Bill to Protect School Children from Negative Impacts of Major Construction Projects has 13 Co-Sponsors Including Environmental Conservation Committee Chair

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 

CONTACT:   Jordan Levine 917-842-5748 / [email protected]

NEW YORK -- Today, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Congressman Jerry Nadler, City Council Members Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal, State Senator Adriano Espaillat and State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell rallied with parents and children at the racially diverse P.S. 163 pre-kindergarten and elementary school on West 97th Street to call on the City Council to pass Council Member Levine’s legislation to protect school children across our city from the serious harms of major construction projects.

Intro 420 would require any construction next to a public school to limit the noise impact in classrooms to below 45 decibels, the maximum permitted noise level for a school under state guidance. According to The National Academies Press, children learn by listening and background noise can lessen the level of educational attainment of a student by interfering with their perception of speech. It is important that students are able to fully understand the lectures and comments of their teachers and classmates in order to appropriately learn the material at hand.

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene notes that noise that exceed 85 dBs can lead to permanent hearing loss. According to the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), the average dB level for background noise of a construction site is 86. Not only does this number exceed the level of noise that can be attributed to hearing loss, but the resonating sound can cause learning deficiencies to children in the surrounding schools.

Surprisingly, schools across New York City do not already have this basic protection. As a result, children at schools like P.S. 51 in Manhattan suffered serious medical impacts and falling test scores after construction next door in 2011. Ultimately, this required the school to be moved far away.

Without swift action, P.S. 163 will be the next to suffer this fate.  Jewish Home Lifecare plans to construct a 20-story tower next to the school, which has children as young as three.

Beyond the noise, this construction threatens to emit toxic dust and bring heavy traffic with dangerous cranes and trucks. The state and city agencies charged with protecting our children, including the NYS Department of Health, NYC Department of Education, NYC Department of Transportation and NYC Department of Environmental Conservation, have failed to adequately examine the construction plan. The Department of Transportation has admitted it did not even read the School's public comment letter submitted to DOH complete with a report from two traffic engineers and legal analysis, before agreeing with DOH that the construction should be allowed to go forward. 

As a result, parents and elected officials called on the City Council to step in and do the right thing for this school and others around the city.

“As a parent and a former educator, I'm extremely concerned about the effects this monstrous construction will have on air quality, traffic flow, emergency response, noise levels and respiratory health for children as young as three-years-old," said Council Member Mark Levine. "That is why I have introduced a legislation that has the potential to stop this project from moving forward and also protect students at other schools around the city. I am asking all of my colleagues to join me and the parents of PS163 in helping to push this critical measure forward before it's too late.”

“Minimizing the impact of construction noise on our schools is crucial,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler.  “We must make sure that development doesn’t come at the price of the safety and education of our schoolchildren.  Councilmember Levine’s legislation would do just that, starting with P.S. 163, and impacting many other schools around the City.”

"Construction of a 20-story facility directly adjacent PS 163 and Park West Village will have significant adverse short- and long-term impacts on schoolchildren and on the community at large," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "I'm proud to stand with Councilmember Levine, residents of Park West Village, and the students and parents of P.S. 163 to again voice our opposition to this proposed project."

"I applaud Council Member Levine for introducing this important bill, and I urge the City Council to pass it quickly and protect the PS163 community. I completely agree with Council Member Levine that noisy construction has no place so near an elementary school. This bill will prevent that and ensure that our children are safe and able to access the education they deserve," said Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell.

Rene Kathawala, Chair of the P.S. 163 Taskforce for a Safer School said: “The parents at P.S. 163 are deeply concerned about the serious health risks and impact to our children if this construction project is allowed forward. Our concerns are supported by extensive testimony from experts in environmental, acoustic and traffic engineering, as well as noise. Unfortunately, none of our concerns have been addressed or even reviewed to date by any state or city agency.”

Josh Kross, Co-President of the P.S. 163 PTA said: “To address our concerns about noise, and that of all school children across NYC who might face construction next to their schools, we call on the City Council to pass Int. 420 in this legislative session. You’re voting to protect the school children of New York. A win-win for everyone if you vote yes.”

CONTACT: Jordan Levine (Levine) 917-842-5748 / [email protected]


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