An emergency Community Board meeting was held on June 25th at Housing Works to address the environmental impact of the Rudin development of the St. Vincent’s Hospital campus on District 2.
The meeting on Monday evening was attended by several hundred extremely animated and concerned parents and residents of District 2. The attendance was much greater than expected, representing a heightened awareness and anger towards the Rudin Management’s notable lack of commitment to the neighborhood’s health and wellbeing to date. A show of hands revealed that about two thirds of the crowd were PS41 parents; about twenty children were also present. City & Country School and PS41 were represented by their respective principals, Kelly Shannon and Kate Turley.
The Rudin family was represented by John Gilbert, the CEO of The Rudin Management Co., John Menz, SVP Design & Construction, Rudin Mgmt, Terry Carbough, Project Executive for Turner Contracting and Melanie Meyers of Freid Frank (Land Use Council).
Representatives from Deborah Glick’s office, Quinn’s office and Tom Duane’s office were also present. The meeting was chaired by Jason Mansfield, Chair, Environment, Public Safety & Public Health Committee. Also in attendance were people who had been active in the now dormant Yetta Kurland led Coalition for a New Village Hospital and people from the direct action group Hands Off St Vincent’s and the Jim Fouratt led Every Minute Matters.
Tension in the room was running high as Melanie Meyers introduced herself and spoke about the planning that had occurred in predicting the ‘Significant Adverse Effect’ boundary around the site, which excludes PS41. Ms Meyers spoke in great detail about the ‘plans’ of the site that had been used to calculate and predict the noise and dust levels. She failed however to adequately explain how the extremely powerful demolition and construction noise would suddenly abate precisely at PS41’s doorstep.
Residents of West 11th Street on that same block have been offered noise abatement in the form of air-conditioners and storm windows, right up to PS41 and in brownstones facing the school building. City & Country School has been qualified as a residence by the Rudin Management’s West Village Residences LLC, and has received the same form letter signed by Eric Rudin. Note that this is noise abatement only, for all who have been offered the letter. No acknowledgment what so ever has been made that the air quality for the residents or for the schools will be compromised.
Many parents and residents spoke and received resounding applause and cheers from the crowd. Issues that drew the most attention involved worry over air quality. While noise is a great concern of all of us who are affected by the construction, the issue of safety during these four years for our children’s lungs is paramount in the parents’ minds. This represents a deep divide in what is being said by the management reps and what is being asked by the parents. When John Gilbert or Terry Carbrough were asked about emergency protocol should something go wrong on the site, it was clear they had nothing planned at all. Mr Carbrough kept referring to the stage of the demolition that has already occurred in the interior of some buildings, telling us, “No breach occurred.” This is no comfort when the major demolition and construction have yet to begin.
Every question was met with evasion, sometimes to a surreal degree, like a Dada parlor game Salvador Dali might have played with Gertrude Stein. Any point blank question, such as “Will you commit to giving PS41 storm windows and air conditioners?” was answered with “No, at this time I can’t commit to that.” It was the most common refrain of the two and a half hour meeting.
Despite the promise by the CB2 chair to stay on top of the concerns raised, and despite the Rudin reps putative promise to ‘come to the table,’ parents and community members left the meeting with the same level of frustration and fear for the health and safety of their children with which they had arrived.