John St. residents want peace and quiet

Financial District resident Barbara Minsky believes she and her neighbors should be wearing hard hats when entering and exiting their apartments.

With the nighttime infrastructure work and the ongoing demolition of the building next door, residents of 12 John St. (between Broadway and Nassau Street) feel like they’re living in the center of one big construction zone.

“My life has stopped, basically” thanks to the “symphony of disturbances,” said Minsky.

The distressed Minsky, who is an abstract painter by trade, has not been able to work in her home studio the last few weeks due to the constant jackhammering sounds and vibrations emanating from outside her apartment. Minsky has also been awoken during the night by the thumping sound car wheels make when passing over the steel plates Con Edison has temporary installed to cover the excavation work below.

“I don’t know when the next noise is coming, or when I’m going to be woken up in the middle of the night,” Minsky said, as she flipped through her notebook full of construction supervisor contacts with whom she has filed complaints.

The situation, Minsky said, has become unbearable — so much so that she left on May 21 for a month-long trip to Martha’s Vineyard, where she’s hoping to catch up on her artwork and find some much-needed peace and quiet.

Con Edison is replacing a steam main underneath John Street. The project hit a snag when an underground water leak was recently discovered, according to D. Joy Faber, a spokesperson for the utilities company, requiring additional work during the evening and early morning hours.

The emergency work period, which began on April 7, ended on May 23, and all of the work has been complied with Con Edison’s city-authorized permits, according to Faber.

“We recognize that the nature of the work we do is noisy and can be disruptive,” Faber said. “However, we make every effort to complete these jobs as quickly and as efficiently as we can to minimize impacts.”

The jackhammering sounds, meanwhile, are coming the dismantling of the adjacent building at 2 John St., where commercial developer SL Green Realty is making way for a 23-story dormitory for Pace University.

The demolition will be finished in the next month, and the new building is scheduled to open in Jan. 2013, according to the developer.

“SL Green is committed to completing construction of a new dormitory for Pace University in Lower Manhattan while working closely with the local community,” said Edward V. Piccinich, executive vice president of SL Green.

The developer appeared before Community Board 1’s May 4 Financial District Committee to solicit residents’ feedback about the John Street project. Nearly all the feedback was negative, prompting the company to take measures “above and beyond” those required by the city, such as installing vibration monitors in and around the site, and implementing a façade-monitoring program at 176 Broadway, the second of the three buildings that will make up the dormitory. At the last Financial District Committee meeting, the developer had promised not to work on Saturdays, though the company wouldn’t confirm this in a recent interview with the Downtown Express.

In reference to the vibration complaints, Piccinich said, “As a result of our team’s careful work, we have had no incidents of vibrations exceeding the limits at this point.”

But Minsky would beg to differ. At times, the tremors force her to relive the traumas of 9/11. “When my chair was shaking [the other day], I was full of fear — it was like I was being attacked again,” she said.

Following hours of phone conversations with SL Green supervisors — time she would otherwise spend arranging exhibitions in local art galleries — Minsky got a vibration monitor installed alongside her living room wall.

The SL Green personnel, however, haven’t explained the noise level measurements. “The person who came to inspect the monitor [this week] couldn’t tell me what the allowable vibration number is,” said Tom Ondreicka, Minsky’s domestic partner.

As for the noise, Ondreicka, a house painter, said, “It’s not like I need to have quiet to do my work, but it does get maddening after a while. It’s literally 24 hours of insane noise — you want it to stop.”

Minsky felt reassured upon hearing that at least two feet of bricks separate her living room wall from the wall of the tear-down. “That made me feel better, but why did I have to turn cartwheels to get that information? It’s become a job now,” she said.

Artist-in-residence Mary Ann Moy, who lives on the fifth floor of 12 John St., has been equally disturbed by the constant shaking and hammering.

Moy measured the noise level using her iPhone last week, when the disturbances were especially severe. The daytime reading was 100 decibels, prompting her and her husband to seal the bottom door crack with blankets.

This, however, was only a temporary fix. “It just was unlivable in the majority of the loft, so I got out of town,” she said. “Our quality of life is really being disregarded.”

Moy and Minsky are hoping SL Green will replace their antiquated windows with double-paned glass panels.

Recently, they said, pedestrians have had to walk on the road, since part of the John Street sidewalk is closed off. The residents are also afraid of flying debris hitting them when traversing the street.

In response to the residents’ complaints, Piccinich said, “We will continue to work with the [NYC] Department of Buildings, Downtown Alliance, and our neighbors throughout this process, and look forward to completing this exciting project.” He wouldn’t comment on the residents’ request for new windows.

Despite having fleeting thoughts of moving to another neighborhood in the city, Minsky is determined to stay put in her spacious apartment.

“If Bin Laden didn’t get me out, these mothers ain’t gonna get me out,” she said. “I’ll just have to leave town for weeks on end for the next few years.”