Skip to main content

Construction is booming in New York. So, too, are noise complaints.

“If you are trying to read, you can’t. If you are trying to sleep, you can’t,” Michael Riley, who lives in Manhattan’s Flatiron district, told my colleague Jeffery C. Mays.

The cacophony near his home became so loud at night that Mr. Riley said he had considered installing $40,000 sound-dampening windows. He opted instead for $250 noise-canceling headphones.

In 2018, construction spending here reached a record $61.5 billion, according to the New York Building Congress, a trade group. But many residents near work sites say the accompanying noise — particularly at night — is too disruptive.

The problem

Normal construction hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, but many workers can toll into the wee hours because the city’s Department of Buildings issues after-hours variance permits, which authorize overnight construction.

City officials say the permits allow for work that is safer for the public and less disruptive to traffic when done at night.

Last year, the Buildings Department issued about 67,000 such permits — more than double the number provided in 2012, records show.

But as construction work at night increases, so do grievances from residents. Last year, the Buildings Department received about 3,700 noise complaints about late-night construction.

The potential solution

City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera introduced a bill on Wednesday that would allow construction no earlier than 6 a.m. and no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays. Work would be permitted on weekends from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ms. Rivera said her bill was also meant to address construction’s effect on the displacement of average New Yorkers. “I want to make sure we don’t continue to rubber-stamp construction that leads to more empty luxury towers,” she told Mr. Mays.

But construction officials told him the bill was misguided.

“We are living in an era where everyone wants to blame the real estate and construction industries for the woes of society,” Carlo Scissura, president and chief executive of the New York Building Congress, said. “In reality, we are building everything in New York that people take for granted.”

Published on

Sep 27, 2019 by New York Building Congress