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NYC's Noisiest Construction Site is an Elite School on the UES, Study Says

By Shaye Weaver | September 1, 2017 12:51pm | Updated on September 5, 2017 7:59am
 Construction at the Chapin School is expected to last through 2021.
Construction at the Chapin School is expected to last through 2021.
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Lisa Paule

MANHATTAN — Construction at the elite Chapin School has made the private all-girls academy the noisiest worksite in the city — with the vast majority of complaints about the racket coming after normal work hours, a study by the state comptroller's office found.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit Thursday calling out the tony Yorkville school, which had a whopping 122 noise complaints between 2014 and June 30, 2016 — 112 of which were recorded during after-hours work.

The school at 100 East End Ave. is currently undergoing a three-story expansion expected to last through 2021. Construction at the site — which was being excavated between 2015 and 2016 — has rankled many residents, with complaints over not only noise, but parking, rats and water outages.

► READ MORE: UES Private School's 'Noisy' Expansion Project Delayed by a Year: Officials

► READ MORE: City Grants Chapin School 24/7 Work Permits, Driving Neighbors Mad

The Department of Buildings issued 100 permits to the school for after-hours work between Jan. 1, 2014, and July 2016, renewing 24 of them during that period — despite the fact that construction was being done within 200 feet of a residence, the report says. 

The school's contractors currently have a renewed after-hours variance permit through Sept. 4 that was issued on Aug. 22, online records show. After-hours work is defined as occurring before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m. on weekdays and weekends.

Chapin spokeswoman Anneli Ballard said that the construction noise has quieted down since the time period the audit analyzed.

“The [Comptroller's] statement references the excavation phase, which concluded in the summer of 2016," she said. "This is always the loudest phase of any project, and during that excavation period we worked closely with our neighbors to communicate the construction schedule and to be responsive to their requests, at times halting work in response to community feedback. Though the excavation concluded over a year ago and feedback regarding noise has tapered accordingly, we continue to hold public community meetings every six weeks with our neighbors, send email updates and work to be responsive to any issues that arise.”

Chapin next-door neighbor Lisa Paule, who co-founded the neighborhood watchdog group Serene Green 84 to keep an eye on construction, said she has been disturbed by construction noise, mostly in the mornings.

"The noise from the caisson drilling was extreme at times, and highly disruptive to a quiet residential community," she told DNAinfo New York. "At each juncture of this expansion there are many issues that adversely affect neighbors, and we are all tremendously concerned about the upcoming installation and positioning of the tower crane."

The audit looked at dozens of city properties with the highest number of construction complaints, 11 of which were located on the Upper East Side. 

Since 2010, the number construction-related noise complaints citywide have more than doubled — from 14,259 to 37,806, the audit found. A majority of the complaints were about after-hours work, and DiNapoli placed the blame on city agencies for not being responsible when issuing the after-hours permits and following up on complaints.

Between Jan. 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, more than 90,800 complaints about construction noise were lodged with 311 — with 74 percent of those regarding after-hours work, the audit states.

Credit: New York State Comptroller's Office

The DOB hasn't considered construction noise complaints made to 311 or any noise citations issued by the Department of Environmental Protection, and has been extending the variances for these sites "without critical review," according to the audit.

"The city Department of Buildings has allowed noisy work to take place on thousands of projects well before and after normal construction hours," DiNapoli said. "Communication between the city’s Building Department and Department of Environmental Protection must improve and the after-hours permitting process needs to be revised to muffle persistent noise problems across the five boroughs.”

The DOB pointed out that 28 percent fewer initial after-hours permits were issued in 2016 than in 2011, while defending its permitting process.

“DOB issues after-hours permits primarily when it’s safer or less disruptive to work at night or on the weekend," agency spokesman Andrew Rudansky said. "For example, public safety is often better served when contractors can remove construction debris from a building at night, when there are fewer people on the sidewalk."