Volume 22, Number 04 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | June 5 - 11, 2009
The Zen of quiet
New York City is the city that never sleeps. But when New Yorkers are at home and it’s nighttime, many of them do, in fact, actually like to sleep. And when we’re at home during the day, most of us don’t like to be disturbed by loud noises, either. That’s the dilemma of living in a chaotic, energetic, noisy city like New York.
“Noise From Neighbor” is one of the most commonly called-about conditions to the city’s 311 complaint line, and results in more police action than any other 311 call. Tribeca, the Lower East Side, and other Downtown neighborhoods have seen many problem bars over the years.
Construction noise is also a pervasive problem. At the World Trade Center site, despite the current impasse, work continues and can be disruptive. The long-awaited demolition of the former Deutsche Bank building looks like it may finally be close to resuming, but that could easily lead to more noise for W.T.C. residents as concrete crushing probably will be required.
And we know many of our readers have other pet construction noise peeves, which unfortunately, are well within earshot of their windows.
Our zoning laws, in some instances, can work to lessen clashing uses: for example, a large disco or nightclub would not be allowed right in the middle of a quiet, residential neighborhood. Thus, the use of the Stephan Weiss Studio at Greenwich and Charles Sts. as a major private event space — even though the events admittedly seem to be fairly intermittent — has been an aggravating quality-of-life headache for neighbors for several years now.
The Village building was formerly the sculpture studio of Stephan Weiss, late husband of fashion designer Donna Karan. It’s now a beautiful, airy space on two levels, painted all white inside, with large windows, lit with hundreds of candles during events.
Karan is using it for her Urban Zen benefits, letting it be used for free by some local nonprofit groups and renting it out for private events. While some say the Urban Zen events and yoga sessions can be a bit loud (incessant bongo playing is cited) it’s the private events — like the recent Def Jam Spring Collection extravaganza — that are apparently pushing neighbors over the edge. Indeed, one neighbor allegedly threatened to come over to the place and “start shooting.” He denies it — but readily admits to being maddened by the relentless noise.
Karan is doing much good work through her Urban Zen Foundation, which helps patients and promotes well-being, empowers children and preserves world cultures
However, Karan — and those who run the private events at her space — should be more considerate of their neighbors when it comes to noise. That’s good advice for all of Downtown’s noise contributors. The police and zoning laws can do their part, but many of these problems can be solved with old-fashioned neighborly consideration.