A Step Forward for Noise Abatement — And a Neighborhood’s Well-Being

Seen on the evening of May 8, plates covered Con Edison trenches on W. 33rd St. near 10th Ave. Neighborhood resident and sound engineer Dave Lorentz asked, “Is Con Ed able to provide sound mitigation?” On a recent Sunday morning, he noted, “They were dropping metal plates!” | Photo by Christian Miles

BY RANIA RICHARDSON | Neighbors rallied in a campaign to minimize the highly disruptive noise from Con Edison’s overnight work that began last month on W. 33rd St., between Ninth and 10th Aves. Spearheaded by Julia Campanelli, the community initiative culminated in a town hall-style meeting organized by the District Office of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson for May 1, at which representatives from city agencies and other officials met with local residents to discuss their quality of life issue.

Campanelli, an actress and filmmaker, lives in the rear of a building on W. 34th St. that overlooks the work site, and leaves her air conditioner on to drown out the sound. She has measured volume of up to 90 decibels (dB) from previous work in the area using the smartphone app, “dB meter.” According to US Department of Health & Human Services, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB can cause temporary or permanent noise-induced hearing loss.

The current complaint is one of many over the years, as the neighborhood is experiencing an astonishing amount of development and the associated aggravations. The Midtown central business region is growing westward with the creation of the Special Hudson Yards District (the result of a comprehensive rezoning in 2005), and this area, from W. 30th to 41st Sts., between Eighth and 11th Aves., is dense with construction.

The most expansive project in the district, Hudson Yards, from Related Companies and Oxford Property Group, is “the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States,” according to the company’s press materials. Located west of 10th Ave., it is not germane to the issue at hand.

At left, an aerial view of W. 33rd St., between Ninth and 10th Aves., near Dyer Ave., the short thoroughfare midblock used primarily for Lincoln Tunnel traffic. At right, the view of W. 33rd St., between Dyer and Ninth Aves. | Image courtesy of Brookfield Property Partners

The May 1 gathering to discuss noise abatement included representatives from Con Edison, Community Board 4 (CB4), the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), Port Authority (including Lincoln Tunnel), as well as Brookfield Property Partners. The 10th Precinct was invited but did not attend.

At the time, Con Edison was on site daily from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. — saw-cutting, jackhammering, and digging trenches through the night. Daytime work is prohibited because City Knoll Middle School is on the block. Ironically, the school children who live within earshot of the racket may be going to class sleep deprived.

With the gas work complete, the next phase is to reinforce the electricity grid to “keep the neighborhood energized” according to Con Edison project manager Michael Moccia. The work will also benefit the Manhattan West development from Brookfield (W. 31st to 33rd Sts., btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) and Moynihan Station, the expansion of Penn Station into the James A. Farley Post Office Building.

At the May 1 meeting, Con Edison project manager Michael Moccia addressed overnight work in the vicinity of Manhattan West. | Photo by Rania Richardson

Dave Lorentz, a neighborhood resident and sound engineer asked, “Is Con Ed able to provide sound mitigation? On Sunday morning they were dropping metal plates!”

Attendees agreed that eliminating weekend work would provide at least some relief. A few days after the May 1 meeting, Con Edison, with a permit approved by the DOT, removed weekend work from the schedule and extended weekday hours to begin at 8 p.m. The original end date of June 15 was moved to July 7, although the remaining work will be revisited and an earlier finish is possible. The goal is to ensure reliable service in the area before the summertime heat.

Matt Green, who serves as Johnson’s Deputy Chief of Staff, District Director, facilitated the meeting. In reference to future issues, he said to the local residents, “The first step to take is to call 311 or use the 311 app (nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/5460/nyc311-mobile-app) if you have a smartphone. We need an official complaint to be lodged in order to track and follow-up with the city agencies.” Communication through 311 will often trigger an inspection.

Residents who aired their concerns at a May 1 town hall-style meeting have received assurances from Con Edison about changes to the disruptive construction schedule in the W. 33rd St. area. | Photo by Christian Miles

At the suggestion of the attendees, executives from the DEP had a post-meeting discussion with Con Edison regarding noise mitigation measures to be used by their contractors. Most complaints are for “rock chopping,” and it is a challenge to reduce the sound. The options include mufflers on jackhammers, blanket material around the equipment to shroud noise, and portable sound barriers wherever and whenever possible.

In addition, CB4 District Manager Jesse Bodine and Johnson’s District Office will be organizing a construction coordination meeting for community input on development in the Midtown West area, in the near future.

To opt in to Con Edison’s email distribution list to receive work notices, customers can call 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633). Concerns can be directed to their Manhattan Regional & Community Affairs (RCA) by sending an email to [email protected] For issues related to Manhattan West, Brookfield has a hotline: 917-261-7225, and voice mail is retrieved several times per day. Email concerns to [email protected]


Con Edison is a major presence in the area around W. 33rd St., where residents have been dealing with nighttime construction noise. Here, a truck heads west on 33rd St., near Dyer Ave. | Photo by Christian Miles

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