W.T.C. neighbors make noise over construction noise

By Julie Shapiro

Continuous noise from the World Trade Center construction site is getting unbearable, residents say.

“It has been horrific and it has been ongoing,” said Pat Moore, who lives at 125 Cedar St. “The people who were victimized on 9/11 continue to be victimized six years later.”

Consequently, Community Board 1 was interested to hear the Department of Environmental Protection’s recent suggestion: Build a plywood fence around the site.

Charles Sturcken, chief of staff for environmental compliance at the D.E.P., mentioned the idea at the Nov. 15 meeting of the Quality of Life Committee.

“It would do a lot to mitigate noise coming from the construction site,” he said.

The city requires most construction companies to build plywood fences around their sites, but the Port Authority is exempt from city rules and generally uses chain-link fences, Sturcken said. He urged the board to “keep the pressure” on the Port Authority to build a plywood fence, and said he would work with the Downtown Alliance as well.

Moore, who did not attend last week’s meeting, had mixed feelings after hearing about the suggestion.

“I’m all for anything that would work,” she said. “But I have no idea if that would help.”

At an earlier meeting, a Port Authority representative told Moore, chairperson of the Quality of Life Committee, that a wall wouldn’t do any good. Moore is also concerned that the wood fence could be a fire hazard. And then there’s the problem of constructing the fence, which would presumably add to the noise Moore faces on a daily basis.

The Port Authority is planning to meet with C.B. 1 this week. Steve Coleman, a Port spokesperson, said the agency has continually worked with residents to address noise complaints.

Steven Abramson, who lives at 114 Liberty St., is skeptical about the fence.

“I doubt that would help,” he said.

Abramson likened noise to cold air, which wends through any opening and spreads under, over or through barriers.

“It might blunt some of [the noise] from street level,” Abramson said, “but from up higher I don’t see how it could.”

Mark Scherzer, a 125 Cedar St. resident, would want an expert opinion before deciding whether to support a plywood fence.

“My lay instinct is that it’s probably not going to be effective,” Scherzer said. “It’s hard to imagine that they would [build a fence] that would be tall enough to do anything.”

Scherzer lives on the 13th floor and still hears the high-pitched beeping of trucks backing up, loudly and clearly. If that noise is already echoing through the site’s deep pit, Scherzer questioned how much extra protection a short fence would provide. And if the Port Authority built a taller fence, “that might be a hazard in and of itself,” Scherzer said.

“Limiting the hours of work would be more effective,” he added.

For now, the construction’s hours are anything but limited.

The Port is working 20 hours a day in a crunch before the Dec. 31 deadline, when it must turn part of the site over to Silverstein Properties to build Towers 3 and 4. The agency faces a fine of $300,000 a day for going past the deadline.

“They just care about meeting the deadline, and to heck with quality of life,” Moore said.

Residents have struggled to adapt to ever-changing construction schedules that start at all hours of the night.

“People have surrendered their evenings, but they don’t like to surrender their midnight-to-6 a.m. shift,” Scherzer said. “[Construction noise is] definitely intruding on both ends.”

To cope, Scherzer spends as much time out of town as he can, and uses white noise when at home. “You do, to some degree, learn to sleep through this stuff,” he said.

C.B. 1 member Barry Skolnick questioned the allowed noise levels at the Quality of Life Committee, but many usual city rules don’t apply to Port Authority.

“There is no [noise] level that Port Authority is required to be below,” said Josh Rosenbloom, director of city operations at the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center.

Between the jackhammers that shake the building and the rumbling, beeping trucks, all at 5 a.m., Moore has had enough.

“I just don’t understand why they can’t do something to mitigate the noise,” she said. “Well, I do know why: They don’t care.”