Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gowanus Community To Lightstone Group Regarding Gowanus Project: "You Can't Give Us Enough Sympathy For What We Are Going Through"

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Scott Avram,  Lightstone Group Senior Vice President of Development
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Lee Weintraub, Landscape architect for Lightstone Group
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Community Board 6 Manager Craig Hammerman
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Councilmember Brad Lander
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It was standing room only at Mary Star of the Sea's community room last night as Lightstone Group representatives updated local residents on the construction of their mega development at 363-365 Bond Street between Carroll Street and Second Street on the banks of the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal.

The meeting was a small concession to the community, which had to deal with months-long pounding noise and vibration from pile driving during Phase One of the project at 365 Bond Street.   Local residents made numerous calls to local elected officials and to various agencies to point out all kinds of violations at the construction site this past the summer. Many complaints were made to the Department of Health by neighbors who were reporting dizziness and headaches from fumes escaping from the Brownfield site after construction crews disturbed the contamination in the ground.

It is important to note that the NYC Department of Buildings, which had been asked to send representation, did not do so.

As the start of Phase Two at 363 Bond Street is imminent, Lightstone was willing to answer questions from residents and to listen to their complaints last night. But first, the community needed to sit through a presentation.

According to Scott Avram,  Lightstone Senior Vice President of Development, completed work at the 700 unit development site includes:
-environmental Brownfield  remediation at 365 Bond Street under the supervision of NY State Department of Environmental Conservation
-foundation pile driving at 365 Bond Street
-initial foundation work at 365 Bond Street
-Sidewalk bridge and fence installation.

Upcoming work includes:
-remaining foundation work at 365 Bond Street
-Superstructure work at 365 Bond Street
-Brownfield site remediation at 363 Bond Street
-Test piles at 363 Bond Street
-Surveying and layout.

Avram acknowledged that the company had gotten complaints from the community regarding noise and vibration from pile driving, idling trucks at 6 AM in the morning on nearby residential blocks, after- hour and week-end work at the site, and fumes from  petroleum product that was being dug up during the environmental remediation and then trucked through the neighborhood.

"Your many concerns brought forth this meeting, " Avram said.  However,  he was very quick to add that during construction of Phase 1, the surrounding neighborhood had been monitored by an independent third party engineering firm, using air and vibration monitoring devices.
He also pointed out that the Department of Buildings had approved Saturday construction hours from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Avram blamed the early morning idling trucks on third party contractors. He blamed a homeless man living under the scaffolding at Second Street for the pile-up of trash. As for the after-hour work reported by residents, it had been an" isolated, unavoidable incident caused by mechanical issues during a cement pour".  It seemed that the Lightstone representative had an excuse for every inconvenience, problem and violation at the site. 

As for potential  damage to homes adjacent to the building site, one resident expressed dismay with Lightstone's responsiveness.
"We don't trust you in the year you have been building this thing. We have not gotten a straight answer about anything. We have gotten lots of denials, lots of  'oh, its within the limits', 'oh, DoB approved it", or  "it's all according to code", the resident told the developer's representatives.  "We have nothing from Lightstone  that says that you will take responsibility," he added.

Avram's response? "We can just build the job.  It's been approved by the Buildings Department. " Later he added"We don't have to monitor, we don't have to survey.  No one is forcing us.  We are doing the best we can to answer some of your questions.  We are building a big project We are trying to do it quickly.  We are trying to be as unintrusive as possible.  We are building a big building.  We understand that it is loud and noisy."

One Gowanus resident probably expressed the feeling of the community best.  She said: "You have taken on a very controversial project. I want to very much appreciate your efforts to address our concerns  You said before that you could just put your head down and not do any monitoring. I just wanted to say that, to me, it's a moral responsibility that you are taking responsibility, that you are looking at these things. And I don't think that you can underestimate how much concern, upset and anxiety this has caused.  I don't think you can give us enough sympathy for what we are going through.  You are going to have your buildings, make your money and cut off the sky.  We are going to be left with the results."

If you live near the Lightstone site and need to report a problem,  please call 311, email Community Board 6 at info@BrooklynCB6.org and call the developer's hotline at 646 362 1500.


13 comments:

Martin Bisi said...

for starters, why such a long introduction/presentation by them, detailing the amount of affordable and market-price units, and the heights of the buildings and how they would blend with the character of the area ? a clear time-waster, and self-serving

Lisanne said...

The woman at the end stated the what I hope to be the community's feelings sans the anger so eloquently. Thank you if you happened to read this.

I went to the meeting and knew in advance that it would be really be nothing but lip service and really that is what it was. Why we had to sit through a presentation about the landscaping, the rooftop bbqs etc was beyond me because all everyone there really wanted to know was about the timeline at the very least and just what the hell has been going on there. This project has had mucho illegal early and late work hours, made the surrounding area sick during the soil clean up and generally has been this huge upsetting presence.

