Volume 16 • Issue 31 | December 30 - January 8, 2004

Mayor backs limits to noise from bars

By Elizabeth O’Brien

If a noise is loud enough to hear without straining, never mind the decibel reading or sound guns — the mayor says he’s going to do something about it.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has recommended an overhaul of the way the city defines and prosecutes noise, which will affect everything from wailing car alarms to pumping bass music and clattering air conditioners. The modifications would change the current standard of “unreasonable noise” to “plainly audible,” the Daily News first reported.

“This is a complete revision of the noise code,” said Jordan Barowitz, a spokesperson for the mayor.

Noise complaints top the list of quality-of-life-concerns reported to 311, the new city information hotline. The mayor is expected to submit a draft of new noise legislation to the City Council in January, and then public hearings will be held before the Council decides whether to make it law.

Local residents greeted word of the proposed changes with skepticism.

“I’m glad to hear that the mayor is taking this into consideration,” said Marc Ameruso, a member of Community Board 1, who served several years ago on a nightlife task force out of the Manhattan borough president’s office. “A lot of the time, quality of life issues are low on the totem pole.”

“Before they change the laws, they should think of how they’ll enforce them —we don’t have any more beat cops,” said Anna Sawaryn, chairperson of the Coalition to Save the East Village.

Detective Mike Singer of the Sixth Precinct said there would be enough police resources to enforce any changes. Noise “is definitely one of our priorities, and it will continue to be,” Singer said.

The current noise code does not adequately address bass vibrations, Singer and others have said. Currently, if a resident complains about vibrations from bar or club music but cannot hear loud lyrics, then there’s little the police can do, Singer said.

Under the mayor’s changes, a pumping bass line would be considered “plainly audible,” the Daily News reported. When asked how the code change would address complaints of vibrations without any audible lyrics, Barowitz said he did not yet know.

Many city buildings aren’t equipped to withstand the sound systems that many bars and clubs have, Sawaryn said, so it’s not uncommon for a bass line from the ground floor or basement to cause a whole building to shake.

Bulbach said that the city would have to change its zoning regulations to get a firm handle on noise problems. Zoning dictates where clubs and bars can be built.

“We don’t plan in New York City very well,” Bulbach said. “We just ram through development.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ recently unveiled proposal to replace the city’s cabaret law with a new nightlife license law also aims to better control noise from nightclubs and dance clubs.



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