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Neighborhood Construction: Blasting Through the Rubble

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Whether it’s a structure demolition, an excavation, or the alteration of an existing building, large construction projects sometimes cause big problems and inconvenience your neighbors. In worst case scenarios, the dispute can even become the subject of a lawsuit.

But a new building going up or a major change being made to an existing building in the neighborhood needn’t cause undue consternation. As with so many aspects of city living, communication is key to preventing disputes, and settling them quickly when they’re unavoidable. Lack of communication can make the imaginations of neighbors run wild; knowing a simple fact such as how long the project is expected to go on can go a long way toward calming some residents’ fears.

Legally speaking, a builder /developer’s responsibility to neighboring buildings during construction is to minimize smaller problems, such as noise, dust, and the like. Simply put, the developer shouldn’t be creating an undue amount of disruption. But what qualifies as ‘undue’? Some residents are more sensitive than others, and the question of whether or not the construction is creating too much noise can be a concern. That doesn’t mean annoyance at the noise level points to anything that’s illegal.  For example, just because a project is extending past the allowable work time of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. doesn’t mean there’s a violation; the builder may have been given a special permit to work at night. If a resident thinks the contractor is in the wrong, he or she can always call the DOB to determine if such a permit exists, or otherwise, file a complaint.

Serious construction-related problems, like structural damage from excavation and/or blasting, or water damage from an accidentally-broken water line, can and do happen during projects. Who is liable for them and how are they resolved depends largely upon the specifics of the contractor’s insurance or the developer’s insurance. The possibility of such damage is part of the reason why it’s necessary for the developer to have access to adjoining buildings from the start of the project, so that he can note things such as existing cracks in the foundation and not be liable for them later on. Creating a record of the state of the property at the outset can save significant time and money down the road.

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