant noise impacts were anticipated.  Sensitive receptor locations in the 2006 analysis (locations like residences or open space where human activity may be affected by project generated noise) do not account for more recent conversions from commercial to residential in the vicinity of the project site.
  • None of the residents complaining have received notice of the noise attenuation measures offered by Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC).
  • The specific noise attenuation measures offered as mitigation (double paned windows and air conditioners) are already in place and residents report they are still kept up at night.

A common complaint in the residents' reports is that their windows are not sufficient to stop the noise caused by the jackhammering, resulting in sleepless nights.  The homes of the residents commenting below are labeled on the map above showing the zone significant construction noise impacts were anticipated in the 2006 FEIS (modified from FEIS, figure 17c-2).  The anticipated affected area is shaded gray.  It is also the zone in which FCRC is required to make noise mitigation measures available to residents.

#1:  "I can't sleep. I had a guest leave my apartment at 3am a few weeks ago to stay in a hotel because of the jack hammering...If someone doesn't put a stop to this, I will either have to have my windows soundproofed or move." 

"I've been using a window air conditioner to cover the noise so I can get some sleep at night, but I'm concerned about the coming weeks when the weather will surely cool down...As for double paned windows, I believe my building has them already, though cheap and cracked, and they do very little (if nothing at all) to muffle the noise. For the record, no one ever contacted me personally to offer air conditioners or windows." (incident report 326)

#2:  "looking at soundproofing my windows which is expensive, but so is losing my sanity." (incident report 313)

#3:  "Children (and adults) in the units facing Atlantic up and down the block and around the intersection are not sleeping at all...What can we do to stop this madness? I've heard many people threatening violence, and I understand their level of frustration b/c this is tantamount to sleep deprivation torture."

". . . it's a newer building but cheap windows.  Hard to imagine any windows could block jackhammering just feet away." (incident report 289)

Resident #1 lives inside the zone in which FCRC is required to mitigate construction noise; however, the resident did not receive notice of the mitigations.  The resident moved to the location in 2010. Letters giving notice of noise mitigations were sent to some property owners (not tenants) in 2007 and are not distributed on a regular basis.

The work triggering the complaints is outside the zone where the FEIS anticipates significant noise impacts to occur.  Residents #2 and #3 also live outside that zone.  Neither recalls noise mitigations being offered to them at any time.  

 Identifying construction noise receptors and significant noise impacts

The assessment of whether to analyze an area for significant noise impacts from construction work is determined by a number of factors including the duration and intensity of the exposure as well as the nature of the neighborhood near the work.  Residences within the area where significant noise impacts were anticipated in the FEIS have been offered the noise attenuation of air conditioners and double paned windows.

The CEQR Technical Manual (the manual that sets the guidelines environmental analysis is supposed to follow in New York City) states analysis of significant noise impacts should take place if construction equipment would be operating for a period of more than two years within 1500 feet of a sensitive receptor, but that shorter periods should be assessed if the work is intense (CEQR, 22-3).  Likewise, the anticipated duration of each stage or activity should be considered  (CEQR, 22-4). "Nighttime (between 10 PM and 7 AM) is a particularly critical time period relative to potential nuisance values for noise level increases (CEQR, 19-20)."

The numbered black ovals on the map to the right show the location of the construction noise receptors assessed in the FEIS.  There are no construction noise receptors to the west or north of the the 4th Avenue/Atlantic Avenue intersection where residents #2 and #3 live.

Residents #2 and #3 live in new construction at the locations marked "X" and "Y" on the map. Because the assumptions in the FEIS are six years old, changes of use of some buildings like One Hanson Place (home to resident #2) are not accounted for. The 37 story, 189 unit One Hanson Place (labeled "X") is identified as having office and institutional uses through its rust and blue color  (modified from FEIS, figure 17c-1).

The Technical Memo issued with the 2009 MGPP does include the residential development of One Hanson Place in its list of background changes, but does not adjust the zone where significant noise impacts will occur to accommodate those background changes.  No effort is made in the analysis to expand the sensitive receptor locations because of background changes in the vicinity of the project.  CEQR states a sensitive receptor location is "usually defined as an area where human activity may be adversely affected when noise levels exceed predefined thresholds of acceptability or when noise levels increase by an amount exceeding a predefined threshold of change (CEQR 19-6)."

The source of the nighttime noise in these complaints, jackhammering from street work related to traffic mitigations, started in July.  According to FCRC's Community Liaison Brigitte LaBonte, the work will be complete by the time of the New York City Marathon in early November and is required by NYC DOT to take place between 10 PM and 6 AM.  This means residents in the area are three quarters of the way through a four month long nighttime "dentist appointment" (as FCRC Vice President Jane Marshall described the work at the most recent Atlantic Yards District Cabinet). 

LaBonte also notes that there are two other sources of nighttime work in the vicinity:  installation of water and sewer taps at Flatbush and 5th Avenue (now moving up to Dean and Flatbush), and the three stage installation of a new water trunk main on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.  The water main work is anticipated to be complete in April 2012.

Additional Press

Noticing New York suggests the substantial extended hours work approved at the site is a sign either that Barclays Center, LIRR railyard and Carlton Avenue Bridge construction has fallen behind schedule, or that the amount of extended hours work necessary at the site was always understated in the FEIS.  

Atlantic Yards Report has written a number of reports on extended hours work.

A Brownstoner forum stimulated discussion from nearby residents about the nighttime work at 4th and Atlantic.

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