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Construction Activity Never Sleeps in Lower Manhattan

Fri June 23, 2006 - Northeast Edition
Amy Westfeldt - ASSOCIATED PRESS



NEW YORK (AP) Lisa Hanock-Jasie and her husband moved to lower Manhattan a year ago, attracted by the prices and a building that would take in their 85-lb. Belgian Shepherd. She loves the nearby waterfront and promise of revival. She does not love the digging in the streets that hasn’t stopped since she came here.

“After you’ve worked a full week, you really don’t want to wake up at 7 a.m. to the drilling,” said Hanock-Jasie. “We love living down there. We just hope that it ends one day.”

“It” is the most massive construction activity that the city has seen in decades, building officials said. More than 30 projects alone are ongoing or planned in lower Manhattan, including a half-dozen at the World Trade Center site. Overall, the city is spending $20 billion on construction, more than it ever has.

In many neighborhoods — especially around the trade center site — that means jackhammers, bulldozers and orange and white cones have become as commonplace as rush-hour traffic. Commuters wade into the streets to get around construction equipment on sidewalks. Truck horns blare, clogging narrow roads with traffic.

“There’s just no peace,” said Jan Larsen, general manager of the 569-room Millennium Hilton hotel, across the street from the site.

He said some guests have complained about the noise at night, while the restaurant inside the hotel has fallen off in business because of the construction that surrounds the hotel. Work on a massive transit hub renovation has closed off the hotel’s front entrance and most of two sidewalks around it.

“It’s all good news, once it gets done,” Larsen said. “While it’s under way, it’s a little bit painful.”

Officials overseeing the construction boom said the heaviest work is still ahead, and they are predicting three to five years of major rebuilding downtown.

“We sort of call it lower Manhattan, 2010,” said Charles Maikish, executive director of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, which is coordinating dozens of projects in the area.

Maikish has been working for close to two years on maintaining air quality, traffic patterns and keeping the noise down for residents living near the trade center site and New York’s Battery Park City, where several residential buildings are going up. “Contractors will be cited for putting too much dust into the air,” he said. The up to 8,000 construction workers who will eventually be working downtown will need to take mass transit and not cars — “we’ll tow,” he said.

Most challenging will be coordinating demand for tower cranes and delivering more than 2 million cu. yds. (1,529,110 cu m) of concrete and thousands of tons of steel to the right places at the right time. When contractors begin excavating land to build three new towers at the trade center site, Maikish said, “they’re going to be running trucks every three to five minutes for a period of 12 months.”

Mel Ruffini, who’s overseeing construction of the 1,776-ft. Freedom Tower for Tishman Construction Corp., said 30 to 40 trucks a day will eventually need to get down one ramp to the trade center site, sharing space with workers building a Sept. 11 memorial, a $2.2 billion transit hub, three more towers and a performing arts center.

Getting the concrete delivered on time in traffic is a problem — concrete can only stand for 45 minutes after it is poured, Ruffini said. Finding enough of it is also a problem; both concrete and steel have seen double-digit price increases in the past year.

“We will be obviously depleting most of our resources within the metropolitan area to get these projects completed,” Ruffini said.

Besides the redevelopment planned at the trade center site, Tishman is also building a $2.4 billion Goldman Sachs Group Inc. headquarters nearby. Contractors are dismantling a 41-story skyscraper damaged by the 2001 terrorist attacks. Transit officials are digging underground to rebuild a downtown city subway hub. On Wall Street, where Hanock-Jasie lives, city officials are replacing water mains.

Elsewhere in New York, planned expansions of Penn Station, the conversion of the abandoned High Line rail line into a park, and the building of 30,000 housing units and several schools are ongoing.

“We’re having development in all five boroughs at the same time,” said Richard D. Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. “There’s no end in sight.”