Upper East Side residents met Monday to voice their concerns about noise and other disruptions relating to Chapin School’s plans to add three stories, including a glass-encased gym, to its existing eight-story building at East End Ave. and E. 84th Street.
Chapin’s initial proposal in January 2015 was rejected by Community Board 8 due to concerns about the construction schedule, traffic congestion and the look of the new addition, but the private school went ahead with the process and was approved to proceed by the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) in November. They have also been granted variances by the Department of Buildings (DOB) that will allow them to work late at night and on weekends.
In order to finish the expansion by the fall of 2018 and avoid disrupting Chapin’s academic activities, construction will take place on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with after-hours work until midnight, and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with no after-hours work. “If we didn’t work evenings and if we didn’t work weekends … we felt that it could add two years to the construction schedule,” Allen Frost, vice president of IBEX Construction, told the community meeting on Monday.
Residents are most concerned about the working hours, and a lawsuit was filed in early February by the board of directors at a neighboring condo building at 90 East End Ave. to rescind the BSA’s approval of the project and the DOB’s after-hours work permits. A spokesperson from Chapin declined to comment on the lawsuit due to ongoing litigation.
Many community members would strongly prefer that the project take longer and be less intrusive. “Take as long as you want,” said Yorkville resident Lisa Paule, who has organized community feedback to the project. “I’m sorry to be skeptical, but just because they say trucks will not idle in front of the co-op at 523-33 [East 84th Street] doesn’t mean that’s the reality. Our experience has shown the opposite.” Paule’s top request was to have no work on Sundays and more limited work on Saturdays.
During Monday’s hour-long meeting, Frost did his best to address community complaints such as workers smoking in the nearby Carl Shurz Park and excessive noise, but the presentation was peppered with passionate expressions of frustration by residents who say they have been awakened by the sound of idling trucks long before the weekend start time of 9 a.m. and have heard inappropriate language used by workers in the park where their kids play, among other issues. Frost said the construction team was taking everyone’s complaints seriously; he mentioned that several workers had already been removed who had not adhered to proper behavior. “We’re on the guys all the time,” Frost said.
Noise was by far the most common complaint. “Any noise on the street is too much noise,” one resident said. “Make some progress.” Frost said the workers would be using a quieter electric hoist instead of the loud construction elevator residents complained about during Chapin’s last expansion in 2008.
Though groundwork and excavation has already been underway, construction will pick up in earnest toward the beginning of April. Every two weeks, construction schedules will be sent out to residents who will then be able to discuss them with Chapin and IBEX at monthly community meetings. In a statement, Chapin expressed its appreciation for the “productive dialogue” that took place at the meeting. According to the statement, “the school presently is reviewing and taking under consideration all of the comments it received, including those pertaining to the construction schedule.”
Frost encouraged residents to use the construction hotline set up several months ago that logs complaints and notifies construction managers, who he said will be diligent about calling back if no one answers. A spokesperson for Chapin indicated that they would be open to sharing the hotline’s data with residents in order to better engage with community complaints. The hotline can be reached at (212) 606 3225, and residents can also email the school at email@example.com.