West Street jackhammering all night keeps thousands awake

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July 19, 2015- By Steven E. Greer, MD

Somehow, a routine highway construction job on West Street by the Battery Tunnel, the northbound lane, involving only the repair of a crosswalk obtained “emergency” status and was allowed by the state and city DOT’s to take place from midnight all throughout the night. The crew was jackhammering concrete, the loudest possible type of work, awaking the thousands of residents who live nearby.

At 6:00 AM on Sunday, July 19th, I went down to the job site to ask for their permit. The first group of workers for the HASA Construction, LLC whom I encountered refused to give me either their supervisor or a permit. They did, however, act threateningly and one man said “fuck off”.

I walked back across the street to Battery Park City property and called the First Precinct of the NYPD. As I was doing this, three of the men on the crew came across the highway to intimidate me again. When I told them that I was on the phone with the police, they backed off.

Eventually, a man claiming to be a supervisor for HASA Construction came over to me, with a cigarette in his hand, to show me the “permit”. The time allowed on the permit for Sunday was from 10:00 PM to 11:00 AM, which can only be properly interpreted to mean that the work can start at 11:00 AM and end that evening at 10:00 PM.

I called 311, and the several different operators could neither find “Route 9a” nor “West Street” in their computers. I finally lodged a complaint, which the 311 operator said would be sent to the environmental department and be handled within 10-days. In other words, the complaint was an utter waste of time.

At 8:30 later in the morning, I called the State DOT supervisor of the project, Mr. Robert Callucci. He was much more professional and explained that the presence of President Obama on Friday, which shut down the highway, caused this work to be pushed back to Sunday. He said that it was conducted in the early morning so as to avoid traffic congestion (However, that is not a valid reason for the State or City DOT to give this job “emergency” status).

Mr. Callucci also said that he would remove from the job the two men in the video who were acting threateningly. He added, “We are not pleased with this company. They are new. They were the low bidder.”.

What was the construction job achieving? Was it urgent, or even necessary? It was simply replacing the stone inlay section of the cross walk on the highway. Given that the high-rise tower construction at 50 West is still underway, and that a large pedestrian bridge will be going up there as well, all of this work will likely be repeated soon.

This was clearly a jobs-creation waste of taxpayer money. Rubbing salt into the wounds, the hubris of the State and/or City DOT gave them permission to awaken the entire community.

Polly Trottenberg is the Commissioner of the City’s DOT, and can be reached at 212-839-7250 ptrottenberg@dot.nyc.gov

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