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Upper West Siders Push for Bill to Curb Construction Noise Near Schools

By Emily Frost | June 26, 2015 12:26pm | Updated on June 29, 2015 8:59am
 Parents are worried the JHL construction will effect P.S. 163 students negatively.
Parents are worried the JHL construction will effect P.S. 163 students negatively.
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CITY HALL — Parents from a pair of local schools that sit next to construction sites argued passionately in favor of a City Council bill that would mitigate construction noise in the classroom during school hours at a hearing Thursday.

Intro 420 was introduced by local City Councilman Mark Levine last July and is co-sponsored by local Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, as well as 21 other councilmembers. 

The bill calls for noise levels inside classrooms within 75 feet of construction sites not to exceed 45 decibels and that noise levels be monitored throughout the school day. 

Pediatricians and health experts gave testimony describing the negative effects of noise on a child's overall health, development and ability to learn and concentrate. 

"The sound of jackhammers and cement trucks... is an undeniable impediment to learning," Levine said.

But representatives from the construction industry argued the measure would effectively halt construction near schools. 

"[The bill] is simply not workable...it would stop construction," said Felice Farber, director of external affairs for the General Contractors Association of New York.

"The noise level of my testimony at this hearing exceeds the [proposed] limits," she said.

Another industry spokesman called the 45-decibel requirement "impractical" and "unrealistic."

Levine reiterated to construction industry reps that his bill only pertained to noise levels inside classrooms that have their windows shut and proper ventilation systems in place. 

"The bill isn’t going to stop a single ounce of construction… [I]s it going to cost [developers] a pinch more? Maybe," testified P.S. 163 parent Josh Kross.

Parents at P.S. 163 have waged a multi-year campaign to stop Jewish Home Lifecare from building a nursing home next to the school, as well as calling for better noise mitigation, including filing a lawsuit this March. 

The bill would make noise mitigation the developers' responsibility, "instead of leaning on the city to pay for mitigation," Kross said.

Several parents testified that they've left P.S. 163 because of the threat of the construction on their children's learning and development. However, they noted that not all parents have the resources to move.

Parents from P.S. 75, which sits across the street from a proposed 10-story housing development, also testified that they were concerned about the current lack of enforcement and lack of strict standards near schools. 

The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote.