Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Henry Street townhouses are beginning to smell

The flipside of roses is sewage.

Of course.

For a couple of weeks there has been a terrible smell at street level in front of our building - human waste, without a doubt. My months in Prospect Park's Midwood forest taught me that smell pretty quickly.

Some days are worse than others.  At first I thought it was a homeless person using our trash cans as a toilet. Then two days ago a lady pushing a shopping cart past exclaimed, Who died here??? Very good Brooklyn accent. And I realized the smell traveled farther than I had imagined.

Today, on the sidewalk, after taking photos of the rose-encircled terrace from our neighbours, Sam and Sara's roof, I met our other, next door neighbours, emerging from Raccoon House. They sniffed the air and said, Did something die here?

But it's not the smell of death.

It's kaka, as the cat would say (he cannot be reformed, I have tried).

We sniffed collectively and our noses led us to the big metal plate in the street, covering yet another hole that has been dug on behalf of the three new townhouses across the street. Every manner of line has been laid to them, with the whole block being shut down for a day at a time, and suddenly the penny dropped.


30 April 2013

The street on this block now looks like a Third World highway. Patched and rutted and violated by repeated incursions beneath its surface. Scar lines of fresh, uneven tar cross it at right angles where trenches have been cut from one sidewalk to the other. A flimsy wooden cage appeared around the base of the central street oak a couple of days after my long post about the construction's progress. The cage appeared a year-and-half after construction started. A bit late. And the tree that I think is being killed is the one at the end, which suffered a trench slicing right through its roots.

The noise? That doesn't bother me in the same way. Yes, it's loud, but construction is inevitable in the city; there is going to be noise. Unavoidable. But sloppy, dangerous work gets my goat.


I've seen a lot of construction, and have worked on construction sites. I have a friend who works at street level, laying sidewalks and operating heavy machinery. He has permits and safety precautions up the whazoo. Because otherwise he gets fined for safety violations.  But the developers across the road delivered dozens of I-beams to the site without even closing the sidewalk. Have you seen an I-beam? Beyond illegal. People (not very bright, admittedly) were literally walking beneath as the multi-ton beams swung overhead. The sidewalk was wide open. Heavy earth moving machinery has ridden up onto both sidewalks, with no precautions taken. Then came the airconditioning units.

The EPA has been in the street on more than one occasion, for water main breaks. We've been without water several times, and when it comes back it's loaded with silt.

How does this continue? Is this project subject to a massive number of fines, or is someone's palm being heavily, and repeatedly, greased?

Or are they just lucky?


  1. While I was visiting your neck of the woods last week I saw MULTIPLE violations- it was almost like Dante's lower levels. Down here in New Orleans we call it 'The Greasing Of The Poles' because so many of us have canopy balconies being held up by columns. I think the GREASE is everywhere.

    1. I thought you meant the construction industry was run by Poles! :-)

  2. Good thing you are leaving soon for S.A.

    I moved to the burbs because of the lovely summer city smell. Couldn't take it.

    The meat packing district on a Sunday a.m. now smells of barf and pee from the previous evening's festivities.

    I have the cicadas to deal with now. (but don't mind!). xo

  3. The school going up across the street seems a life long endeavor. We hope to be in greener pastures before the four years of construction is done. Maybe you as well?

  4. Oh dear, you never know who reads your posts..... Someone could sleep with the sardines (or whatever that line is). Good thing she's getting out of town! Enjoy your holiday. Breathe. Rest. Oh, and tell us all what you're seeing!

  5. oh poor baby, you have to put up with a little in convenience.

    get over it, this crap happens, and basically falls under the category of tough !!

    1. Ooh, a troll.

      I am sure you would live happily with an open sewer on your doorstep.

  6. Take your insults elsewhere, "anonymous." We don't do that here.

    1. Thank you, Clark.

      It came from a local Brooklyn blog that linked to this post, where unimaginative and anonymous insults are a form of sport for the Otherwise Unoccupied.

  7. Thank you for writing about this! The smell is terrible! And it's appalling how many developments are being built without the proper paperwork, licenses, etc. Scary and dangerous! Money talks, I guess. and until someone gets hurt, nothing will change. I'm assuming you've called 311?


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