‘Like fingernails on a blackboard’: Whistling luxury condo tower distresses Cobble Hill

Whistling luxury condo tower
A whistling noise coming from the balconies of the 15-story condo tower at 347 Henry St. has distressed Cobble Hill residents for months.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

A luxury condo in Cobble Hill has radiated a shrill whistling sound for months, disrupting life in the quiet brownstone nabe with its piercing noise, according to locals. 

“It’s like fingernails on a blackboard,” said Dorothy Siegel, who lives a block away from the hissing tower. “It hurts your teeth, it’s that kind of sound.”

The 15-story luxury at 347 Henry St. is part of the mega-development atop the former Long Island College Hospital campus dubbed River Park, and developer Fortis Property Group plans to hawk the 25 apartments at the corner of Amity Street starting at almost $1.3 million for a one-bedroom — but well-heeled potential buyers could be in for a deafening surprise, locals say.

“People [will be] paying for that building and it ends up being like a shrieking horror fest. It sounds like right before the knife pierces the shower curtain,” said local Megan McQuillan, referencing the famous scene from the 1960s flick “Psycho.”

The sound coming off the building, dubbed 5 River Park, reverberates for several blocks — as far north as Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, south to Warren Street, and east to Court Street, according to residents. 

The Cobble Hill Association raised the issue with Fortis at the civic group’s monthly construction task force meetings with the developer, local electeds, and city agencies — and an acoustic engineer hired by the builder determined that the sound was coming from the building’s balcony railings, which rise for stories above the low-slung nabe and are exposed to gusts coming off the Brooklyn waterfront. 

The problem has been going on since at least December, according to CHA’s president, who lives a half-block away and said the clamor causes restless nights for him and his family.

“It wakes us up,” said Ezana Bocresion. “My wife said it sounds like a witch howling at night.”

In early March, the developer zip-tied boards to the balustrades, but the stopgap panels soon blew off and were scattered by the first strong winds within a day or two, according to another CHA board member, who urged the developer to find a long-term fix. 

“We just want to make sure that whatever they do is sufficient and permanent and if this problem persists post-closings they’re still working on it,” said CHA’s second vice president Amanda Sue Nichols.

The CHA has kept a close eye on the controversial River Park development — which bills itself as a whole new neighborhood within a neighborhood that stretches from Hicks Street and Atlantic Avenue to Henry and Amity streets. The plan includes a new 36-story skyscraper, two 15-story towers, a condo conversion of LICH’s former Polhemus Building, and a row of swanky townhouses.

On Tuesday, a group of local pols sent letters to state Attorney General Letitia James and the city’s Department of Buildings, asking the two offices to not sign off on a condo offering plan and a certificate of occupancy — two approvals Fortis needs before they can sell any units — until the whistle stops, according to a local councilmember.

“If they sell the building to condo owners then they’ll wash their hands and walk away,” said Councilmember Brad Lander, whose district covers the area. “Residents of Cobble Hill have been letting Fortis know about this for quite some time and it’s not fixed. It’s really loud and quite disturbing across a surprisingly large geography.”

The Department of Environmental Protection, the city agency in charge of mitigating noise, also plans to send out inspectors to take noise readings, according to spokesman Edward Timbers.

A spokesperson for Fortis played down the noise as a routine disturbance of new structures, but added that the developer has committed to fixing the problem.

“This is not uncommon in new buildings. We are currently investigating to find out why this is happening, and we will resolve it,” said George Shea in an emailed statement.