How to Deal with Urban Construction Construction Next Door

Say that you and your neighbors have been living a quiet, peaceful life on your tree-lined city block for years and years. Suddenly, you see construction workers digging in that vacant lot next to your condo or co-op building. So you go down to the city offices—or these days, go online—and find out that someone has bought the lot and filed plans to construct a new, taller building.

Even if you're not upset about having your vistas blocked by new development, what about the work itself? What can you do if there's excessive noise or dust—or worse, problems like a broken water pipe or phone line?

The kind of notification that builders need to give neighbors can vary with location. According to attorney Marc Luxemburg of the law firm of Snow Becker Krauss in Manhattan, if the builder wants to begin construction that is not "as of right"—for example, if he needs a variance to build higher than is currently permitted under the zoning for that area—he will have to go to the community board, and the neighbors will have to be given an opportunity to voice their concerns.

A similar caveat applies if the construction occurs in a landmarked district—the builder has to get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make sure the new structure will fit in with the area's historic buildings.

In addition, says Brooklyn attorney Lawrence F. DiGiovanna, if an existing older building is on the site and is being demolished, an asbestos report must be made before the new building plans are approved.

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17 Comments

  • Great article in Cooperator by Raanan Geberer. The interesting point here, besides (in my POV, and not just because I was quoted...) it being an excellent, well researched article (God forbid), that it will be applicable to our "new neighbors" who are moving into the recently built (for good or bad) condos and rentals in our area (more condos than not). I applaud the article's level-headed approach to an on-going situation as the city continues to need new housing where old housing (or new) currently exists. --Aaron Brashear Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights
  • Question: When renovating an apartment within a building are contractors required to have a noise mitigation plan?
  • are they allowed to star working at 7 am? I think they should start working around 9 am... the noise can be too much, for those who (like me) work during the night till 3 am or 4 am...
  • i live in manhattan on Grand St . The management has hired a construction company that is comprised of immigrants that we suspect are illegals. The construction of our apts in a 26 floor bldg is being done with families living in their apt and contaminated with powder, dust and NOISE. What can be done??? please HELP. I AM ABOUT TO CONTACT THE DEPT OF HEALTH AS MANY TENANTS ARE EXPERIENCING WHITE DUST AND CEMENT DUST INSIDE THE APT MON THRU SAT AND PAYING OUR RENT...THIS SEEMS SSOOOOO WRONG...
  • COMO PODRIA LEVENTAR UAN QUEJA PUES TENGO PROBLEMAS POR QUE VIVO EN PLANTA BAJA Y TENGO UN JARDIN LO CUAL LOS VECINOS NO LE DAN MANTNIEMIENTO , QUIEREN HACER USO DE EL, SIENDO QUE SOMOS LOS UNICOS QUE LE DAMOS EL MANTENIMIENTO
  • Sonia, how can you tell if the person is illegal? Did you ask for their passport? If you are experiencing any unusual dust from construction site, call 311. It can be silica contained dust.
  • how to deal with damages done to my peoperty by next door construction. my insurance wont cover damages and their insurance has exclusion to construction damages to neighbors.
  • I live in Williamsburg, Virginia and there is new construction in my established neighborhood. They start the noise before 7am all week long including weekends. I want it understood this is wrong and inconsiderate for anyone living in the area.
  • I'm in Florida and experiencing noise from incoming workers starting at 6:15 a.m. I'm a teacher and now home with kids and it was not on my plans to get up this early every morning! Also, the dust from the trucks and work so far is so bad that I can clean a table or my car and within an hour it is covered again. My son and I have also developed a cough I believe to be tied to the dust. Add to it my worry that the shaking of our 100 year old house is going to make worse damage to our home that happened last time they did work there. They brought in a giant 'earth shaker' when building a road. Now they are building much more and I feel hopeless as the little person next to the big corporate machine.
  • Big Ugly Parking Garage on Monday, September 16, 2013 9:26 PM
