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Former Barneys Warehouse Demolition Spews Noise and Dust, Neighbors Say

By Mathew Katz | March 15, 2013 7:24am

CHELSEA — Talk about a bad deal.

Demolition work at the former home of the Barneys Warehouse Sale is infuriating neighbors on West 17th Street who say loud trash-compacting trucks are spewing dust into the air and forcing them from their homes.

Developer Savanna bought the pre-war building at 249 W. 17th St., along with its next-door neighbor, for $75.8 million in late 2012. The upscale retailer moved out shortly afterward.

The developer is now gut-renovating the space for a new tenant.

Neighbors said they first noticed the construction last month when three huge trash-compacting dump-trucks parked on the block and began devouring parts of the building, including concrete, steal beams, metal frames and bathroom fixtures.

"I have zero problem with construction. This is New York, it's going to be everywhere all the time," said Christie Ferrara, 31, who lives across the street.

"But it's constant from 7:30 in the morning until midnight."

Ferrara said the noise of the trucks chewing up parts of the building was much louder than typical construction, with it so loud it rattles her windows. In February, she was forced to spend two weeks at her parents' house in New Jersey — an hour-and-a-half commute away — in order to sleep.

Other residents who live across the street from the construction said that no compacting should be done on site — instead it should be carted away and taken to a commercial facility.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings said it had received two complaints in February about noisy, after-hours construction, but inspectors could not substantiate them. She had no information on why compacting was allowed on the site.

The building also has a DOB permit allowing after-hours work — until midnight on weekdays — but its property manager, Bob Manno, said his crews only worked late during the first week of construction.

"We shut down at 5 o'clock, so it's not us. It's not happening unless it's the demolition fairies," Manno said.

"I'm in a union building. You think I'm going to pay overtime to union employees?"

Manno said he made a pledge to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office to make sure work would stop at 5 p.m. after representatives contacted him weeks ago.

"We're keeping the after-hour permit just in case, because if something happens and we're there late, you can get a violation," he said.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents the area, was also contacted by angry residents and asked the Department of Buildings not to grant any more after-hours permits unless there's an emergency.

"While it is inevitable that large-scale projects create a certain level of inconvenience to neighbors, the adverse impacts that the residents of the block, some of whom have small children, have had to endure should not extend to late hours and weekends," Hoylman wrote in a letter to the DOB.

Savanna did not respond to requests for comment.