Photos and story by Daniel Efram
The ongoing roadwork on the west side of First Avenue at Seventh Street continues to negatively impact the quality of life for both residents and business owners along this corridor. Noise from backhoes, earth flatteners, jackhammers, circular saws, and cars and commercial cartage trucks on the uneven metal plates on the streets and avenues have brought this intersection to a boiling point.
Piping and construction materials, garbage and standing water are the norms. Human waste oozes from the rarely emptied portable toilets. Worst of all — there isn't any timetable for the end of the roadwork.
Crews reporting to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) returned to the intersection to replace portions of the water main back in May.
As previously reported, there were back-to-back breaks here in late December. The multiple ruptures sent water rushing into businesses and residences along Seventh Street between First Avenue and Avenue A.
In the weeks/months after the breaks, there was a patchwork of quick fixes on the intersection, and a hodge-podge of sinkholes and cracked surfaces emerged
The DEP contractors covered the various holes with metal plates, and the sound of cars, trucks and buses driving over the plates overnight has disrupted the sleep of residents living within earshot.
A resident assembled the above video in March — a best-of montage of cars and trucks driving over the metal plates.
However, it's not just the noise — the reverberations have caused cracks in several nearby buildings. Two residents in the area said when they called 311, the city eventually dispatched inspectors, who subsequently fined the landlords for the cracks in the buildings exacerbated by the ongoing street repairs. Meanwhile, there has been near-constant jackhammering in the past two-plus months, with some complaints being lodged for work on Saturdays. Residents said they are also irked by workers apparently slacking off on the job and crews taking weeks off without explanation. "I live in one of the buildings on the corner and have had a front-row seat to the shoddy work and laissez-faire attitude of this crew since December," said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous. "They show up at 7 a.m. with a crew of six or so, stand around yelling to each other until about 10 a.m., work for an hour, take lunch, work for a little bit more and finish by 2 or 3 p.m." According to the resident, only a few workers will be active at any given time, and they "walk around like they own the block." "They have taken over a huge part of our block and make no effort to clean up where they have worked or minimize the effects on the residents," the resident said. According to the residents I spoke to, there appears to be little, if any, oversight on this sprawling project. Several residents said they have reached out to local elected officials, including City Council Member Carlina Rivera, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, to request immediate accountability with a transparent timeline — delivered by an independent third party. According to Rivera's office, there is someone assigned to oversee this case. Residents and business owners hope that elected officials can have the work expedited with a definitive timetable. (Anyone wishing to file a complaint can use the subject "7th Street & 1st Avenue Construction Complaints." Community Board 3 has a service complaint here.) Updated 8/5 We asked Community Board 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer for an update. She said that her office has asked the DEP for a timetable and signage to let people know what is happening. As for complaints, Stetzer said to let her office know via the service complaint form here.
"We will not be able to fix all the problems, but we can try to have mitigated as much as possible," she said. And residents should file a complaint sooner rather than later: CB3 has an interagency meeting that will include the DEP this coming Tuesday. "So it would be helpful to have complaints before then," she said.