Living near a construction zone has been more than just noisy for some West Harlem residents.
Since starting construction, the stretch of Broadway that runs from 122nd Street to 135th Street has been a trough of concentrated construction work and the neighborhood landscape has changed drastically.
“It’s depressing sometimes, the way it looks,” General Grant Residents Association President Sarah Martin said of the area.
While Columbia has continued its demolition in Manhattanville, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been renovating the 1 train viaduct that runs through the area over Broadway since June. Sidewalk sheds and scaffolding surround parts of the General Grant Houses across the street.
And with all the construction around them, residents of the General Grant Houses and the Manhattanville Houses, as well as local businesses, have had to make adjustments.
“Because they’re doing construction ... they close those streets down,” said Evelyn Dominguez, manager of VnV Optical International on the corner of Broadway and 126th Street. “So for the patients that come in, it’s hard for them to find parking,” she said.
“I don’t know what companies, but they used to order from us, and now they move away,” said Tengyu Zhu, who works in Good Friend Restaurant on Broadway between 125th and 126th streets.
“The dust from the ground comes into the apartments,” said Bernice Wilson, a resident of the General Grant Houses. “He has asthma, his brother has asthma, and I have allergies, which is not so good for us,” she said, pointing to her two boys.
But Marvin Tran, who works at King West Cleaners on Broadway near 125th Street, said that all the work on Broadway hasn’t impacted business.
“It’s just really loud outside when they’re working,” he said. “You always hear a humming sound from the spray paints themselves. That with the train is very loud.”
Ann Morris, residents association president for the Manhattanville Houses, said that a number of residents have reported noise complaints. “They start at six o’clock in the morning,” she said. “This noise is continuous,” she said, and certain construction lights used at night were reflecting into tenants’ windows and disturbing sleep.
Larry English, chair of Community Board 9, said the biggest concern he’d heard from constituents was about rats.
“That was a heavy manufacturing area,” English said, referring to the Manhattanville site. “And so obviously there was a large rodent population there. And so the concern was that when Columbia started tearing down the building, that displaced the rodent population,” he explained.
English said he was fully expecting the University to give the Community Board an update on the rodent issue during its next quarterly meeting in December.
“I’m not aware of any other complaints that have made it up to the board level,” he said.
Columbia University Facilities said that the school has committed to mitigating the effects of construction, and that their Clean Construction Action Plan includes efforts to reduce dust, noise, and odor, and pests in the area.
Not everyone was bothered by the immediate effects of the demolitions and repairs on both sides of Broadway. While some locals complained about the effects of Columbia’s demolition, many living in the General Grant Houses were largely pleased with the MTA’s work on the subway overpass.
“I think it’s a good thing that they’re improving and they’re working on it,” said Mary Taylor, who has lived in 75 Broadway for 40 years. “Anything to make the neighborhood better.”
John Adams, another resident, mentioned the importance of maintaining the condition of the bridge. “The system been up there near a hundred years,” he said. “So anytime you see them working on it, you know it’s kind of like needed work.”
Martin, who co-chairs the Morningside Heights/West Harlem Sanitation Coalition, said the group had tried to convince the MTA to repaint the bridge for years. “We asked for that,” she said. “We wanted it to be painted so that it could look beautiful.”
Arabia Ritchie, who works in a Johnson & Johnson office overlooking the construction site on Broadway and 130th Street, said that she believed people would eventually forget about the short-term trials.
“For now it’s probably noisy, it’s probably disruptive to the community, but once everything goes up and they see the purpose to it, then they will embrace it.”
Martin, however, was not so optimistic about the situation. “It’s gonna get worse before it gets better,” she said.