UPPER WEST SIDE — A bill to protect children from harmful noise during construction next to school buildings is gaining momentum in the City Council, with dozens of parents and local residents lending their support to the measure at a rally Tuesday morning.
Introduced at the end of July by City Councilman Mark Levine, the bill has since gained the support of 12 fellow councilmembers through the lobbying efforts of Levine's staff and parents at P.S. 163, a West 97th Street elementary school that would neighbor a construction site under a plan to build a 20-story nursing home development.
The bill, Intro 420, would require that construction noise next to city schools not reach above 45 decibels and would task the Department of Environmental Protection with providing regular enforcement. Levine claimed construction noise levels regularly reach above 86 decibels, which can cause hearing damage.
"These beautiful kids will face years of distraction," Levine told the group assembled outside P.S. 163 Tuesday that included students and parents carrying signs reading "children need to hear their teachers." Musicians from the Latino arts non-profit El Taller also led protesters in song in between the speakers.
The legislation next needs approval from the Council's Committee on Environmental Protection, headed by City Councilman Donovan Richards, who has already signed on to the bill. Richards did not respond to a request for comment on the timing of his committee's review of the bill.
Josh Kross, one of the parent leaders behind the anti-nursing home group Protect P.S. 163, encouraged ralliers to call councilmembers to get them to pledge support for the measure.
"Our bill is hardly radical," Levine noted at the rally.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Congressman Jerry Nadler and Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell also spoke out at the rally, calling for the passage of the bill.
"Are we going to be protecting our developers or are we going to be protecting our seniors and our kids?" asked Noah Gotbaum, a member of Community Education Council 3, which passed a resolution this month supporting the bill and has come out against the high-rise project.
Despite a long battle over the project, leaders and parents acknowledged that stopping the development may no longer be possible, but that construction mitigation was imperative.
A decision from the state's Department of Health on the project's Environmental Impact Statement is expected within a month. If approved, it would give developer Jewish Home Lifecare the green light to move forward with the project, according to JHL rep Ethan Geto.
Geto said JHL had taken "extraordinary measures to insulate the school," from the effects of construction, including installing noise-mitigating windows and air conditioners all along the eastern side of the school, which faces the construction site.
He could not immediately say exactly how many windows would be replaced, nor how much it would cost, except to say "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
With state approval, construction is expected to start in the first quarter of 2015, Geto added.