What came out of it was that city and state are pushing this through even though Lightstone admitted they kind of screwed up phase 1. Carting toxic soil through a neighborhood with NO TARP or COVER on it was inexcusable. Yet we are supposed to excuse them. They seem to not get that the source of the neigborhood's anxiety is mostly about the brownfield it sits on and the health hazards that no one really seems to take seriously. We are supposed to be the watchdogs rather than them which is sick. Dawn H from the Health Dept in Albany said keep calling us otherwise we won't know what going on. There is something wrong with this.

Brad Lander was all jovial and cracking bad jokes about the what we have been going through on top of it all. We didn't appreciate it Brad. We are supposed to love you for organizing this meeting yet it seemed you really weren't getting our points. All very dis-heartening.

Rob said...

As Martin said, seems pointless to have a sales pitch at the beginning of the meeting. Most people there were probably homeowners already.

Anonymous said...

It is never pleasant to live near major construction project. Or even minor one----if nextdoor is completely renovating a brownstone.
I biked by and stopped next to site while piledriving.Seemed no different from what I witness
at other projects going up in manhattan.
They seem willing to address issues but they can't make it invisible or silent.
Area will be much improved after completion.
Stop being such whiners.

Anonymous said...

Despite Lightstone's admission that they and their contractors were not acting appropriately and their promise to be better, I can't help but feel that the community is Charlie Brown to Lightstone's Lucy van Pelt while Brad is to his constituents what Cuomo is to the WFP.

While there are methods for documenting complaints, there doesn't seem to be any desire on behalf of our officials to resolve them.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't in attendance.. But I'm curious to know if any one in the audience gave a constructive solution or offer to work with the site manager as a community liason or was it the ususal NIMBY complaining and the only thing that would make people happy is if they just dropped the project and go away.

Katia said...

Many productive comments were made. The best by far was to suggest that Lightstone remove the contaminated soil from their brownfield sites by barging it on the Gowanus Canal as opposed to trucking it right through the neighborhood.

someone else suggested that the crane operator should lower the shovel by a few feet instead of dropping the contaminated soil into the trucks from high up, which would minimize the dust cloud and the odor.

How about attacking Lightstone as NIMBYs for paying their lawyers and PR Firm to fight the Parole Office in Gowanus? What can be more hypocritical than that?

Those who attended the meeting on Tuesday were all local residents who had a summer from hell thanks to Lightstone. And the residents are truly concerned about the health of their families.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Katia for mentioning the involvement of Lighstone attorneys. I wonder if the handful of individuals who are petitioners were made aware by the attorneys that the lawsuit is a public record and has been posted on the Internet so their prejudices are there for everyone to see. Their fears come down to safety, quality of life, property values, and unwillingness to share public sidewalks with parolees. A part of me wants to commend them though for not hiding behind a hastily formed community organization. And at least they are honest and not feigning concern for the parolees missing appointments and jeopardizing their parole.

For all those claiming those complaining about Lighstone, maybe you would feel differently if a truck filled with uncovered contaminated soil was barreling down your street.

Anonymous said...

Brad Lander has lost my vote. Sell out.

Margaret said...

Anon6:57 displays a callousness beyond comprehension. S/he bikes past the site, does not live in the area, does not have to suffer the hell residents are being put through, dismisses all concerns by judging that the area will be much improved (not true), and calls sufferers whiners - it's a real "let them eat cake" mentality - and we all know what happened to Marie Antoinette,

Anonymous said...

LIGHTSONE IS NOT CONTRIBUTING TO THE FIGHT WITH GOWANUS UNITED.
THEY HAVE NOT RESPONDED TO ANT REQUEST BY THOSE FIGHTING THE STATES ABUSIVE LAND USE PROTOCALS.
THE FIGHT IS BY RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY THIS ISSUE.
SORRY THAT YOU NEED A DEMON AND SORR THAT LIGHTSTONE IS HAPPENING, BUT TWO WRONGS DONT MAKE A RIGHT. YOUR COMMENTS ARE THROWING US UNDER THE BUS TO MAKE YOUR POINT ABOUT HOW OUR CITY AND STATE ABUSE GOWANUS, YET YOU CONDEMN YOUR NIEHBORES FOR TRYING TO DEFEND THEMSELVES, JUST AS KATIA FEELS SHE HAS THE RIGHT TO DEFEND HER NEIGHBORS, SHE TROWS OTHERS UNDER THE BUS. LETS BE CLEAR LIGHTSONE SHOULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENED AND THE PAROLE FACILITY SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN JUST TO SUIT THOSE WHO ARE ANTI-DEVELOPMENT. ITS ASHAME THAT WE ARE DIVIDED, BECAUSE WE ARE GETTING PICKED APART.
MY BACKYARD IS CONNECTED TO YOUR BACKYARD. SHAME ON US ALL!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Katia is writing a blog. She isn't press although her coverage is often more thorough and accurate than that of paid reporters. Katia is free to write about what she wants including her own viewpoints.

As for the parole office, I just read that there has been a 7% increase in homelessness. The deBlasio administration can't open shelters fast enough to meet the need. Maybe the parole office can be used as a shelter.

Geri Weiner said...

I'm sure the building will turn out beautiful, and will upgrade your neighbor!