ABC News was one of the first on the scene yesterday, when residents of 188 Sixth Avenue were evacuated after construction work next door on the Quinlan-Tavros luxury condominium development caused their building to shift. Within the hour reporters from all the network news channels and multiple radio and print venues were on hand.
This afternoon at around 3:30, the NYC Fire Department evacuated 17 neighbors living at 188 Sixth Avenue when foundation work next door at 180 Sixth Avenue caused shifting in their 19th-century tenement-style building. The NYPD cordoned off the sidewalks as Con Edison emergency vehicles arrived to check the gas lines when the building moved consequent to hazardous foundation work being done on the adjacent lot, owned by Quinlan-Tavros. The affected building at 188 Sixth sits on the lot line with the Quinlan-Tavros luxury condominium construction site. The A, C, and E subway lines, which run along the site were affected, as trains were told to slow down to reduce vibrations.
The neighbors at 188 Sixth reported that on Tuesday one tenant arrived home and couldn’t open her front door because the doorframe had shifted significantly. She called a locksmith who came and helped her get the door open. She also reported the problem to Triton Construction, the company doing the foundation work at the 180 Sixth Avenue site, who, she reports, told her not to worry. Triton has been been underpinning the foundation of the weight bearing south wall at 188 Sixth, which caused the shift in the building. The next day, as they observed additional cracking in their walls, the tenants at 188 Sixth called 311.
A Department of Buildings inspector visited the site and issued a stop work order. By mid-afternoon the FDNY was called to evacuate the residents, who then waited anxiously for 5 hours as news crews arrived to report on the situation. The Red Cross was also called in to make sure that the displaced residents would be sheltered in the event the building remained uninhabitable. Around 7pm Assembymember Deborah Glick arrived at the site to ensure that her displaced constituents could get back into the building to retrieve pets, medications, and other vital items. Incumbent City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the district, said through her spokeswoman Allie Nudelman that they were “monitoring the situation.”
Ultimately, around 8:15 residents were allowed to return to their homes. DOB Inspector and structural engineer Timothy Lynch announced to a dozen news reporters that the building was safe enough to go back into service. When asked about the shifting in the building that had been severe enough to completely jam one apartment door, Inspector Lynch observed only that he had been able to open all the doors in the building that he had gone through, without directly addressing the structural shift that resulted in the tenant’s jammed door. Lynch continued, noting that the building dates back to approximately 1890, that it’s an old masonry building, and that it it is “ductile.” And for those of you who, like me, may not have “ductile” in your everyday vocabulary, it means “a solid material’s ability to deform under tensile stress.” In other words, the building is moving under the strain of the underpinning and mechanical excavation. A partial stop-work order remains in effect.
While we are relieved that our neighbors are back in their homes tonight, we are very concerned about the ongoing stability of 188 Sixth Avenue, and overall safety on the site. Since the earliest public hearings on this proposed development — as far back as November of last year — neighbors have testified regarding their concerns about the safety of the homes at 188 Sixth Avenue. The neighborhood remains deeply concerned.
It fell to Curbed to break the news of what, exactly, Quinlan-Tavros has in store for 180 Sixth Avenue. They’re going to start by changing the address to “One Vandam.” Much tonier than 180 Sixth, don’t you think? And then, this architectural monstrosity — reminiscent of the Borg spacecraft from the Star Trek series — will descend on our peaceful South Village neighborhood. Notice that the building towers over everything in sight. That’s exactly what they have in mind: building an out-of-scale, heedless-to-context nightmare that maximizes their height and square footage at the expense of everything and everyone in their way.
That’s why it’s so utterly irksome to so see the sign outside the construction site, where they’ve just torn down one of the oldest trees on the block. The finer print reads: “New York City has a variety of projects, both public and private, which when completed will improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.” Really? All New Yorkers? Tell that to the neighbors who’ve recently had the trees that shade their windows chopped down, the back walls of their gardens knocked over, the air quality in their neighborhood obliterated by dust and diesel fumes, and their homes subjected to the din of demolition and construction from dawn until dusk. But the architects of record, BKSK Architects, claim that “One Vandam” will be LEED-certified — a so-called “green building” — so that makes it all okay? Not really. Not at all. The only sort of green Quinlan-Tavros is concerned about comes off of U.S. Treasury presses. We’re not talking green, we’re talking greed.
The New York Times’ John Freeman Gill profiled the South Village this week, pointing out that unless the neighborhood is afforded landmark and other protections, its distinctive character may be crushed between impending Hudson Square developments and SoHo’s Cast Iron district. South Village neighbor Micki McGee was interviewed for the article and observed: “It’s hard to believe that right next to SoHo there’s this quiet, sweet little neighborhood. But pressures from north, south, east, and west on this triangle below Houston are so extraordinary that this neighborhood could just disappear.” Make sure that doesn’t happen: Support the South Village Neighbors today.
We are delighted that Community Board 2 voted on Thursday, June 20th to call on the Board of Standards and Appeals to reduce the mass of the building proposed for 72-80 Sullivan (aka 140 Sixth Avenue).
The bulk of that reduction should come from the proposed 18-story residential tower, lowered to a more appropriate 10 or 11 stories. The developer’s proposal was based on the inappropriate assumption that the mass allowed at this site for commercial uses (a 5.00 FAR*) would be permitted, rather than the 3.44 FAR that is standard for residential development in the South Village.
