CB5 Letter to DDC with comment on Proposed Water Main Project (MED699)
Manhattan Community Board Five
July 12, 2022
Department of Design and Construction 30-30 Thomson Avenue Long Island City, NY 11101
RE: Proposed Water Main Project (MED699) on 7th Avenue, 14th to 34th Streets
Dear Commissioner Foley:
Manhattan Community Board Five ("CB5") appreciates the Department of Design and Construction (DDC)'s presentation, Distribution Water Main Replacement Along 7th Avenue Between West 14th Street and West 34th Street (Project ID: MED669), on June 23, 2022, to the Transportation & Environment (T&E) Committee. Portions of the project area within CB5 are bounded by West 26th Street to the south and adjacent to CB4, and between Sixth and Eighth Avenues.
We are pleased with the stated goals of the project to: improvement of water distribution and fire protection, lessening water main breaks and service disruptions through the replacement/upgrade of the aging distribution water main, and replacement of defective valves and fire hydrants. We also understand that DDC has entered into a joint bid with Con Edison for simultaneous work, as needed.
We offer the following comments and concerns for your consideration:
- a) Community Board Five would like to express a preference for a linear ordering and sequencing of work, for predictability and advance planning needs of businesses, residents, and visitors alike. Further, we would prefer restoration of blocks to their final, permanent state every two to three blocks as they are finished instead of leaving the blocks temporarily restored for years until project completion.
- b) Construction work should be scheduled to take place during daytime hours, particularly for residential side streets where there are more residents than businesses; however, for light manufacturing and commercial areas – to include the Flower District on West 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues – night-time and weekend hours are preferable. Zoning regulations and mixed-use considerations must be carefully reviewed, and construction hours optimized to minimize disruption to both residential and commercial/manufacturing tenants.
- c) As the project is anticipated to begin Fall 2023 and estimated through Fall 2027 (4 years), we expect regular updates on the project and scheduling throughout -- including advance notification of water main shutdowns, traffic management, and materials storage locations -- as well as consistent engagement with the affected community boards, elected officials, and business improvement districts (BIDs) in coordination with project's Community Construction Liaison (CCL).
- d) We strongly recommend that the design team hold additional public hearings for constituents in advance of the project and to afford the opportunity to offer comments and address concerns, especially in light of briefed community impacts to include:
- Roadway lane closures, as necessary
- Temporary loss of parking
- Temporary relocation of bus stops
- Scheduled water main shutdowns
- Night-time and weekend hours for construction (which may be necessary), and
- Open restaurants coordination
We understand that CCLs will provide Project Information Cards (PIC), community advisories, weekly construction bulletins, and quarterly newsletters; in addition to the CCLs, we expect that the Office of Community Outreach and Notification will be available to answer questions and to provide the latest news, as posted on the DDC website.
- e) NYC is committed to ensuring that New Yorkers with limited English proficiency (LEP) are able to access information, programs, and services offered by City government. Local Law 30 requires the use of Census data to improve access to City services for all individuals. Accordingly, we request that project communication be provided, at minimum, in other languages to include Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Bengali (Hindi), and Braille.
- f) A walkthrough with the district Board Offices of CB4 and CB5 should be scheduled, at minimum, before any staging areas are finalized.
- g) Ensure that water outages are short in duration and during low-usage intervals, thoroughly communicated in a timely manner, and that water access/supplies be made readily available. Members of the public voiced concerns during the T&E committee meeting and requested bottles of water and/or vouchers be made available, and especially for low-income residents and those otherwise disadvantaged. This recommendation aligns with DDC's charter to make "improvements to the City's complex infrastructure system, ensuring that New Yorkers will always have access to clean drinking water."
- h) We request that audio pedestrian signals be retained and/or newly installed, concurrent with the water main project, ensuring safety and providing support to blind people and those with low vision.
- i) CB5 requests that a budget line be added to the project to help businesses affected by potentially months or years of impact, with resource allocation for marketing, signage, wayfinding, and other support.
- j) Impacts to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), their faculty/staff, and student body of approximately 7,000 enrolled, if any, should be appropriately coordinated with their community liaison.
- k) Impacts to, and congestion in and around Penn Station is of particular concern, as it serves as the main intercity railroad station and the busiest transportation facility in the nation serving hundreds of thousands daily; water disruptions, construction materials staging, and impacts to Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), New Jersey Transit, PATH Train, and/or NYC Subway, in addition to taxis, rideshare services, emergency vehicles, and ADA accessibility concerns, must be considered and mitigated proactively in coordination with other agencies, as appropriate. Other considerations include events at Madison Square Garden, adjacent office tenants, and ongoing construction activities in vicinity of the project area as well as demolition of Hotel Pennsylvania (located between West 32nd and West 33rd Streets) currently underway.
Further, CB5 is in agreement with many of the opinions and concerns voiced by Community Board Four. Their concerns included the potential and notifications related to bus service disruptions; the locations of roadway openings and water main alignment; impacts to bicycle lanes and trees in median refuge islands (pedestrian safety); project hours of operation; block-by-block restoration; materials storage; mitigation for businesses; and scheduling notifications.
Community Board Five additionally requests approval of a copy of the June 23, 2022, presentation be made available to the CB5 Board Office for posting on our public website and inclusion in our newsletter. We ask that any substantive changes proposed, and any relevant updates be brought back to CB5 for public awareness and comment.
As all of these considerations are taken into account, we strongly urge that transparency be a part of every step of the project. The City should go into detail about how streets and businesses will be impacted and should then make an effort to minimize disruptions.
We look forward to the project to improve the water main infrastructure along 7th Avenue to benefit all New Yorkers, and especially those located within Community Board Five. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this matter.
Vikki Barbero E.J. Kalafarski
Chair Chair, Transportation/Environment Committee
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