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Solving Noise Problems

Protect Yourself and Your Family From Dangers of Noise

  • Wear earplugs in noisy places, e.g workplace, sports arenas, engaging in sports such as auto racing and speed boating, and while riding motorcycles, dirt bikes and motor scooters.

  • Sound-treat your home: Use heavy curtains on the windows, acoustical tile on the ceilingsand walls, rugs on the floors; caulk and seal all air leaks to reduce the noise coming in from the outside.

  • Turn down the volume of radios, stereos especially with headsets, I pods.
    Purchase the least noisy air conditioners and appliances for your homes and keep them in good repair.
    Create a demand for quieter appliances, e.g. hair dryers.

  • Protect your children from noise: avoid noisy places but when you can't, cover your child's ears in these places; don't buy noisy toys, discipline children with stern looks and softer voices.
    Tell your teenagers about the hazards of noise; e.g. loud video arcades, concerts, headsets.

Consider Quiet for Others

  • Respect your neighbor's right to quiet, e.g. Keep your radios, stereos and television turned down.

  • Don't vacuum late at night. Soft coverings should be placed on floors. Keep your pets as quiet as possible.

  • Don't honk horns except in emergency.

  • Educate friends and neighbors about hazards of noise

Noise in New York: How Noisy? New Code! Who Can Help With Complaints?

Noise Complaints: Number One "Quality of Life Issue." With the City's 311 Hotline logging over 335,000 noise complaints in FY 2005. Nearly half of those calls were "neighbor noise" complaints. (Refer to Bronzaft and Van Ryzin study here) New York is not alone in fielding noise complaints because citizens around the world have reported an increase in noise.

New York City's Revised Noise Code: The new legislation establishes a more flexible, yet enforceable Noise Code, that responds to the need for peace and quiet while maintaining New York's reputation as an exciting, vibrant city with a rich nightlife.

For more information click on the following links:

Mayor Bloomberg Signs Legislation Overhauling Noise Code

Information on the Law

Who Can Assist With My Noise Complaints?

Construction, Barking Dogs, Cooling Units, Bars, Nightclubs, Discos, Outdoor Cafes - call 311 and provide as much information as possible, e.g. automobile license, nightclub address, number of building with loud cooling unit. 311 will route the call to the Department of Environmental Protection who will investigate the complaint.

Car Alarms - Required to shut off automatically within three minutes of activation. If alarm continues beyond required time, call 311 and call will be routed to police department. New York City Police can disconnect audible burglar alarms. It should be noted that New York's new Noise Code calls for a study of noise abatement strategies for audible motor vehicle burglar alarms.

Motorcycles, Boom Cars and Loud Exhaust Systems. Get the license plate number and report to the local police precinct. If problem persists, contact your local Police Precinct Council and your local Community Board.

Ill-fitting Gratings and Manhole Covers - Department of Transportation. Street Metal Plates - determine who is doing the work, e.g. government agency, Con Ed, Verizon, Keyspan (nearby truck may offer clue). Then contact appropriate agency.

Public Sanitation Vehicles - Call Department of Sanitation. New York's new Noise Code calls for a study of vehicle back-up warning devices and findings and recommendations of this study are to be reported to the Mayor.

Noise Associated with Airports, Rapid Transit and Railroad Operations. The new Noise Code asks the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection to study and propose strategies to control and/or reduce sound levels associated with airports, rapid transit and railroad operations.

Dealing with Neighbor Noise Complaints

Except for loud parties which can be handled by calls to local police precincts, neighbor noises are not generally dealt with by the Police Department nor the Department of Environmental Protection. Neighbor noises are generally reported to landlords or managing agents. Apartment dwellers should be entitled to quiet enjoyment of their apartments by building leases.

A recent study entitled: "Neighbor Noise" - A Problem That Needs to Be Addressed by Arline L. Bronzaft of the GrowNYC and Betty Cooper Wallerstein, Chair of the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association found that landlords and managing agents tend to ignore neighbor noise complaints. A questionnaire asking for information on "neighbor noise" was sent to managing agents of 56 buildings on the Upper East Side. Only 23% of the agents contacted responded to the questionnaire after two mailings and phone calls. It is doubtful that neighbor noise is not a problem on the Upper East Side but if it were not a problem, the short questionnaire could have been completed by the managing agent stating that noise is not a problem. More likely, the lack of response indicates that noise is not much interest to managing agents.

The City's Mediation Centers report that neighbor noise complaints are high on their list of complaints. Neighbor noise complaints can be called in to community boards and local public officials.

The 79th Street Neighborhood Association and the East 83/84 Block Association are working on seeking ways to address the issue of neighbor noise complaints by strengthening rental and coop/condo leases.

A Quieter Community Is Up to You!!!

  • Become Informed: Become knowledgeable about the noise problem, the effects of noise and potential solutions. You will have to do homework to discuss the noise problem intelligently. Document the noise problem by keeping logs of noise occurrences, including time, date and duration. You can also purchase an inexpensive decibel meter to measure how loud the noise is. Know whether there are laws that can be used to correct the noise problem. Seek out possible solutions. Remember - you may end up knowing more about the noise problem than the public officials or enforcement agencies.

  • Get Organized: The noise in your neighborhood must also be disturbing your neighbors. Knock on some doors, speak to neighbors in the stores, and set up a small meeting in someone's home. Get yourselves a name, e.g. Neighbors Against Community Noises; elect some officers, add some well-known names to your advisory board, secure a mailing address and print formal stationery.

  • Be Prepared to Do A Lot of Work: Only a few will do the bulk of the work - expect that. However, you can get lots of signatures on petitions to enlarge the group's size. Remember: There must be a "We" to battle noise!

  • Take Advantage of Existing Community Groups: Some communities have block associations, local community boards or other existing groups that may welcome a group devoted to noise problem. You may be able to attach your group to this existing organization which should allow you to use their already formalized stationery.

  • NYPD Precinct Councils: New York Police Department Precinct Community Councils hold meetings where residents can voice concerns about quality of life issues. Attend these meetings and get noise on the agenda.

  • Community Boards: Members of these Boards re appointed by City Council members and the Borough President. Every community board in New York City has an Environmental Protection Committee. Find out who chairs the committee and ask to have noise problem addressed. Attend community board meetings and speak up on noise issue. Ask the Community Board's District Manager for assistance with noise problem.

  • Enlist Your Public Officials: Your local Council members will be most accessible. Ask them to join the noise group and add their names to your stationery. Enlist them in your efforts to quiet the noise and to educate the community on the importance of lowering the decibel level.

  • Discover Which Agencies May Be Most Helpful: Is it the Police Department, the Transit Authority, the Department of Environmental Protection, or the Buildings Department? Write a letter on your impressive stationery to the appropriate agency asking for a meeting on the problem. Have representatives from your groups and representatives of your public officials attend this meeting.

  • Go To the Media: Publicize the noise problem. Create events to highlight the problem. Send out press releases to all the media, e.g. radio, television, daily newspapers. Don't forget the local community newspapers that are more likely to give you more coverage. Work hard at getting publicity for the problem.

  • Hold Community Meetings on the Noise Problem: Ask agency representatives, local public officials and knowledgeable group members to speak to the community about the problem and possible solutions. Publicize your meetings - you want large turnout - distribute flyers and post notices about noise meeting.

To Sum up:

  • Become informed
  • Get organized
  • Increase your members
  • Enlist public officials and the media
  • Be persistent: You can reduce the noise!

Help From GrowNYC

Dr. Arline L. Bronzaft, member of GrowNYC, will respond to e-mails seeking help with noise problems and answer questions concerning noise. She can be reached by contacting GrowNYC.