Run Silent, Run Deep

A barge moored in South Cove, conducting pile remediation work on the underwater columns that support the Esplanade.
The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is continuing a decade-long project to shore up the underwater columns that support the Esplanade, but has found a way to do it without keeping residents up at night.

At the April 23 meeting of the BPCA’s board, Gwen Dawson, the Authority’s vice president of real property, explained, “the esplanade of Battery Park City rests on a relieving platform which is supported by 3100 total concrete piles. We initiated a program in 2007 to perform certain remediation steps on these piles, to wrap them in fiberglass, to make sure that their lives could be extended — we are told up to an additional 30 to 50 years.”

The Authority is now beginning the sixth phase of this project, which will focus on three segments of the Esplanade: near South Cove, adjacent to the ferry terminal, and along the community’s northern edge, behind Stuyvesant High School. The current phase will repair a total of 561 piles, across these three areas. This work is done from barges that are parked alongside the Esplanade for several months, and from which divers descend into the Hudson to perform the underwater construction work.

As the BPCA board reviewed several bids for this contract, Ms. Dawson added that one of these, from Walker Diving Underwater Construction, was the staff’s recommendation, in part because, “the last phase of work that we did generated a fair number of noise complaints, because of the way that the barges were secured. The barges have to stay put once they’re there, until they finish the work in that area. The way that they were anchored involves spuds, which are metal rods in a metal sleeve, that allow the barges to float up and down with the tides. As that happened, it generates a lot of clanking, which disturbs people when they’re trying to sleep at night.”

As a result, when putting the contract for the 2019 phase of the project out to bid, “we’ve specifically asked the contractors to give us some proposals for how that noise might be controlled,” Ms. Dawson noted. “Walker demonstrated a better solution for that problem, which we think will be a great improvement for the noise issues.” The firm’s approach involves anchoring their barges to the river bottom, rather than allowing the vessels rise and fall on vertical spuds.

Ms. Dawson added that, “we also felt that Walker seemed a little more comfortable with the schedule of getting all of this work done in a proper sequence, between the start time and the end time that is allowed by the State regulations.” (Albany’s environmental rules require that work such as the BPCA’s pile remediation project be undertaken only between May and October.)

Also counting in Walker’s favor, noted Anthony Peterson, the BPCA’s director of diversity programs, is that the firm is designated by the State as a service-disabled veteran-owned business (SDVOB) vendor. Under a 2014 law, such companies are required to be awarded six percent of State contracts. Noting that Walker had served as a subcontractor on previous phases of the Authority’s pile remediation project, Mr. Peterson explained that, “as an SDVOB, they recently had an influx, because of the six percent goal. Now everyone’s using them, so they’re large enough to prime the project themselves. But they’ve been on the project since the beginning.”

On the basis of these recommendations, the Authority’s board voted to award the 2019 contract for pile remediation to Walker, for a fee of $9.8 million, which comes to approximately $17,000 for each of the underwater pilings they will repair.
Matthew Fenton

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