The Community Board also recommended: (1) the relocation of the proposed retail store entrance to the Sixth Avenue side of the development in a effort to preserve the residential character of the south end of Sullivan Street, and (2) the giveback to the neighborhood of some public garden space on the Sixth Avenue side of the development. The Board, along with the neighborhood, strongly endorsed the developer’s request to have the site rezoned for residential rather than hotel development.
None of this would have happened without the great turn out at the Land Use Committee and full board meetings, so many thanks to the neighbors who stood up and spoke out! Although this a great win for our neighborhood, the Community Board’s recommendations are by no means binding, so the the next step on the 72-80 Sullivan/140 Sixth development will be a hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals. So far that hearing is not scheduled, but we’ll keep you posted!
* What is FAR? FAR is the Floor Area Ratio: The floor area ratio is the principal bulk regulation controlling the size of buildings. FAR is the ratio of total building floor area to the area of its zoning lot. Each zoning district has an FAR which, when multiplied by the lot area of the zoning lot, produces the maximum amount of floor area allowable on that zoning lot. For example, on a 10,000 square foot zoning lot in a district with a maximum FAR of 1.0, the floor area on the zoning lot cannot exceed 10,000 square feet. (from the New York City Department of Buildings Zoning Glossary).
An 18-story tower, retail space, and a parking garage have been proposed for the quiet Sullivan Street block between Broome and Spring. An application for a zoning variance has been filed for this location. The developer has long planned to build a hotel tower on this site, which the zoning for the site allows. He is now seeking a zoning variance to allow the development to be residential, which the zoning for this site currently does not allow. You can read more about the application by downloading the variance documents HERE.
An 18-story tower at this site is not appropriate, whatever the use. The tower will cast additional shadows on Vesuvio Playground and SoHo Square. The site is located within the South Village Historic District that has been proposed since 2006 (and which the City has still not agreed to move on). And nearly all the sites in the surrounding neighborhood which are zoned for residential development only allow new development at a much more limited scale – about 31% smaller than the proposed development.
- be at the size and density which is allowed for residential development in the surrounding area
- keep any tower developed on the south portion of the lot, where the tower will be somewhat less intrusive (as is proposed, but not required, in the variance plan)
- allocate 20% of the units as affordable middle-income housing, and,
- include a public-use space (either a meeting space in the retail facility, or a public outdoor space).
WHAT YOU CAN DO
ATTEND the Community Board #2 Land Use Committee public hearing on the variance on Wednesday, June 12 at the Little Red Schoolhouse Auditorium, 272 Sixth Avenue (Bleecker Street) and urge the Community Board to only approve a variance for residential use if the size of the development is consistent with what the residential zoning for the surrounding neighborhood allows and if the developer provides appropriate contributions to the life of the neighborhood in the form of affordable housing and/or community space. The meeting begins at 6:30 pm, and this is the 3rd and final item on the agenda.
WRITE to the Community Board at email@example.com to share your concerns and comments (please copy firstname.lastname@example.org).
PRINT AND POST this flyer in your building to keep your offline neighbors informed.
It’s been a noisy week for those of us who live near the Quinlan-Tavros demolition site at 178-180 Sixth Avenue where a Sleepy’s Mattress Store once stood. As it turns out, it’s been noisier than it ought to be: DiSano Demolition (ph: 718-961-3700) — the company hired by QT to demolish the Sleepy’s building — is not in compliance with New York City’s noise mitigation regulations for construction sites. They are required to:
• muffle their jackhammer and other equipment,
• post a noise mitigation plan, and
• comply with their noise mitigation plan.
They have done exactly none of the above. This is consistent with QT’s and God’s Love We Deliver’s complete disregard for the health and well-being of their neighbors. The noise regulation rules are only enforced if there are complaints registered. So if you live nearby and are suffering with the sound of jackhammering for hours on end, please complain about the noise – loudly and often.
The DiSano jackhammer-crane has been generating noise peaking at 115 decibels in our apartment — more than 150 feet from the demolition site and behind sealed double-paned windows. For folks closer – on the ground floors, for example – the din was much worse. This is a health issue for our neighborhood: noise at this level is damaging to your hearing and is linked to cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension.
It’s worth noting that NYU is being required by the City to provide sound proofing windows and special sound reducing air conditioners to Washington Square Village and Silver Tower apartments, as reported in The Villager this week. No such plan has been required of GLWD or QT, except for a few air conditioners for our neighbors at 188 Sixth Avenue.
HOW TO REGISTER CONSTRUCTION NOISE COMPLAINTS
1) BY PHONE: Call 311 and say that you want to make a construction noise complaint to a Department of Environmental Protection operator. They should connect you to a specialist. Complain about the noise level, complain about the lack of a noise mitigation plan, and complain that no noise mitigation plan is posted.
If you have a decibel meter in your smart phone, please report the decibel readings you are getting and your approximate distance from the jackhammer/crane. (There are more than 70 free or inexpensive decibel meter apps available for the iPhone, for example. I imagine many are also available for the Android and other smart phones.)
2) ONLINE: Go to the 311 Online page and complete the relevant information. [Please note this is a new link, updated 10/4/13: you now have to go to a link that says “Make a Complaint” and then choose from a drop-down menu. If you want to make a complaint for after hours construction and a complaint for noise, you will need to file two separate complaints.]
3) POST your Complaint Number on the Google Group if you are a subscriber to the Google Group.
4) CALL Speaker Christine Quinn’s office (212-564-7757) and tell her team what her $8 million dollar contribution of taxpayer funds to GLWD – her contribution of our tax funds – is doing to your quality of life. Let her know how you feel about this in light of her current campaign to occupy the Mayor’s office.