Volume 17 • Issue 3 | June 11 - 17, 2004


Sounding off about a quieter city

Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement on Monday that he plans to overhaul the city’s noise code for the first time in three decades comes as welcome news.

Although Bloomberg’s previous initiative to quell noise — Operation Silent Night — had some success in targeted trouble spots, obviously more was needed. Noise continues to be the chief complaint to the city’s 311 quality-of-life hotline.

Downtowners in particular know all too well of the perils of construction noise and many are naturally worried about the pending redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. The efforts of the governor and mayor to set up a construction command center to coordinate Downtown projects should be a help, especially if the managers pay close attention to the smaller projects in addition to the W.T.C.

The mayor’s new proposal has the general support of one of his likely opponents in next year’s election, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller. Both men are smart politicians and don’t want to be on the wrong side in the fight against one of the city’s most nagging problems. The Council on Thursday held hearings to strengthen the proposed changes by including prohibitions on ear-splitting car alarms – an obnoxious and useless noise offense if ever there was one.

The mayor’s plan would empower Department of Environmental Protection inspectors and police to issue violations — without using a sound meter — upon hearing noise that is “plainly audible” from, for example, a loud nightclub. Such a common-sense measure is genius — and long overdue.

Now, if a motorcycle with its muffler removed comes blasting by rattling windows, a police officer or inspector who, from a distance of 200 ft. away, perceives it as overloud, can issue a ticket of at least $45. The top fine would be $25,000.

Nightclubs would be judged by noise level from 15 ft. away, with their doors open. Bass vibrations in neighbors’ apartments would now be eligible for measurement and subject to violation.

To the relief of residents everywhere, construction projects would probably be curtailed on weekends and at night and there would be requirements for noise reduction, such as sheaths for jackhammers.

We all know noise is part of city life and has been for decades if not centuries. Sure, if one wants quiet there are the suburbs and country, where all one hears at night are crickets. But a modicum of quiet in the city shouldn’t be too much to ask for. The mayor’s plan is definitely a step in the right direction and will be a victory for all New Yorkers’ eardrums and peace of mind.

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