Students struggle living amongst Division Street construction

Household received no warning from City prior to project start in May

Ongoing construction in front of student houses on Division Street.

This May, the City of Kingston began the long process of reconstructing Division Street between Union and Brock Streets. This came as a surprise to many students living in the area who received no prior notice from the City about the project. 

According to the Queen’s Gazette, this reconstruction is due for completion in late fall of 2017 and will “replace aging infrastructure and separate the sanitary sewer and storm sewer systems, which will improve wastewater management during rainstorms.”

One student household located on Division Street sat down with The Journal to discuss their experience of living through the construction during the summer and into the first few weeks of school. According to them, the City never informed them that construction would be starting.

“We didn’t get any notification that there was going to be construction all summer,” Laura O’Grady, ArtSci ’18, said.

To help the community navigate through the chaos of the road work, construction crews created temporary detour walking routes. For several weeks, street traffic was redirected to a pathway that ran along the entire edge of the back, side and front of their home. Having people continually passing by where they eat, sleep and study raised privacy concerns for the students.

Zoe Zimmerman, Sci ’18, says she often cooked in the pitch-black during this time because an illuminated kitchen would expose her to passersby walking inches from her window.

Nolan Ross, ArtSci ’18, reported incidences of individuals walking along the path and “testing the front door” to see if it was unlocked. 

With her bedroom on the main floor, Rachel Strauss, ArtSci ’18, said pedestrians knocked on the window directly next to her bed.

“When we chose this house, we [knew we were] very exposed because we’re right on campus… but now I don’t open my curtains at all,” Strauss said. “Even if [people aren’t] watching us, they’ll be drilling a foot away from my window.” 

“As soon as you walk outside it’s like a stage because everyone’s right there.”

Ross, Zimmerman and O’Grady also ran into trouble this summer when their water was shut off without warning. While water shut-offs were communicated in advance a few times, Ross said they were given insufficient notice on one occasion and another time there was no warning at all. 

Inconsistent communication has remained a theme throughout the construction. On August 9, the house received a notice that they wouldn’t be able to park on the street until September 29. Just this Wednesday, Strauss found herself unable to access her front door due to an excavator being operated on their front lawn — a disruption the students received no warning about. 

With the loud construction beginning each day at approximately at 6:45a.m. that can go well into the evening, the group struggles with the noise. Zimmerman and Strauss said they often avoid going home during the day and will only return when the workers are done.

Construction also raised the issue of accessibility for O’Grady this summer when she was on crutches for two weeks. During this time, she began to wonder how residents with permanent accessibility struggles would navigate their day-to-day life.

“Being on crutches and trying to navigate through the construction would’ve definitely been a larger concern had it not been so temporary,” O’Grady said.

While the household did take issue with the effects of construction, their main problem is the lack of direct communication and support the City provided them with.

“Construction does have a negative impact on students who are studying and just trying to feel safe in their own homes, but we’re understanding people,” O’Grady said.

“Obviously city construction has to happen and whatever they’re doing is essential, but I think if you’re going to do that type of construction… [the city] should have some type of team to promote accessibility or accommodations for people that it’s going to drastically effect,” Ross said.

As of Monday, Ross said he was still unaware of exactly why this construction was being done. O’Grady said she only knew from seeking out articles online herself.

“If it’s going to directly affect you, I think there should be some responsibility to explain what’s going on and why,” Ross said.

“I think for future projects that are this big… if they were to have a plan prior and provide us with this plan and give us updates, that would’ve been nice. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

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