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“Is construction allowed at this late hour? the noise level has been insane.”

by Prince Of Petworth August 18, 2016 at 12:50 pm 56 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I live in NoMa and the for the last two days a construction crew has been demolishing a building at 51 N ST NE between North Capitol and First Street late into the night. They have been starting around 7 and going well past 11/12. Is construction allowed at this late hour? Does anyone know who is doing the construction? I’ve reported it to the city but haven’t heard anything back. Obviously since they are tearing down a building, the noise level has been insane.”

Update from OP:

“My building just sent an email around to residents saying they have a permit allowing them to work until 8am until 9/15.”

Has anyone else heard of permits being issues where demo can occur through the night?

  • Huma

    From PoP archives, the demo for the old Washington Post building happened around the clock. https://www.popville.com/2016/01/fin-demolition-project-will-impact-traffic-at-15th-and-l-street-nw-beginning-saturday

  • That Man A

    not sure about the legality of the situation but… if they are permitted to work from 7pm to 8am that is wild

    • FridayGirl

      +1. I always thought there was a standardized 7am-7pm rule. That’s nuts.

  • jim_ed

    Yeah, it’s called an after hours permit, they’re good for 30 days at a time. You tell DCRA what you plan to do between what hours, and its up to DCRA to approve or deny. This property has the correct permit for this work, so it’s totally by the book.

    • pantalaimon

      Huh. So would there be some way for OP to get some compensation for the disturbance?

      • pjl35

        I’d be shocked, considering the several hundred residents in the building that this picture was taken from.

      • jim_ed

        No, since the work they’re doing is completely legal and permitted by DCRA, there would be no reason to compensate anyone.

        • smh

          part of the issue is that DCRA is not supposed to issue after-hours permits in most situations if there are residents within 500 feet. But they are working from old maps and they probably don’t even realize people live in NoMa. This has been a big issue in Navy Yard and one ANC commissioner here has been working very hard on it.

    • INWDC

      Interesting. So after the 30 days I’m guessing they can reapply and potentially be granted another 30, and so on?

      • jim_ed

        Correct. Until DCRA decides otherwise. It’s a matter of filling out the paperwork, dropping it off at DCRA, then going back 24 hours later and paying $38 to pick it up.

        • Commissioner Gordon

          Wouldn’t the ANC be able to contest something like this? Lord knows they have their hands everywhere else.

  • lizcolleena

    I’ve heard of this in the SW US and other really hot areas of the country. It’s for the workers’ safety, because as you can imagine manual labor in high temps can cause a lot of problems. First I’ve ever heard of it in DC.

    • pjl35

      I could understand that logic MAYBE in this case if it wasn’t a demolition using construction equipment. They’re hardly taking the thing down with their bare hands…

      • Anon

        Have you ever been in the cab of tractor or any large machinery? It’s sweltering even if you’re just driving. One of my first jobs was driving the machine that picked up golf balls on the driving range. Summer temps were enough to make anyone feel faint

        • wdc

          Yes, I have. They’re air conditioned now.

      • Anon

        I live near a big construction project, and because of weather-related delays (all that rain in the spring) they’ve gotten approval to work weekends now.

        • pjl35

          Same. I live in NoMa and the second phase of my building (Camden) has been doing full construction days on Saturday for a year. Lovely 7 am wake-ups….

          • textdoc

            IIRC, building projects don’t need special permits to work on Saturday; Saturday is considered a normal working day for these purposes.
            Sunday construction, however, requires a special permit.

        • SilverSpringGal

          Yeah, my place in Logan is also playing catch-up bcs of the rain-related construction delays. And FTW DC is as swelteringly hot as any city in the South so the after-hours construction seems in-line as far as that goes.

  • eva

    I have a friend who works construction who basically ends up working 3rd shift in the summer because so many of his jobs shift to an overnight schedule.

