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Loud and Proud

Industrial-chic neighborhoods can be as noisy as a factory floor. How do developers silence buyers’ doubts?

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Dumbo’s 85 Adams Street, a.k.a. Beacon Tower, has a rooftop park, a feng shui–compliant lobby, and sunny apartments with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. But its best amenity may be its windows. With two panes of laminated glass sandwiching an air space, each assembly measures ten inches thick, enough to drown out the millstone around this fancy new development’s neck: It’s right at the spot where the BQE meets the Manhattan Bridge approach, and pedestrians conversing in front of the building have to shout to hear one another over the traffic. “You can see [the windows] are very substantial,” says Steve Rutter from Corcoran Group Marketing, which handles the tower. He swears that those sashes have allayed many buyers’ concerns.

With prime locations growing scarcer and industrial chic the order of the day, developers are reclaiming more and more space in formerly undesirable neighborhoods. That has forced them to deal with basic issues like where to buy groceries (FreshDirect to the rescue!) or, in the case of Boymelgreen’s Beacon Tower and Extell’s Avery, which is next to the West Side Highway, the roar of cars and trucks. Joshua Cushner of Shen Milsom & Wilke, the acoustic consultants that gathered data on 85 Adams, says this kind of work “has become more commonplace,” and that he’s definitely seen an uptick in business. Firms like Cushner’s conduct studies to see just how noisy a location is and suggest soundproofing materials to builders. (The area right next to the Manhattan Bridge, he says, is as loud as a subway stop when the express is roaring by—no surprise, given that the B and D trains run over the bridge.) “You want the background to be quiet enough so you can talk or listen to music without intrusion from the outside,” he adds.

Not that noise is always a deal-breaker. Bellmarc broker Janice Silver lives in a nine-room co-op so close to the Queensboro Bridge, she says, “people call to get traffic reports. The first week, I couldn’t believe we actually bought there.” Now she can’t imagine living anywhere else—“It’s crazy, but you get used to it,” she swears—and says she shares her own experience with buyers who are nervous about noisy locations. “There’s always compromise. If it’s not noise, it’s space or view,” says Silver. “There are very few apartments in the city that you can’t make livable.”


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