Saturday, October 11, 2008

Construction Junction

Ugliness in the making

Big Ol' Hole in the Ground 1 Building Over

One of the Holes in the Ground Across the Street

Another Hole in the Ground Across the Street

The Finished Product: Brooklyn's Own Tower of Terror

There are many reasons why our current choice of habitation is not ideal when you have a sleep-challenged baby.

1. The apartment is small, and the bedroom is right next to the living room, separated by a thin, creaky door that actually has slats in it that allow light from the living room to spill into the bedroom. We've taken to putting a sheet over the slats to keep the light out, and Dave WD-40'd the hell out the door, so now it only mildly groans, like me when I'm getting a good massage. When we watch a movie, we are constantly readjusting the volume, turning it way down for music/action sequences and way up during important whispered conversations. If it's a movie I've seen before, it's not unusual to find me barking orders at Dave (who insists with all his testosterone on managing the remote) such as "loud scene coming, turn it down NOW!"

2. The apartment is luminously bright, which is one of the reasons we were so keen to take it. With our photosensitive girl, however, we must apply aluminum foil to the windows in order to block out that gorgeous sun, causing our once cheerful apartment to now seem like the set from the movie, The Others.

3. We live on a 3rd floor walkup. Stella weighs almost 20 lbs. I go up and down those stairs with her at least 3 times a day. (And yet, miraculously, my body refuses to shed its baby-weight.)

These are all good reasons why we want/need to move ASAP. But there is one other reason that trumps all of these. Because, in essence, we have an awesome deal on this place and it's in a super-sweet neighborhood. Our landlords are stellar and we're just now really getting to know our neighbors. We could really put up with those top three reasons, even as Stella begins to toddle around this cramped apartment.

So what is so terrible that you've spent most of your free time doing the real-estate cha-cha, you ask?

The pictures above say it all. Our little corner of the world has become, as I not-so-lovingly refer to it, Construction Junction. On one little block in Park Slope Brooklyn, five -- COUNT THEM FIVE -- construction sites have been established in order to create over-priced, fugly condominiums. Did I mention over-priced? Because they will be.

Now, in my not-so-humble opinion, towering, cheaply-made, ridiculously priced condos are the last thing our little neck of the wood needs. There's little to no parking already (and most of these buildings do not contain parking garages) and our highly-rated public school (at which I teach when I'm not on full-time mommy duty) is becoming increasingly over-populated and less and less diverse. Soon we will be neighbors with a-holes who could buy and sell us several times over. And the self-righteous attitude that turns people off about this neighborhood could very well become the doctrine.

But I'm not just angry at these condo developers because they're crapping on our neighborhood, causing the landscape to be less and less attractive while causing the real estate prices to be increasingly astronomical (if you're looking for a 2 bedroom in Park Slope but can't afford more than $700K, good luck, buddy). I'm also angry at them for a far more personal reason.

Those development sites are mind-bogglingly loud during the day. In particular, the hole in the ground one building over involves some machine that constantly jars the ground, causing my entire building to shimmy and shake (I've even had stuff fall off the shelves in the process). There's also some guy whose job it is, at least according to my aural abilities, to bang on a pole all day. "Ting ting ting ting..." All day. Not to mention the normal construction buzzes, bangs, booms, etc.

Even our ridiculously posh, very loud white noise machine can't drown out the sound of five construction sites. Especially when we're experiencing a minor earthquake in the process.

Worse than the sound pollution, though, is the possible air pollution. One of the holes in the ground across the street (as opposed to the one one building over -- there are three in total) used to be an older apartment building. They began dismantling it after Stella's birth, during one of our restless, napless times when I spent countless hours in the bedroom nursing and coercing her to sleep. I watched the guys rip apart in weeks what it took months for some other builders, decades ago, to make. I also watched the sky fill with dust and debris.

Around that same time, my 100% breastfed girl* was coughing, wheezing and sneezing her head off. Now I can't say for sure that there's a coorelation, but the minute they were done with the project, she stopped having countless colds. We've contacted 311 (NYC's community hotline) to complain about all this and request an air quality test, but we haven't heard anything to date.

So, I've had it up to my colossal breastfeeding boobs with all this construction. The looser restrictions on obtaining building permits in our city have led to the blander and blander landscapes and less-and-less affordable housing. Hmmm...reminds me of our current economic crisis. What lesson can we learn kids? Restrictions can be a good thing! (For example: someone needs to restrict my Oreo consumption, so that aforementioned baby weight can finally come off.)

There is only one little beacon of hope that I hold in my bitter little heart. Although there is not much speculative building that happens in NYC (hence our real estate bubble holding strong amidst the housing crisis), these four buildings must be at least partially speculative. I mean, who buys a condo before it's even built? And the only people I've ever heard of who can afford over-priced, cramped condos are Wall Street execs. (The more family-oriented wealthy crew tend to buy the gorgeous brownstones in Park Slope -- which is exactly what I would do if we were to suddenly strike it rich.) Last I heard, Wall Street guys ain't doing so well. Which means, maybe they won't be so hot to buy an ugly, expensive, 1 bedroom apartment. Which means maybe these a-holes who've decided to wreak havoc on my block might just lose all their dough.

Losing all your cash on a shoddily-built, overpriced condo is pretty rough. But it ain't nothing compared to watching your little girl miss yet another nap because some guy in a hard-hat is hitting a metal pole.

*Breastfed babies receive more antibodies and therefore have stronger immune systems than non-breastfed babies. At least, that's what all the pamphlets say.


Kellygirlnyc said...

That pole banging guy used to work next door to my building, but then they finished the new construction. I guess I found out where he went. He's reallly good at the whole "pole banging" thing; I would hate to have him lose work.

alexlady said...

almost twenny pounds!!! she's gettin big!

Yeah, that pole banging aficionado must get around, cuz i've heard him up here too.

i wonder how many of these new-construction places will stay empty... or will people with million-dollar homes DOWNSIZE to the 650-700 range??