    Unions advocate for it because it is dangerous for their workers to be out and exposed to the sun during the daytime at this time of year. And there are practical reasons as well. For example apparently cement dries way too fast in the hot summer sun so if there is any decorative cement work being done at all it has to be done in the overnights.

    • pjl35

      There’s hardly any decorative cement being poured during a demolition. Additionally, none of the other buildings going up within a few blocks have done night work during either of our heatwaves this summer. I get that maybe it’s a different union representing them, but still.

      • eva

        Did you read the permit application? I don’t know why they’re doing it this way, I’m just explaining why it’s a common practice, especially in August.

        • pjl35

          I’ve tried to find it, but DC’s websites are hardly user friendly/easy to navigate.

          • west_egg

            Actually, DC’s web sites have won awards for their usability! In this particular case all you have to do is Google “DCRA permit search”, click the first result and enter the address. I have plenty of gripes with city services but their permits database isn’t among them.

          • jumpingjack

            west_egg, the fact that you need to use Google to find something on DCRA’s website proves the point that it’s difficult to navigate.

          • navyard

            Agree with jumpingjack. How do you find a permit if you don’t know the exact street address? Try finding CSX permit for VA Ave Tunnel.

          • pjl35

            west_egg, all that gives you is the application status and a one line explanation of the work. not exactly what i’d call helpful.

  • pjl35

    I don’t understand this, particularly if the demo is ONLY happening at night. I get that JBG wants to get this building down to start construction on their new project on N St, but is it really that time sensitive considering at least four other residential buildings that are currently going up in NoMa/Union Market?

    • Truxtoner

      Well, what is being built here isn’t just residential. And I would imagine JBG has a greater incentive to see their building go up first, so not sure that rationalizing will work with them. I would definitely hate it if I live in the 2M building or were staying at that Hyatt across N Street from this. Call, complain to DCRA and hopefully when the 30 days is up they won’t renew it.

      That said, there are plenty of workers on the ground there that you may not realize. It isn’t just one dude running the bulldozer. And as hot as it has been the last two weeks, I could see why they would want to get the permits they need to do this overnight. Just keep telling yourself that when it is all done and the new buildings are in, you’ll have more retail, food, and movie options right at your back door. Or, buy earplugs.

      • pjl35

        I’m moving to 2M a few days before this permit expires, so I’m really hoping that they don’t renew or the demo is done by that time. And, not to worry, I already have tons of earplugs at the ready because I live in Camden where the second phase construction starts at 7 Mon-Sat.

        Re: not just residential being built…I’d agree if there weren’t full office buildings in NoMa that have been vacant for multiple years because no one has leased them.

        • address of the construction is 51 N St NE and the permit number is AH1600973. The noise inspector can be reached at 202-478-5786

          I live in 2M and sleep with ear plugs b/c of all the ambulances/fire trucks up and down north cap. Luckily, I haven’t heard the demo for the building at 51 N St NE. But get ready 2M, b/c when SKANSKA starts their projects right next door at 22 M St, 44 M St, and 88 M St that’ll be crazy loud.


    • Anon

      DC has a severe housing shortage. I think that’s why the city is pushing to speed these projects up.

      • Truxtoner

        I don’t know that this is true for rental apartments, is it?

        • anon

          Hard to quantify. New apartments rent out at increasingly high prices so they are likely in high demand, so there is a shortage of new apartments. There is a displacement problem with long-term residents being priced out of their neighborhoods, so there is a down-market shortage. This assumes high prices = high demand and short supply. There are other complexities, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say there’s a shortage, especially so close the metro, which is where housing can scale most without straining transportstion infrastructure.

    • Q

      I’m going to guess that the workers are getting paid extra to work overnight, so I’m also going to guess that JBG wants to go back to daylight hours as soon as possible and aren’t dragging their feet about getting stuff done. They probably haven’t budgeted having two crews–one day, one night–working at the same time, and they estimate that they can get more work done at night, when the heat index is somewhere south of 110.

