Tormented by after-hours Brooklyn Bridge construction, Brooklyn Heights residents make their own noise

Roberto Gautier turns on the noise machine that him and his wife use every night to fall asleep. They live at 140 Cadman Plaza West, above nightly construction on the Brooklyn Bridge. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
Roberto Gautier turns on the noise machine that he and his wife use every night to fall asleep. They live at 140 Cadman Plaza West, above nightly construction on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

Twenty-three stories below Roberto Gautier’s apartment at 140 Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn Heights, the noise begins at 11 every weeknight.

Jackhammers, drills and repetitive beeps from construction vehicles continue until 6 a.m., roughly 30 minutes before Gautier and his wife Elissa must get up for work — though the couple wakes several times during the night from the racket.

“With sleep deprivation, it’s similar to Abu Ghraib or some sort of torture,” Gautier said with a dry chuckle. “We’re high-value targets.”

For the last few years, near-nightly rehabilitation construction on the Brooklyn Bridge has left Gautier and other tenants of the building restless. The Department of Transportation’s mitigation efforts have failed, residents say, and many worry there is no end in sight.

“We want the bridge to be repaired,” Gautier said. The 67-year-old language tutor and cheesemonger uses the bridge himself, after all. “The point is that before this project started, there was very poor planning.”

brooklyn bridge construction
The view of Brooklyn Bridge construction from 140 Cadman Plaza West tenant Leslie Arlette Boyce’s seventh-floor apartment.
Credit: Leslie Arlette Boyce

There are 250 apartments in the co-op. Shortly after the noise began, residents formed a Peace & Quiet Committee, which Gautier runs. Since July 2012, the committee has organized petitions to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, asking for the department to stop work and institute noise and air quality controls.

“We’re not receiving any sympathy from the city officials,” Gautier said.

Coordinating with the Department of Environmental Protection, the DOT has taken steps to reduce noise, an agency spokeswoman said. Construction workers are use smaller jackhammers, for instance. Decibel levels are also recorded and DOT staff are on hand to “respond as needed.”

“Multiple layered sound blankets and rigid sound enclosures also are used around each work zone to contain noise from construction equipment,” Nicole Garcia, the spokeswoman, said in an email.

Brooklyn bridge construction
Elissa Gautier puts in earplugs every night to block the sounds of the construction from the Brooklyn Bridge.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

But this does little to remedy the problem because “noise travels up,” said Arline Bronzaft, an environmental psychologist who has advised four administrations, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on noise.

In 2007, Bronzaft helped rewrite the city’s Noise Code, which Garcia insisted the project is operating within.

Though Garcia noted applications for after-hours work are “carefully reviewed,” Bronzaft said the city should have more closely examined how the community’s health would have been affected before approval.

“Sleep is needed to repair the body, it is vital that you have periods of rest,” Bronzaft said. “Anything that’s stressful is going to cause wear and tear on the system.”

In the middle of the night, Gautier’s wife wakes with heart palpitations — just one of many side effects from sleep deprivation, according to Bronzaft.

Chronic noise causes high blood pressure, fatal heart attacks, obesity and impaired childhood development. Both noise and sleep deprivation also put pressure on relationships and affect concentration.

“My doctor is becoming concerned and suggested I move,” said Leslie Arlette Boyce, a photographer and dancer who lives on the seventh floor of the building. “If I could, I would.”

brooklyn bridge construction
Leslie Arlette Boyce lives at 140 Cadman Plaza West and is disturbed by the noise from the Brooklyn Bridge construction.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

Bronzaft questioned why the project was approved for after-hours work. Garcia, the DOT spokeswoman, did not elaborate but said that projects are reviewed “with a focus on balancing the impacts of nighttime construction on surrounding communities with traffic impacts on those same communities.” Full closures would displace vehicles going into Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, she said.

Earlier this month, Gautier rallied outside the building with other residents and Councilman Stephen Levin, hoping to put pressure on the DOT.

“We’re asking that DOT reassess the situation and that they do everything they can do to as much work as they can when it’s not the middle of the night,” said Levin, who represents the building in City Council. Levin noted that drivers can find alternate routes during all-day weekend bridge closures.

“You have to make sure you’re creating a balance,” he said.

brooklyn bridge construction
Roberto Gautier at the Brooklyn Bridge, where the loud construction is keeping him awake at night.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

The DOT said the project is currently scheduled to be completed next spring, but Gautier and other residents are skeptical.

Officials were unable to provide an estimated completion for the project during a DOT Working Group meeting last month, said Gautier, who serves as a representative on the group.

“It’s like a case of two versions of reality,” he said.

Gautier is hoping the issue will gain traction from Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, whose efforts focused citywide attention on nearby Long Island College Hospital’s financial difficulties.

“We’re hoping the new mayor, the new administration, will be able to put themselves in our beds,” he said.

From her bed around 10:30 p.m. each weeknight, Boyce hears the scrape of metal against metal from the construction site below her window.

“They’re unlocking the fence, dropping the chains to the ground and that’s it,” she said. “You start shaking, like, ‘Here it comes…’”

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Thousands protest in New York over Eric Garner…

The Reverend Al Sharpton led thousands of chanting but peaceful activists in a march across Staten Island on Saturday to protest the death of Eric Garner.

International

Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire as fighting rages

Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to halt fire and resume peace talks, but violence continued unabated.

National

SpaceX rocket terminated in Texas test flight

A Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rocket suffered an anomaly shortly after launch on a test flight, triggering its automatic termination system.

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

Music

Arcade Fire concert review, Massachusetts, Aug. 19

Arcade Fire take the opposite approach of "Shut up and play the hits," and it works in their favor on the "Reflektor" tour.

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…