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City Hall Renovations Push Press Into a Trailer

By DNAinfo Staff on August 6, 2010 7:13am

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CITY HALL — While the City Council is holding its meetings in a lavish former bank, the City Hall press corps is adjusting to life in a trailer camped out on the building's front lawn.

City Hall is in the midst of a $100 million renovation, which has displaced dozens of staffers who, up until now, have worked in the building's east wing.

Instead of meeting in the Council Chambers, full council meetings are now being held inside the old Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, with its soaring ceilings, marble columns and limestone façade.

The regular Chambers, which will undergo extensive repairs after years of water damage, are being used now as storage, with boxes stacked half-way to the ceiling and old office furniture — including a metal detector — abandoned inside.

Meanwhile, the City Hall press corps has been forced to vacate City Hall's legendary "Room 9" press room and move to a trailer parked on the grounds across from the City Hall steps.

While about three-quarters of reporters have now moved in, it's clear there's a lot of work to be done. Dozens of cardboard boxes filled with documents sit on empty desks and an intimidating bundle of neon pink, green and gray cables snakes its way across one wall. Workmen enter and exit frantically, dropping off mail and making repairs.

"It's still a fairy chaotic work in progress," said Adam Lisberg, the City Hall Bureau Chief of the Daily News.

Mayor's Office spokesman Andrew Brent says the staffers and press are expected to be able to return to City Hall next July.

In the meantime, the biggest challenge for the press has been adjusting to the smaller space, which makes it harder to sneak off for private chats.

"We all sit on top of each other and we're all competing with each other," Lisberg said.

The trailer also has no running water, so when the toilet flushes, the loud humming sound continues for minutes on end.

"Everyone's afraid of the bathroom," Lisberg joked. "It's incredibly loud."

New York Examiner reporter Michael Harris, who was the first to move in about a month ago, said he had no Internet and no phone for nearly two weeks.

"It's been a rough move for many of us," he said "It’s always an adjustment."

Several reporters also complained about flies buzzing around when they first moved in, prompting the hanging of fly traps. Harris said he'd also seen ants crawling across his desk.

But the trailer isn't all bad. In addition to powerful air conditioning, reporters said they love being able to look out the windows to see when a press conference is starting and who's coming in and out of the building. 

And Harris said he's grateful to have any space nearby.

"It doesn’t have to be a Bentley or a Mercedes. A Hyundai or a Kia will suffice," he said. 

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and her staff have also moved, and are now working out of 250 Broadway, along with fellow council members.

"We’re all seeing more of each other, taking elevator rides together, seeing each other in the lobbies," Quinn has said. "I think it’s a great opportunity for us all to spend time together and get to know each other a little bit better."