“This project is being done the wrong way,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Construction of a 20-story facility at this site, right next to P.S. 163, will have adverse impacts on the school children and the community at large that the Department of Health hasn’t adequately examined or addressed.”
According to Mt. Sinai’s Children's Environmental Health Center, if the Proposed Project is allowed to proceed as is, the well-being of children at P.S. 163 will suffer short- and long-term consequences, including damage to children’s reading ability, test scores, cardiovascular health, and attention, and will result in their learned helplessness, among other things. The academic literature on noise “predicts that if noise outside of a school building increased from a background level of 60 dBA, which is far louder than the current classroom ambient noise levels, to a construction level of 75 dbA, as the latter will certainly occur here, one could expect children to read at a level one full year behind their average peers.”
“We are taking today’s legal action on behalf of all New York City school children who deserve protection from loud and dangerous construction that threatens to significantly harm the schools’ ability to teach and for the children to learn,” said Rene Kathawala, Pro Bono Counsel at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, filing on behalf of parents and children at P.S. 163.
“We call on Mayor de Blasio to reject this project and protect our city’s children and their families from
the clear harms that will occur if this project is allowed to move forward in present form,” said Evie Porwick, P.S. 163 PTA Co-President and mother of two children at the school.
“Children’s ability to learn, grow, and remain healthy must be our primary concern,” said New York State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. “The State Department of Health’s review of the risks of this proposal did not adequately assess the danger of this project—not only for our children but for all of our neighbors in this area.”
A bill, (Intro 420), introduced by Council Member Mark Levine, and supported by more than 20 New York City Council members, would require any construction next to a public school to limit the noise impact in classrooms to below 45 decibels. During construction noise, levels at P.S. 163 are expected to rise from their current range of 36 to 42 decibels (dBA) to a range from the low-70s dBA to low 80s dBA — roughly an 800% increase in volume. One of P.S. 163’s experts, Robert Lee, an acoustical engineer, testified that “the noise levels at the school will be expected to be similar to those produced by a vibratory concrete mixer.”
“As a parent and former educator, I'm extremely concerned about the effects this construction will have on air quality, traffic flow, emergency response, noise levels and respiratory health for children as young as three-years-old,” said Mr. Levine.
Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL), which proposes to build the 20-story nursing facility in question, abandoned its earlier plan to rebuild at its current site at W. 106th Street and instead plans to build its new facility next to P.S. 163. This change in plans results from an exchange of its current property with real estate developer Chetrit for a $35 million payment. The new facility will have 100 fewer beds and will not better serve the elderly. The responsible course of action would be for JHL to rebuild a state of the art facility at its present location. Indeed, the New York State Department of Health granted approval to JHL to do just that in 2008.