Lately, she has been sleeping at a friend’s apartment a few blocks away. Her own apartment, she said, has been rendered virtually uninhabitable by construction noise, and she isn’t talking about familiar New York sounds like the clatter of jackhammers or the beeping of forklifts.
For the past seven months, Ms. Firstman said, a hydraulic hammer has been pounding away at a hulking mass of rock right outside her window.
Washington Heights is a rocky place, and the steep hills and palisades for which the neighborhood is named have long served as natural fortifications against development.
Until recently, the lot on Overlook Terrace, a little more than a half-acre, looked much as it must have looked millennia ago, with scrappy trees and bushes clinging to a towering rock formation.
But now a contracting company is breaking down the rock to make way for a 27-story condominium, and local reaction has been, in a word, loud.
“The community is definitely in an uproar,” said Wendy Olivo, a spokeswoman for City Councilman Robert Jackson.
One reason the hammering is so noisy is the altitude of the site. When the project began, in November 2007, the rock formation was about 60 feet tall, and it acted, in essence, as a bell tower, projecting the hammering over the blanket-covered plywood wall that was meant to serve as a sound barrier. After months of rock-breaking, as the process is known in the construction industry, the formation is still at least 40 feet higher than the plywood wall, and neighbors continue to complain.
Mark Tosolini, the project superintendent for Marson Contracting Company, said that the firm had tried to mollify local residents by reducing the number of hours in which hammering is allowed. Beyond that, he said, there is little that can be done.
“There’s no physical way of actually covering the site or soundproofing the site,” he said.
Despite such assertions, many residents are intent on silencing the racket. An online group dedicated to protesting the noise, has 47 members, among them Shaya Potter, a doctoral student in computer science at Columbia University. Although the city’s environmental inspectors have visited the site and allowed the hammering to proceed, Mr. Potter is contemplating filing a complaint with the city’s Environmental Control Board.
“I used to work from home,” he said. Now, when the hammering starts, he gets on a train and heads down to Columbia.
For some of his neighbors, he added, getting away is not an option. “It really impacts the homebound,” he said, “the elderly and the sick.”