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"Is everything OK?" How corporations can work effectively with communities.

posted Sep 3, 2012, 5:09 PM by West Block   [ updated Sep 7, 2012, 1:36 PM ]
It's such a simple question. "Is everything OK?" It's indicative of how some people and some companies understand how to work with a community. Let me explain.

Today as Susan Goodman and I were out on the block pruning the plants and cleaning the trash from our tree beds near the construction site we heard a man's voice ask: "Is everything OK?" When we looked up, we saw a tough looking guy in a hard hat and safety vest. This tough looking guy is Joe McGrade, the site foreman. Turns out Joe is a real professional.

We introduced ourselves and told him what we were up to. Joe immediately did several things. First he described the process of how his team took care to protect trees on their construction sites and offered to introduce us to the arborist that is on site at all city construction projects (something we didn't know). Not only did he walk us over to this lovely woman (more on her below), but at every tree bed we passed he stopped and helped us clean them out. The beds in closest proximity to the construction he cleaned himself (he didn't want us too close for safety reasons). And finally, when I told Joe that some of the steel plates and plywood boards might be a tripping hazard on the south side of the street, he walked over with me to inspect the area and immediately set about getting his crew to make the sidewalks safer for pedestrian traffic.

The construction outside is inconvenient and is - unfortunately - going to impact the quality of life on our block for a while. Fortunately the company and workers understand the impact on the community, created a plan to minimize their impact and put the right people in place to implement that plan.

Part of that plan is having an arborist on site every day: Christine Smyrski. Like Joe, she's a real pro and very knowledgeable. She told us when construction is completed the sidewalks will be replaced (so we'll have new, safer sidewalks). Even better news is that typically, when the city redoes the sidewalks, they also expand the tree beds to 10' X 5'. This is great news for our trees as larger beds give them more oxygen, more water and more room to spread their roots creating healthier trees. Of course we'll have to find a way to get some new tree guards, but one step at a time. Christine also spoke with us about the diseased pin oak trees on our block (in front of the Whitby) and is going to look into what the city may be able to do to help and get back to us.

Many thanks to Joe, Christine and to the construction company, Network Infrastructure, Inc. (working for ConEd). This is how it should be done.

UPDATES
9/5/12--We asked the project manager, Joe Panica if his crew could fill the sinkhole in the middle of the block (trucks have been bouncing over it making huge crashing noises for over a year now, disturbing residents, waking sleeping babies etc). It's not ConEd's responsibility (the sink hole is above the water main, not the gas main) but ten minutes later the hole was filled with asphalt and pounded down to level. Thanks Joe--Network Infrastructure are "can-do" guys.

9/7/12--Just spoke to Tommy Ryan (the other project manager) about another big sinkhole that has opened up on our block just in the last week or so. It's a dangerous condition for cars and pedestrians that step off the curb. Tommy says it looks like a leak or a break in a sewer or water line. Network Infrastructure/ConEd can't touch this one because it looks like a more serious problem, and then they become responsible for the condition. Too bad, because these guys get things done. We've reported it to 311--now let's see if NYC DOT or NYC DEP get this fixed before somebody gets hurt.
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