Those without soundproof windows are ready to throw stones

By Julie Shapiro

The irony of her position does not escape Pat Moore: She fought for soundproof windows for her building and the others near the World Trade Center site, but her building looks like it will be the last to get the windows — if it gets them at all.

“We don’t understand why they haven’t taken advantage of the program,” she said of her landlord. “We don’t understand the holdup.”

Moore, chairperson of Community Board 1’s Quality of Life Committee, lives at 125 Cedar St. across from the World Trade Center. She and other residents battled for soundproof windows when the Port Authority pushed work on the site to 21 hours a day last winter.

After pressure from elected officials, the Port agreed in January to reimburse several building owners within 100 feet of the site if they installed soundproof windows. But it was up to building owners to take the next step, and more than eight months after the announcement, it’s been slow going.

The only building so far to sign an agreement with the Port Authority is 113 Cedar St., a market-rate building with 14 apartments. Six of those apartments face ground zero, and they will receive a total of 18 windows, said Charles Gengler, president of Baldwin Realty, which owns the building.

“We’ve had a number of tenants raise concerns about the noise, and we have had residents leave because of the noise,” Gengler said. Installing soundproof windows “makes it a lot easier to market the apartment,” he said.

A manufacturer is currently making the custom windows, which cost $1,190 apiece. The Port Authority program covers up to $1,200 per window, but Gengler said his costs will exceed that, because some of the windows have air conditioners, which require extra work.

“That will come out of our pocket,” Gengler said of the overrun.

Gengler is also concerned about cleaning the two layers of glass. The windows facing the Trade Center site get dirty quickly because of all the construction. But Gengler said his concern about the noise and retaining tenants outweighs his concern about cleaning the windows.

The other buildings eligible for the program are 90 West St., 114 Liberty St. and Moore’s building, 125 Cedar St. The residents of 114 Liberty St., a condo building, installed their own soundproof windows several years ago. Steve Coleman, spokesperson for Port Authority, said the Port would consider reimbursing the residents for those windows. The owners of 90 West and 125 Cedar have not signed the Port’s agreement.

At 125 Cedar St., Moore has spent the better part of the last six months trying to figure out if her landlord, Samson Management, plans to install the windows. Last week, a window company came to her apartment to measure her windows, which should have been a good sign — but the same company did the same thing six months ago, and then four months ago, and the windows have not materialized. Moore said Samson Management did not return her phone calls, and the company declined to comment for this article.

“We’re just frustrated and tired, very tired,” Moore said.

She was also concerned that the Port Authority program only covers windows directly facing the World Trade Center site, even though the noise reverberates around the sides of the building.

“Noise doesn’t just hit my wall and stop,” Moore said. “The entire building needs to be soundproofed.”

If her landlord decides to install the windows, Moore wants to make sure he does not count the windows as a capital improvement for the rent-stabilized building and use them as an excuse to raise her rent.

Kathleen Moore, who is Pat Moore’s neighbor but is not related to her, also called on the management to install the windows.

“There’s really no excuse for them having taken so long,” Kathleen Moore said. “It has been very, very, very difficult to maintain a sane life under these conditions. What keeps me going is knowing that it’s temporary, but what’s distracting is that temporary has been going on for seven years and there’s no end in sight.”

She added, “This is all rebuilding, and I understand that, but I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb.”

Ninety West St., a market-rate rental building and the largest building covered by the Port’s program, also has not signed an agreement with the Port Authority.

Peter Levenson, principal at the Kibel Companies, one of 90 West St.’s owners, said he is hesitant to install the windows throughout the building because they are not attractive and difficult to clean. Levenson said he has not gotten many noise complaints from residents recently — and when residents do complain, it’s usually because they are particularly sensitive to the noise.

One of those residents was so bothered by the noise that Levenson decided to use his apartment as a test case. Levenson installed three soundproof windows in that apartment, which each provide an extra layer of glass between the resident and the street. Levenson said the windows did not make much difference and his building manager said the tenant did not want to comment.

Levenson may not be hearing many complaints, but some residents are venting on 90WestStreet.blogspot.com, a tenants’ blog. In July and August, several posters advised potential tenants not to move in. “the noise is terrible, all hours of the day, all sides of the building,” one poster wrote.

Levenson said that since the regular windows at 90 West St. are relatively new, they block out nearly all of the construction noise already. Adding the soundproof windows, he said, just mitigates the noise by another few percentage points.

“Our plan is not to install windows in every apartment that faces site, but to make it available to the people who want it,” Levenson said. “If it were my apartment, I wouldn’t put it in.”

Levenson said he planned to sign an agreement with the Port Authority to get reimbursed for the windows he does install.