Quantcast

Opponents of UWS Project Protest Last-Minute Construction Approval

By Emily Frost | June 26, 2015 8:34am
 The tenants believe the construction plan will not be safe. 
711 West End Ave.
View Full Caption

UPPER WEST SIDE — Parents and tenants renewed their call Thursday for more transparency and better safety measures regarding the construction of a controversial luxury development set to sit atop an existing building and next to a school.

The Department of Buildings issued Kaled Management four permits for its construction of a 10-story addition on top of its six-story 711 West End Ave. apartment building Monday. 

The granting of the permits came just a day before a sweeping landmarking of the avenue that would have derailed the project. Additions to landmarked buildings have to get approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and are not permitted "as of right."

"The developers knew the [LPC] vote was coming so they slammed through a bunch of permits to avoid being accountable," P.S. 75 parent Emmaia Gelman said at a rally Thursday.

City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal noted that by the DOB granting the permits "a day before the [LPC] vote, there is a strong possibility that the building above 711 will be done with no review except from the Department of Buildings." 

A DOB spokesman said the department does not determine when a permit review happens, and that reviews are scheduled by the applicant during times when a DOB examiner is available. According to the NYC Construction Code, a project's future landmark status cannot be factored in, he added. 

Despite the city giving the project the go-ahead, Rosenthal was adamant that it "has to be stopped," she told the dozens of parents from neighboring P.S. 75 and current rent-regulated tenants from 711 West End Ave. assembled at the rally.

Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell called the project — given its proximity to the highway and an elementary school, as well as sitting atop a fully occupied building — "a recipe for disaster" and called on the city to intervene.

Residents and tenants also asked the mayor to intervene. 

The Mayor's Office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Parents are worried about dust, noise and construction traffic affecting the elementary school, which are concerns also shared by 711 West End Ave. tenants.

The tenants said they pooled funds and hired an engineer to evaluate the developer's Tenant Protection Plan, which typically outlines mitigation for factors like dust, noise and points of egress. The engineer found the plan inadequate, they claimed.  

Tenants officially submitted a challenge to the developer's plan, but a DOB examiner already approved the safety plan Monday. Opponents still have until Aug. 2 to submit other challenges to the project.

Part of the problem is that not all of the developer's plans are publicly available, specifically the plan to excavate under the building, said tenant Terry Galo.

"We need a serious review of these plans" if tenants are going to submit any more challenges before the DOB's Aug. 2 deadline, she said. 

"It feels like we're this entity that can be brushed into a corner," said tenant Howard Weinberg.

Gelman, the P.S. 75 parent, urged residents and parents to keep up their pressure on the city, particularly Mayor de Blasio, in making sure they have input on the way the construction occurs. 

"The project application as it pertained to the structure, and safeguarding plans during construction work, were approved by an examiner as meeting all pertinent code requirements," said a DOB spokesman.

The developer did not respond to request for comment.