Brooklyn Boro

‘Screeching’ Cobble Hill condo building drives neighbors crazy, amasses violations

April 1, 2021 Mary Frost
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A new luxury condo building in Cobble Hill, being marketed as 5 River Park, is not only driving neighbors crazy with its “screeching noises” at all hours. Now it is under a partial Stop Work Order for numerous violations.

Due to high winds coming off the harbor, which previously sailed quietly over the air rights of historic brownstones, balconies on the upper floors of the new building are making a disturbing racket that is getting on the nerves of locals as far away as Brooklyn Heights.

Some are calling the building, at 347 Henry Street, the “whistling condo.” But whistling is too nice a name, Amanda Sue Nichols, second vice president of the Cobble Hill Association told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“Whistling can be pleasant. This is not pleasant,” Nichols said. When the wind picks up, the noise “sounds like the metallic screech made by a braking subway train.” Depending on the direction of the wind, neighbors “can hear it inside of their homes, and at night when they’re trying to sleep,” she added.

Local resident Megan McQuillan, who lives on Warren Street, said the sound is “maddening.”

“It sounds like a high pitched piercing whistle. It sounds like when the 6 train pulls into the Union Square station and the wheels or brakes screech so loud. It’s a maddening sound and will go hours and hours during windy weather,” she said. McQuillan and her husband are working from home with two kids in a small apartment, so “not having access to the outdoor space or being able to have windows open is extra infuriating.”

The noisy new condo building at 347 Henry St. is part of Fortis Property Group’s overall redevelopment of the former LICH site. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Neighbor Karen Van Every’s husband Shawn and their son Wythe, 3, both heard the noise, Karen told the Eagle. “My son asked, ‘What’s going on?’”

Her husband told her “it was very loud and they spent the next 15 minutes or so trying to figure out where it was coming from. He looked on the website NextDoor and realized he wasn’t crazy; everyone else had heard it, too.”

In an article in the Brooklyn Paper, which first reported the noise, Cobble Hill resident Dorothy Siegel, who lives a block away, said, “It’s like fingernails on a blackboard. It hurts your teeth, it’s that kind of sound.”

The condos in the new building, built on a parcel that was part of the former Long Island College Hospital campus until 2015, are listed for millions of dollars. A one bedroom, one bath unit on the third floor is going for $1.225 million. The penthouse is estimated by Zillow at $7.5 million.

After the Cobble Hill Association received a flood of complaints in January, developer Fortis sent an engineer who found that the balcony railings were the source of the racket.

“We asked if they could do anything temporary about the awful sound,” Nichols said. On March 1, “They decided to zip-tie boards to the balconies. There were incredibly high winds that night. The boards blew off over the course of the night and blew all over, into people’s back yards, littering the whole neighborhood. It was dangerous.”

“I honestly don’t know what people are going to put on their balconies” after the building is approved for residency, she added.

CHA looped the Department of Environmental Conservation into the task force, Nichols said. “They came out, met with neighbors and took measurements.”

Fortis says it is working on it

Fortis spokesperson George Shea says help is on the way.

“We responded immediately when we were made aware of the wind-related noise, and we have identified an adjustment to the balcony railings that we believe will remediate the issue. We have implemented this as a test that is being overseen by an acoustical engineer,” Shea told the Eagle.

He added, “To ensure that the approach works, we will need to monitor fully during high winds, when the noise has occurred. We are establishing recording devices to speed this process. We are fully focused on this issue and we will move as expeditiously as possible to resolve it.”

The process is taking a while, because the building only starts to screech when the wind is blowing.

“DEP Noise inspectors have been to this location several times,” DEP spokesperson Edward Timbers told the Eagle. “On a few of those occasions there was not sufficient wind to create the sound,”

“The property owner/contractor is aware of the issue and when inspectors visited today to discuss mitigation steps they could take, they found that a Stop Work Order had been issued for the entire site,” he said.

Building slapped with Stop Work Order

It turns out that the screeching noise is just the cherry on the top of the violation cake for 347 Henry St.

DOB issued a full Stop Work order at the site on March 29 for numerous violations, including failure to provide a tenant protection plan, failure to safeguard the public, a large opening in the fence which left the site open to the public, failure to provide a site safety manager as required, missing street barriers and other violations.

The order has been partially rescinded, but numerous violations remain, including hazardous material near openings “creating hazardous conditions of falling material and debris.”

The construction by Fortis “has been a nightmare for its neighbors,” local resident and former CHA president Franklin Stone told the Eagle. “For more than two years, our backyards have been showered by construction debris, water bottles, hard hats, cardboard, caution tape, shards of metal and full size doors. Fortis repeatedly apologized and came to clean up their mess, but they did not do anything to prevent further debris. Despite complaints, DOB ignored the community’s concerns and imposed no corrective action or penalties.”

Officials want to prevent sales until noise is fixed

On March 30, local officials including Councilmember Brad Lander, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon sent a letter to the NYC Department of Buildings asking that the Department of Buildings not provide a Certificate of Occupancy until the noise issue is “fully rectified.” The officials also sent a letter to the Attorney General’s Office asking the AG to prevent the sale and transfer of ownership of any units in the building until that time.

“If they sell the building to condo owners then they’ll wash their hands and walk away,” Councilmember Brad Lander said in a statement. “Residents of Cobble Hill have been letting Fortis know about this for quite some time and it’s not fixed. It’s really loud and quite disturbing across a surprisingly large geography.”

The whistling condo building is just one part of a massive development which is converting LICH’s historic 22-building campus into skyscrapers and townhouses. The sale of the hospital was contested in court by CHA and numerous other neighborhood associations and health advocates for years, but was pushed through by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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  1. NisaMitchell

    Noise in Brooklyn Appartment building, this building is about 2 or 3yrs old the building structure was poorly built. The building wholes about 400 tenants. It’s so hollow that you can hear people talking in another Appartment u can hear people walking the hall that sound like there on your Appartment. I’ve lived here for 2yrs and 9months I haven’t had a gd night sleep sense Ive been here because I started to complain about it the management started to make up lies that I was the problem I’m on a government program and now I’m in court trying to keep my place . They won’t move me to another unit so I can sleep at night or even during the day it’s just never ever any piece I’m so overwhelmed. This building is residential slash hotel and you never know who’s living next u HELP !HELP !