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Le Parker Meridien Hotel Guests Rattled by Neighboring Construction

By Jill Colvin | November 28, 2011 6:41am
Crews have been drilling through the bedrock next to Le Parker Meridien.
Crews have been drilling through the bedrock next to Le Parker Meridien.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — The martinis at the Le Parker Meridien Hotel are definitely shaken, not stirred.

Guests and staff at the high-end hotel on West 56th Street are being rattled by major construction next door, which is so loud in some spaces that it hinders conversation and creates vibrations so strong that espresso spoons clang.

"It's horrible," hotel spokeswoman Marisa Zafran said of the blasting, which has been rocking the hotel Mondays through Fridays for more than two months.

While some guests said the noise can be heard reverberating throughout the hotel, the worst-affected areas are two of the hotel’s eateries: the famous Norma’s breakfast spot, hailed by some as the best in the city, and Knave, an elegant espresso lounge and cocktail bar, tucked behind iron gates on the building’s soaring ground floor.

Staff said that profits have dropped because of the constant noise and vibration.
Staff said that profits have dropped because of the constant noise and vibration.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

On a several recent visits, DNAinfo observed the café’s richly upholstered couches sitting mostly empty under opulent chandeliers, as the sound of drilling drowned out the music and caused the candles to flicker. The vibrations sounded like the rumble of an arriving subway train mixed with the rat-a-tat of a jackhammer.

"It's just a really bad situation,” said one waitress, who has worked at Knave for several years, and whose name DNAinfo is withholding because of a hotel policy barring staff from speaking to the press.

The staffer said the constant din has given staff migraines and other ailments, as well as causing a pain in their wallets as the noise and vibrations chases away customers. The bedrock-blasting next door is strong enough to rattle tea cups against saucers and make glasses on the bar’s shelves clang.

“It’s definitely affecting us,” she said, noting that while the café used to take in around $600 in sales on an average shift, now it may take in just $100 or less.

“I went from actually making money to not,” she said, adding that the noise usually dies down around 4:45 p.m.

Joel Zipper, 41, of Washington D.C., came to the cafe with his friend Suzan Fruchtman of the Upper East Side after she sang the praises of the café. They were expecting hot chocolates served on silver trays — but instead, were met with raucous clanging.

"How long has this been going on for?" Zipper asked, adding, “That's why there's nobody here," before he and his group quickly made a dash for the door.

"That happens about 25 times a day," the waitress said as they left. “The general consensus is just people are shocked.”

Sam Wiehoff, a manager at Norma's, said he has also lost customers because of the noise, including on one recent morning, when he said five separate parties had walked out of the restaurant, complaining they couldn't conduct business there.

"It has affected business, definitely," he said, adding that the impact of the construction on his restaurant has not been as severe as it has been on Knave.

Unfortunately, Zafran said, there’s not much the hotel can do because the workers next door are
abiding by city rules, which allow them to work from early in the morning to late in the afternoon.

To avoid unpleasant surprises, she said the hotel has posted an advisory online that warns people about the construction before they book.

But some, like Deborah Brodrick, 30, who was visiting from San Francisco, said that she and her travel partners weren’t warned ahead of time and said some had been blasted out of bed.

“If I didn’t bring ear plugs, I would have been awake at 7 a.m.,” she said as she left the hotel.

Others have complained online.

“The property next door was under construction so the noise early morning and at cocktail hour was deafening,” TripAdvisor user Skenny53 posted on Nov. 14.

“The current construction next door makes for appalling weekday noise so I would check before hand if you are staying during the week,” user marekw warned.

Several also complained that they hadn’t been warned about the construction ahead of time.

A “guest relations manager” at the hotel responded to some of the complaints on the site, promising that the work is “approaching the final days.”

Zafran said the drilling is expected to be finished by the end of the month.

Department of Buildings records show the next-door construction site has received four complaints so far this year. The most recently, on Oct. 19, came when a caller expressed concerns about excavation.

Inspectors visiting on the 20th issued no violation, with vibrations apparently within permissible levels.

The City’s Department of Environmental Protection, which handles noise complaints, has also received a steady stream of complaints, with the most recent on Oct. 5, 7, 17, 19 and 21 and Nov. 21. As many inspections have produced no resulting violation, a spokesman said.

The construction company, ARK Construction, did not return multiple calls for comment on the complaints and whether it has taken any efforts to minimize noise and vibrations next door.