South End Neighborhood Upset Over Large Developments Working on Weekends

An agreement was supposed to be in place.

So thought Natalie Truong, who had read in the Sun about the new agreement between the City and the neighborhood on an emergency-only process for weekend and night work.

But there seemed to be an awful lot of emergencies across the street at the new Smith development (formerly Harrison Albany).

So much so that she said there was basically work going on every weekend in August, and all through Labor Day weekend.

Pretty soon, she said she was wondering if there actually was a policy.

“They worked at Leggat McCall for three consecutive weekends in August, and they worked a weekend in mid-August so they wouldn’t have to work Labor Day, but they worked Labor Day weekend anyway,” she said. “I feel like they were sneaking Labor Day because they always send notifications about weekend work and they didn’t send one for that. If we don’t hold the City and the Building Commissioner to the agreement that’s in place, it will just go through every time. Once you let up, the developers will just try to work every weekend. Then the policy we have no longer exists. It will just be ignored.”

Truong is not the only one scratching their heads in the South End, and that’s precisely why a major meeting is being planned by the South End Forum to address weekend and night construction policies – something that Moderator Steve Fox said he thought was solved earlier this year.

“Developers and contractors are now asking the South End community to abandon our hard-won limitations – which are being challenged every week – and asking for support from the residential and commercial South End community for routine after hours work and routine weekend work,” said Fox. “Suffolk Construction and others have asked to make their case directly to the South End community and that they will be able to persuade neighbors to support a roll-back of our limitations for  both after hours and weekend work by contractors.”

Fox explained that earlier this year, the Mayor’s Office and ISD Commissioner Buddy Christopher supported a two-tier process for approving after-hours (after 6 p.m.) and weekend work. That included sign offs by Christopher and the Mayor’s Office (via Liaison Faisa Sharif) on any emergency situation, which included public safety issues, major traffic and parking impacts, or significant site structure, engineering, or damage risks.

The result of that policy, he said, has been that many in the development community – particularly the larger developers like Harrison Albany, Ink Block, Quinzani’s and others – have asked for and been granted weekend permits more often than not.

That, he said, wasn’t supposed to be how it worked.

Truong was outraged, and during the planning stages and public reviews of the project two years ago, one of her major concerns was after-hours work at the site.

She said she was relieved to see the new policy in place earlier this year just as the Smith began construction. When the policy derailed, she said she decided to push for answers.

“I wasn’t getting any answers and people were saying it didn’t happen,” she said. “I got annoyed. It clearly happened. Were we supposed to get videos of this? It did happen and it made me really mad. It is a real complaint and no one is giving the residents any credit as to how often this is happening.”

After being told that the work didn’t happen several times, Truong said she finally got the answer from Christopher, who wrote in an e-mail that he had forgot to notify everyone as the policy stated.

“Hi all let’s be clear,” he wrote. “I was the person that allowed them to work last night (Sept. 4). My error for not letting people know.”

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the D-4 Community Room.

Fox said he and other community leaders are urging everyone to come out to the meeting to have their voices heard if they oppose weekend and after-hours work.

“Count on a rollback of our weekend work limitations if neighbors fail to show up and voice their views,” Fox said.

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