Construction and the inevitable noise it produces are part of living in New York City and the Upper East Side — as century-old walkup buildings are torn down and replaced with skyscrapers requiring deep foundations and lots of jackhammering. However, the noise code is a product of the pre-Covid era, where working from has become the norm — and a major developer’s construction site in Yorkville has become a nuisance without violating the law.
“It is awful and starts very early,” one neighbor told Upper East Site, sharing how the noise from jackhammering through forty feet of bedrock at the construction site located at the corner of East 79th Street and First Avenue has ruined his quality of life.
“I can’t have my windows open the dust and noise is too much. I am right across the street,” the neighbor adds.
Michael Savage, also lives next to the site where Extell — the developer behind luxury buildings like the Lucida at 86th Street and Lexington Avenue, the Kent on East 95th Street — is erecting a 30-story, 400,000 square foot medical tower, set to be anchored by the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Mr. Savage says the non-stop noise starting at 7:00 am makes it impossible for him to work from home.
“They have 2 different jackhammers,” Mr. Savage added, “The bigger one is the problematic one.”
Meanwhile, dozens of 311 complaints filed over the past two months have been ineffective quieting the disruptive constriction noise.
“They get closed pretty quickly because they say they aren’t doing anything wrong,” Savage explained.
Upper East Site reached out to the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the agency tasked with investigating complaints and enforcing the noise code, who told us that inspectors visited the site several times in September, but did not find excessive noise that would trigger a violation — which is any noise above 85 decibels that can be heard 50 feet from the construction site.
Readings at Extell’s site fluctuated between 70 and 83 decibels, according to the DEP — well within the legal limits. However, the agency says most inspections found noise above 76 decibels despite the presence of sound insulating blankets along the fence line.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noise above 70 decibels over a prolonged period of time may start to damage a person’s hearing, while noise above 80 decibels can damage hearing after as few as two hours hours of exposure.
“Unfortunately there is not much more we can do about the noise,” Extell’s Senior Vice President of Development and Commercial Leasing, Eli Kopciel, told Council Member Menin’s Office in correspondence reviewed by Upper East Site.
“[Sound blankets and tilted fencing] are not required by code or DOB, but is something we are implementing at the site at our own volition to try and ease the noise to the neighborhood,” Kopciel added.
Last week, Council Member Julie Menin did a walkthrough of the site with leadership from Extell — using them to consider starting late in the day or adding additional soundproofing at the site.
We’re told that Extell is considering the suggestions.
Upper East Site also asked Menin’s office whether now is the time to change New York City’s noise code to account for an increase in people working from home — they pointed to a number of bills that have been floated before the city council to protect excessive noise.
One such bill introduced last week and sponsored by both Upper East Side City Council Members, Julie Menin and Keith Powers, would require the DEP to measure noise inside homes within a half mile of a construction site upon request.
Another proposed bill would require all noise inspection results to be posted publicly on the City’s website 24 hours after completion.
“[It’s] just insane how long they’ve been at it, with no end in sight, said Mr. Savage.
“I can’t imagine being a mom home with a baby and this noise it must be so bad,” another neighbor added.
If you’ve been impacted by the noise from this construction site, you’re asked to contact Council Member Menin’s Office.
Upper East Site reached out to Extell for comment, but did not receive a response.