A meeting on Tuesday regarding the impending Domino development on Williamsburg’s waterfront was a reminder to residents just how close construction looms. There was the usual push-and-pull between the developers and residents, but Two Trees and the locals reached something of an impasse on the issue of Saturday construction, scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. as soon as the first building is underway.
“The Saturday noise for years and years [means that] thousands of local residents in this immediate vicinity can just write off half their weekends,” said Mark Brinda, whose apartment abuts the construction site. “And that’s just not cool.”
Though somewhat of a newbie when it comes to city politics, Brinda decided the issue was important enough to start a petition against early morning weekend construction. In less than 24 hours he’s gathered 70 signatures — all of which, he says, are from residents living within one or two blocks of the construction site.
The petition reads: “half of our time to rest and relax at home with our families will be ruined. ”
It’s estimated that construction will take two and a half years. “But who knows how long that will actually be,” Brinda said.
Brinda is also hoping to involve the local Orthodox community, since Saturday is their sabbath day. “It’s harder to engage with that community, so I haven’t been able to get in touch with folks there yet. But they can really be influential, so I’m hoping their voice gets heard on the Saturday issue as well.”
Construction is slated to begin on the first building in December, but demolition has already begun on the main sugar factory buildings along Kent Avenue.
On Tuesday, Two Trees principal Jed Walentas set forth a two-fold argument in favor of having construction on Saturday. A major point related to job creation. Walentas said the reality is that construction workers want to work overtime, and Two Trees wouldn’t have a hand in denying them that opportunity.
But Brinda doesn’t buy this as a valid reason. “Look, we’re already bearing this burden that will create construction jobs for like the rest of time on this site,” he said.
Walentas also invoked the wisdom of ripping the Band-Aid off, suggesting that it might be better to complete the demolition and construction as quickly as possible so as to alleviate prolonged suffering for nearby residents. He acknowledged that some residents might prefer lower impact over a long period of time as opposed to a more intense impact over a shorter period of time.
“I think the tear the Band-Aid off thing is nonsense,” Brinda said. “Of the 27 people I spoke to yesterday evening while gathering signatures for the petition, 26 of them were shocked and appalled like- ‘Holy shit, you can’t do that!’ And one person was like, ‘Whatever, let’s just get on with it.'”
Brinda is confident that the vast majority of residents are against this approach. “I hope these signatures will prove that argument is invalid,” he said.
Another point that’s been raised in support of weekend construction is that the city is in desperate need of the affordable housing included in the development. “I’m all for affordable housing,” Brinda said. “But we’re talking about extending the time by, what, 15 percent? In the context of waiting 10 years thus far, and however many more years it takes, the extra total time that we’re talking about isn’t that much.”
David Lombino of Two Trees wrote in an email to B+B: “Construction occurs on Saturday across the city, and it’s always a tradeoff situation – many people prefer to reduce the overall length of the construction disturbance. Reducing working hours by more than 16% would add years to the project and of course delay its benefits, which include 700 units of affordable housing, acres of waterfront public open space and community facilities. Additionally, we’ve been doing demolition for more than a year and have had very few complaints, so it’s clear many construction actions don’t make significant noise. We hope all of these factors will be weighed as we continue to communicate with the community on the project.”
Brinda plans to present his petition to Community Board 1’s Land Use Committee on Monday, October 6 at 6:30 pm when it meets at 435 Graham Avenue.