      • Ehhh

        I work on a job site in DC that has 3 construction shifts basically meaning the site is up for 24 hours 7 days a week and it was definitely budgeted for. Night and weekend crews do get paid time and a half but again – it was planned.

  • NE DC Res

    I haven’t found the noise to be too bad (in 2M, courtyard side, similar view from the photo) but I also have a fan running in my room at night which provides some nice white noise which is maybe drowning it out. It honestly just sounds like thunder to me when they occasionally get a big chunk to fall, but sorry that others are kept up by the noise.

    In addition to the heat and worker safety, I wonder if the late night demos are to mitigate pedestrian exposure to the dust. The demo has produced large clouds of dust as large chunks fall, and since the area has a high number of 9-5 office workers, the late night demo might just be the lesser of two evils.

  • V

    Ha! Get used to it DC! When I was living in NYC, the middle of the night was the only time they could work on roads etc, too busy during the day.. You’ll get used to it and then the noise will move elsewhere. Jesus be a pair of earplugs

    • Commissioner Gordon

      I fail to see why DC residents should get used to something that happens elsewhere.

    • INWDC

      I guess under these circumstances Jesus is definitely a pair of plugs.

    • Anon

      On the other hand, NYC bans the use of audible sirens at night (something I wish DC would do!).

  • K

    The Permit Application Status Tracker shows that they’ve had after hours demo permits all summer. It appears they renew each month but I don’t see an application for Sept. yet.

  • Anon

    Contact your ANC rep and your council member. That’s a quality of life issue for building residents and they should be able to help.

    • textdoc

      Also consider contacting the MOCR (Mayor’s Office of Community Relations) rep for your ward. I found my councilmember’s constituent-services person to be clueless, but the MOCR for my ward was surprisingly helpful.

  • Loganres

    You need to remember that building demo and new construction requires equipment to be using the streets for removal and deliveries. DDOT and even utilities are impacted and schedules are based on all parties involved. Please don’t bug the city or your ANC with complaints. Your ANC reps earn no salary for having to respond to your emails and the city services are swamped with a huge development pipeline. Buy some ear plugs and turn on a fan. It’s a part of living in the city and it’ll train your sleep patterns for the increased noise levels that will come when there’s more pedestrian and vehicle traffic from the density with the new buildings

    • pjl35

      considering ALL of the construction going on within a block or two of this demo site, not to mention the fact that i live in the area, it’s quite clear that streets are just fine during the day. a large scale demolition is in NO WAY equivalent to noise from increased pedestrian traffic, particularly if we’re talking about after midnight on weekdays. you don’t get to dictate why others contact their ANC rep or complain to the city.

    • kanon

      I disagree wholeheartedly. Why shouldn’t city services respond to a citizen’s question? Because they are swamped with development projects? I think that’s a backwards way of looking at it, imo. Noise concerns are a valid, particularly overnight, and there may well be a very valid reason for the night construction, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the residents weren’t informed and want to make sure their rights are protected. They won’t know until they ask. And isn’t responding to questions like this, from your neighbors, the very definition of being an ANC rep?

  • Meghan

    I also live in 2M. The noise has kept me up until 2AM the last two nights, and I already use a white noise machine. Previously lived in NYC for 4 years, too, so I can safely say this this isn’t just normal construction noise that you can “get used to.” They’re literally knocking down a building while people are trying to sleep. Have some compassion, y’all.

  • NE DC Res

    Just came here again to add +1 for the URL

  • Construction Worker

    Remember that at some point someone was making a lot of noise to build the buildings that most of us live in, including demolishing an existing building. I understand that the noise is annoying and inconveniencing, but we all live in a city and construction will always be a constant. Demolishing a building at night is also much safer with the limited pedestrian traffic. Most contractors would prefer to make a little extra noise at night and avoid the risk of injuring pedestrians during demo.

  • Reality

    Welcome to living in the city. I hear the rural roads of VA are quiet at night.


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