Franklin Street partially closed until the summer


BY Aline Reynolds

Construction along Franklin Street, part of a five-year-long endeavor to update the aging infrastructure beneath Hudson Street in Tribeca, is now under way.

The NYC Department of Design and Construction, which is heading the Hudson Street project, is updating old water and sewer mains underneath Hudson and adjacent streets. The job will be completed by mid-2015, at which point the neighborhood will be hooked up to a new underground water tunnel that supplies water to the entire city, according to Craig Chin, public information officer of the D.D.C.

Construction workers just began breaking ground on Franklin Street, between Hudson and Greenwich Streets, last week. Construction there will be completed in July, according to Chin.

Once the water mains and private utilities are replaced in the area, the city will redo the roadways, sidewalks and curbs, and add new street lights and traffic signs to the affected streets.

The right-turn from the Holland Tunnel onto Hudson Street, meanwhile, will be temporarily closed until the below-grade work in the immediate vicinity is complete.

Chin also reported that parking will be temporarily suspended along Franklin and other affected streets during regular construction hours, and parts of these streets will be closed off to traffic.

The city Department of Transportation, meanwhile, is amending parking regulations in Tribeca to increase parking for residents, according to spokesperson Scott Gastel. The new rules will also open up more alternate side parking in the area.

The hammering and other noise on Franklin Street is already disturbing some local residents, who are bracing themselves for a long road ahead.

“We hear it all day, every day,” said Tom Ness, an accountant at 145 Hudson Street, who complained about the recent jackhammering sounds and persistent beeping of construction vehicles backing up.

When he opens the window on the 7th floor of his office building to offset the heat in the room, the noise escalates. “Having a lot of random noises continuously going on is difficult,” Ness said.

Lunch hour is the peak time of the noise, according to attorney Chloe Cockburn, who works at 99 Hudson Street, off the corner of Franklin Street.

“It distracts you from your work,” she said.

Gary Walia, the general manager of Tamarind Tribeca, on the corner of Hudson and Franklin Streets, said the noise has been extremely bothersome in the past week. “The street doesn’t look the same, and it’s hard to get traffic.”

“We’re a new business, and we could use some good exposure,” he added. “It’s a mess.”

Parking, Walia said, has also become a hassle. “[Patrons] don’t want to come, pay for parking garage, because everyone decided to hike the fares.”

Lee Yi, general manager of a grocery store on Hudson Street between Franklin and North Moore Streets, said the water in the store has been shut off a couple of different times, for six to eight hours at a time.

“We use big buckets to save water,” he said. “I hope they finish soon – it’s uncomfortable.”

Community Board 1’s Tribeca committee has been keeping a close eye on the project. It passed a resolution last November asking the D.D.C. to accelerate work along Franklin and Beach Streets in order to shorten the duration of the project.

The D.D.C. agreed to the proposal, and announced at the January C.B. 1 Tribeca committee meeting that it would curtail the street work by six months.

Hastening construction, Chin noted, will also benefit the city in terms of cost savings.

The D.D.C. has been sending out construction updates to community members weekly via e-mail. Nearby residents can also notify the D.D.C. of concerns that arise during the construction phases, according to Michael Connolly, co-chair of the committee.

The project requires continual vigilance by C.B. 1, according to Michael Levine, director of land use and planning at Community Board 1. “We feel as though the D.D.C. is doing its best to work with the contractors to try to minimize the effect of the [construction],” he said.

In its resolution, the committee also complained about construction noise disruptions before 8 a.m., and stressed the need for emergency access to the affected streets.

“The contractor follows the guidelines of the noise code set by the [NYC] Department of Environmental Protection,” replied Chin.

The resolution also cited the difficulty delivery trucks were having when unloading and loading goods in front of storefronts.

Committee Co-chair Peter Braus said it’s impossible to satisfy everyone in this situation. “Some people in a massive project like this are just going to be unhappy – I think that’s what everyone has come to accept at this point,” he said.

Other neighborhood residents don’t mind the noise, and are pleased that the city is making the fixes.

“The street has been in disrepair for a long time. I’m glad to see they’re fixing it,” said Jeri Mendez, who lives on North Moore and Greenwich Streets. Nearby residents, she said, are accustomed to sparse parking spots in the area, though visitors might be inconvenienced in the short-term.

“It’s a visual reminder that it’s harder to get around,” she said.

“It’s a little inconvenient, but they need to do it,” said Andy Obstler, who lives nearby on Watts and Greenwich Streets. “You need the sewer lines.”

Silke Steinberg, who lives on Hudson and Laight Streets, said the construction is the best thing that could have happened to her and her family.

“Since they closed the Hudson Street entrance to the Holland Tunnel [in September], there’s almost no traffic,” she said. “It’s like, amazing.”

Transportation is also not a problem, Steinberg said, since cars can still drop off or pick up riders. The construction noise, she said, is far less jarring than the honks from the cars that are usually backed up along Hudson before entering the Holland Tunnel.

And, as many local residents do, Steinberg has no parking troubles, since she keeps her car in a neighborhood garage.