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Town Hall Meeting Focuses on Bayonne Bridge Project

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 23, 2014 6:58am
 Residents complained about air quality, dust, noise and shut off water because of the project.
Bayonne Bridge Reconstruction
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PORT RICHMOND — Residents who have questioned the air quality based on the Bayonne Bridge reconstruction, or complained about loud noises and a shut-down water supply, will get a chance to sound off about the project next month.

Councilwoman Debi Rose has set up a Town Hall meeting between residents and Port Authority officials in May, allowing neighbors to air concerns about the $1.3 billion project to raise the bridge's roadways.

Since construction started in November, residents have worried about the large amount of dust in the air — and caking their homes and windows — and the constant loss of water from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"When I come home I would like to have my water," said Alice Ruiz, 56, who has lived on Newark Avenue for five years. "We get this every single day."

Others said no matter how much they clean their homes, the dust leaves thick layers on their siding, and the noises are a nuisance.

Beryl Thurman, head of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy, worries that excavation work could release asbestos, lead, PCBs and other toxins into the air, and has called on the Port Authority to get an environmental agency to test the air.

"The bridge property is in the backyard in the residential homes, in other cases it's directly across the street," Thurman said. "They're not air-tight houses. Whatever is outside blows into the house. We have all this dust and dirt flying around in the area and we don't know what we're breathing in."

However, Port Authority said their tests have not found any significant contaminants in the air or soil from their work.

“The Port Authority developed a Construction Health and Safety Plan, in accordance with all required federal and state rules and regulations, to assure the health and safety of construction workers and the general public for the Bayonne Bridge construction,” said Chris Valens, a PA spokesman.  

The agency also leaves two cases of bottled water in front of homes when they have to shut the water off, usually until 4 p.m., and offered to give up to $10,000 to replace damaged windows in homes.

The project will raise the roadway of the 82-year-old bridge, which will allow larger container ships to pass underneath. Crews will also widen the lanes and shoulders to create a 12-foot bicycle and pedestrian path, according to the Port Authority.

Rose did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but Port Authority officials said that they have not finalized a date for the meeting.

Ruiz said she feels like she's in the dark about the large construction project going on across the street from her home, and plans to try and get answers at the meeting.

"I don't know what's going on with this," she said. "I'll definitely go."