Side Street Water Main Work Expected to End Before L Train Shutdown

Work began on Dec. 11, 2017 for the project, which is expected to take 18 months. Seen here, construction currently underway at W. 15th St. and Eighth Ave. | Photo by Scott Stiffler

BY NATHAN DICAMILLO | A project by the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to install new water mains from W. 15th St. to W. 18th St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves. began late last year and is scheduled for completion just as the L train’s shutdown is expected to put a strain on area side streets.

Disruption of services and noise mitigation were among the concerns at a Jan. 31 town hall. Sponsored by the DDC, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Community Board 4 (CB4) and the Meatpacking BID, the informational session took place at the Bayard Rustin Educational Campus, whose 351 W. 18th St. location puts its students within eyesight and earshot of the multi-year project, which started on Dec. 11, 2017 and is being carried out by J R Cruz Corporation.

The department is removing the water mains — estimated to be 80 to 100 years old — and installing new ones of the same size (8, 12, or 20 inches). Existing gate valves will also be removed and replaced, as will fire hydrants. Most of the work, the DDC noted, is underground and will not involve any sidewalk or curb restoration.

“This is the type of work that we as New Yorkers never see,” said Norberto Acevedo, Jr., Deputy Director for the DDC’s Office of Community Outreach and Notification.

The work is going to be 15 feet off the east curb line. “It’s not exactly the middle of the street,” Acevedo noted, “but it is far off the curb where we are going to be working.” The city will preserve pedestrian access as well as assign flaggers for crosswalks.

There will be periods of time where residential water service will be disrupted, as construction crews shut down an old main to replace it with a new one. Residents will receive a 72-hour advance notice, with a 24-hour advance confirmation of that notice when water shutdowns are going to occur.

The construction crews will work Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on streets, and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on avenues. For water shutdowns, the crews will work 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., with water shutdowns happening ideally while residents are sleeping — but no noisy operations are allowed after 10 p.m. The crew will work weekends 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Working hours and days are confirmed by the Department of Transportation, and information on the schedule can be obtained by visiting CB 4’s home page and clicking on the link under the heading “Trunk Water Main Project (MED642).”

A slide from the DDC’s presentation shows the scope of water main replacement work in West Chelsea. | Image courtesy NYC DDC

No streets will be shut down and traffic will be uninterrupted by the project, Acevedo said. The crews will shut down street parking in some areas, however, with a 72-hour notice. Express, private, and local bus stops in the district may be temporarily relocated. “The number of lanes of traffic will be the same,” Acevedo noted. “It’s just a shift in the pattern where people are driving.”

The project, ideally, will not conflict with the closing of the L train, which is expected to begin in March 2019. “In theory, we’re all done by then,” Acevedo said. “This is an 18-month contract [whose Notice to Proceed date was Oct. 2, 2017], and I don’t kid anybody by saying that we will be done in exactly 18 months.”

Paul Groncki, president of the 100 West 16th Street Block Association, told this publication by phone that having the city work on replacing the water mains now is better than the alternative — a water main break.

“We’ve seen the reactive project,” Groncki said, recalling the water main breaks on Fifth and Seventh Aves. “I’d rather work proactively on this than reactively.”

At the town hall, one resident who lives on W. 16th St. and Ninth Ave. expressed frustration over having brown water, no water or low pressure water for three years while the city worked on the Ninth Ave. main. “Periodically you’ll get one building or another,” he said. “It’s never all the buildings at the same time… It happens on and off.”

If residents experience any brown water from the project, they should not worry, Acevedo said. “When we’re working on these old pipes and we start moving them around, sediment starts to come loose,” he noted, adding, “When you put a new lane of pipe in, we may have disturbed sediment from what we’re attaching it to which is the old pipe. Since the city can’t get to every single street all the time, this is sometimes what happens. It’s not dangerous, it just needs to be run and flushed.”

A teacher from Bayard Rustin questioned Acevedo about the school’s test times for SATs, Regents, and midterms, wondering how construction noise might interfere with testing at the school. “For some of these kids,” she noted, “noise can unsettle them.”

Acevedo said that the city has already begun contacting schools about test days and is willing to find ways to mitigate the circumstances. “We’re happy to know what the needs are,” he assured. “If we need to stay off the lot, we’ll take that into consideration.”

At a Jan. 31 town hall, the DDC’s Norberto Acevedo, Jr. offered assurances regarding advance notice of water shutdowns, traffic flow, and noise mitigation. | Photo by Nathan DiCamillo

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