    We are having the same noise and house damage problem as Judi due to the $81M Turkish American mega-mosque complex construction in Seabrook, Maryland. We have voiced our concerns to the construction company Balfour Beatty, the county, and the owners. None of them care. In fact the owners representative indicated they would do nothing to stop the problems or compensate the neighbors. I have been documenting with photos and videos. I've posted some of them online.
  • There is a new video google the "building next door" of a conference that took place at Baruch College this 2014 spring. A consortium of legal,engineering and real estate people.
  • Hi I own 12 stables and 4 Acers off land and the electric board are building a large substation and erecting two large windmills less than a hundred meters from my small holding. I have never seen any planning permission notification and now I have to see this concrete jungle being built in the next field and also loosing a beautiful view. Have you any advice or any one who could advise.
  • I live in Brooklyn next to a cement company with random hours of operation from 5am, 6am, 7am and end of day 8pm six days a week sometimes 7. I cannot open the windows facing them because black dust comes in my appartment. I developed a cough that will not go away. The doctor told me I am alergic to something but I believe it maybe linked to the dust because two weeks away from the house it stops. The house shakes every time they decide to do whatever it is they do. They pump their cement water in the city sewer sidewalk drain. When I filed a complaint I received a summons from DEP that I had to fight in court and won but never complained after that. They get deliveries of sand and rock all hours of the nights.
  • I live on the upper West side of Manhattan and there is extensive renovation going on in the apartment above me. Today the project manager called to tell me that a 3 inch hole was created in my bathroom ceiling when the crew was cutting a WASTE line. She said debris has fallen into my bathroom and she will clean it up when I get home from vacation. It is a waste line that was cut but she can't tell me if waste is on my bathroom floor. The past 3 weeks they have had large fans running day and night. I asked her if they cut a waste line then also and they dried the waste with the fans. She denied that there was waste or water above my ceiling but couldn't tell me why the 24/7 fans were running. Who can I report this to and have someone come and inspect to see that they have not contaminated my ceiling and apartment. I d not have the money to hire lawyers or inspectors.
  • the constant noise, machinery, shaking from bulldozing -- all of it is so demoralizing when projects continue one after another. It's made worse by the builders subjecting us all day long to their favorite radio station. What an awful thing to do to your neighbors!
  • Caitlyn Flickinger on Sunday, May 17, 2015 11:50 AM
    Hello, my name is Caitlyn I am in new jersey mullica west apartment complex. Talk about your place of home looking like Yemen out there. They started this construction zone on or around September 14th 2014 the construction owners said we would be moved when they started to construct, well that was all verbal. So here it is May 17th 2015 an we are still in Yemen. From 7:14am there are machinery guys everywhere ! I mean everywhere there is a generated that runs from 7am to 6:30pm its lovely. They are going in to citizens homes an ripping there kitchens, bathrooms, carpet painting in side there homes while they are living there. I recently have mold growing in my tub, an I called the health department because my complex office employees do not do there job. So the health departments was the next choice, called them an she said a co guy would be out, never showed up an the complex office called an said they got a phone call from the township. So that's how much the health department there did there job. Its like living a night mare everyday waking up to this. This downs your whole spirit everyday and I shouldn't have to move an relocate someplace else I'm a good tenant an pay my rent on time every month. But there is much more I can go on an on about but ill stop at that. That's how much people care about citizens. They'd rather have a shotty job building to show for it. I've saw the final product a friend lives in a new place. I beg to differ that its beautiful they lied.
  • Manhattan 15west 39th - massive Hoe Ram going non stop - making it impossible for myself and my employees to work - 110 decibels - sure they have permits and I am sure the person whom issued them was well taken care of. Called the DEP called 311 - in the next 10days someone will inspect - also massive dust being churned up into our air - no watering of the area to minimize this. Again city will likely do nothing - but in the meantime all of our business suffer !