NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Officials, parents and students are rallying against what they are calling a dangerous construction project near an elementary school on the Upper West Side.

Demonstrators came out in force Thursday morning to protest plans to construct a 20-story nursing home tower less than 50 feet from P.S. 163 on West 97th street, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.

Parents said the construction project, which is expected to begin later this year, will expose children to toxic fumes, dangerous equipment and noise exceeding permissible limits.

“That’s two to three years of our children breathing lead fumes, hearing drills shrieking and concrete blasting instead of hearing their teacher,” said Adina Brooks, the mother of a first grader. “That tower will turn her elementary school years into noise, fumes and trucks. Construction here will stop instruction.”

Public hearings were scheduled for this week after environmental studies showed the presence of lead and gasoline at the proposed construction site, Papa reported.

“I did a little research and I found the lead in the ground will decrease the ability for the human brain to recall information and concentrate,” fourth grader Brahim Khalyat said. “It increases the risk of me having asthma attacks and I really hate those.”

“We know there are contaminants, like lead and barium, in that earth and when it is unearthed it’s going to contaminate the immediate area and the whole neighborhood,” said one resident who has young twins that would be attending the school. “We might even leave the neighborhood.

A hearing Wednesday night lasted for three hours, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported. Another hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and organizers expect the same heated turnout.

Parents, residents and others have created a website and petition opposing the project.

“We are not against construction in general, so please do not dismiss our concerns as merely a not-in-my-backyard issue. This is a safety and health issue first and foremost,” the petition read. “The casual safety assurances of a developer are not going to protect the children of P.S. 163.”

City Councilman Mark Levine plans to introduce emergency legislation to regulate the project.

“That would say any construction within 50 feet of a school — this one would qualify — has to adhere to the highest level of standards so no learning is disrupted,” Levine said.

In a statement, Jewish Home Lifecare said it pledges to work with the school community and it’s taking many steps to make sure the project is safe.

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