M.T.A. admits ‘dropping the ball’ at Corbin site

Financial District residents that live near the future Fulton Center are distressed by weekend racket caused by the project’s construction workers. Photo courtesy of Tom Ondreicka

BY ALINE REYNOLDS| The seemingly endless construction work in one superblock of the Financial District is driving local residents to their wit’s end.

Construction of the Fulton Center — which entails the completion of the Corbin Building and several passageways and entrances to the future subway station by June 2014 — is progressing as planned, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency overseeing the project. But lately, construction workers have been sawing, jackhammering and performing other noisy work on Saturday and Sunday mornings during unauthorized hours — disturbing nearby residents during their sleep and down time at home.

A subway entrance, known as the headhouse, on Dey Street and Broadway opened this week, and scaffolding on the Corbin Building’s exterior will begin to be dismantled by the month’s end. The A/C train mezzanine platform is now open to straphangers, as is the pedestrian passageway connecting the A/C and J/Z subway lines. The elevators and escalators for the A/C mezzanine will be finished next March.

While work on weekends is generally permissible, the M.TA.’s contractor is prohibited from working outdoors before 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, according to Martin Tagliaferro, program manager for the consultant construction manager for the Fulton Transit Center. But local residents claim to have heard commotion at the site starting as early as 7 a.m. on a recent Saturday.

Tagliaferro admitted that the contractors violated the work schedule regulations in a “big push” to meet certain project deadlines. “I sincerely apologize — the contractors started way too early and made way too much noise,” Tagliaferro told Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee at its Oct. 3 meeting. “We did hear you…we have approached the contractor numerous times, and we’ll enforce this as best we can.”

Though he admitted that the M.T.A.’s Fulton Center contractor “dropped the ball,” Tagliaferro also said, “Anything can happen [in the future]” and “The best way to end the noise is to finish this work.”

His words hardly assuaged members of the committee and infuriated local residents who made cynical interjections throughout Tagliaferro’s presentation at the meeting.

Committee member Michael Ketring, an attorney, asserted that the M.T.A. is ultimately responsible for infringements on the part of its contractors. The violation in discussion, he said, “is not just a failure of the contractor, it’s a failure of the M.T.A. management.”

Barbara Minsky, who lives at 12 John St., was particularly frustrated by the noise disturbances during the last weekend of September. “I can’t tell you the kind of stress I’ve been under,” she said. “All we wanted is quiet on weekends. I’m having surgery on Monday. It’s outrageous.”

David Colman, who lives at 65 Nassau St., was frustrated by Tagliaferro’s vague replies. “I have this fantasy in which a representative of one of these companies comes in here and doesn’t do double-speak…just tells the truth and listens and says, ‘I hear what you’re saying, I’m going to do something about it,’” he said.

Several members of the committee also objected to Tagliaferro’s statements. Committee member Pat Moore deemed the contractor’s violations of the working hours “unconscionable” and demanded that the M.T.A. play hardball with the contractor.

“The residents have been coming to the community board for months and months saying it’s an intolerable situation,” she said. “We expect to hear some change.”

“People have a right not to have construction seven days a week,” chimed in Susan Cole, co-chair of the Financial District Committee. “We want an answer and we want it resolved.”

Asked about punitive measures the M.T.A. could impose on the contractor for breaching the rules, Tagliaferro said that, while the agency can withhold or deduct payment, he couldn’t make any promises about the contractor’s compliance.

“Even if we finish, the noise isn’t going away” — he said, referencing other loud construction projects in the vicinity.

The weekend following the meeting, the same residents wrote angry messages to officials at the city Department of Design and Construction about saw work beginning at 8:30 a.m. The agency is currently working on Fulton Phase III, which entails an overhaul of Nassau Street and others in the area following underground utility replacement work. Responding to the complaint, Venecia Villafana, the construction community liaison for Fulton Phase III, attributed the early morning construction to storefront renovations at 37-39 John St.

Colman described the Saturday morning noise as “so loud and so grating that it gave me a splitting headache in my apartment within about 90 seconds — not to mention trucks and bulldozers going full-tilt which were not exactly in ‘whisper’ mode.”

Jackhammering performed by D.D.C. workers began two hours later, forcing Colman to leave his apartment for the day.

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