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Editorial: Let’s Cut Out That Racket

For this edition, the Norwood News embarked on a journey to understand the culture of noise, specifically incessantly loud noise in the neighborhood with a near 3,000-word article that barely scratches the surface on why the city is unable to blunt this pesky quality of life complaint.

Noise, whether it’s loud parties, car horns blaring, or that infernal Mr. Softee ice cream truck that spews that annoying jingle, is pervasive. That noise, unlike the rumble of trains or daytime sirens, fly-by-night noise in the grand scheme of things, can go on for hours, seriously damaging quality of life. For residents, they’ve tolerated the noise so much that it’s embedded in their life. In one case, a person shrugged, wondering, “What am I going to do?”

The first step is usually to call the police in the hopes of resolving issues. It’s not always the case to get help, especially for the 52nd Precinct, whose priorities lie in resolving criminal or emergency situations before handling quality of life matters, standard practice across the agency.

But the NYPD can’t seem to completely stem noise issues. Answering a noise complaint, at a residential building for instance, is thwarted should an alleged offender not answer the door. The noise could thus continue, thus allowing violators to carry on with intensity and unknowingly exploiting a policy that makes loud noise a permissible move.

So would the New York City Council consider a law that would tape a noise complaint summons to the apartment door of a violator? After all, the New York City Department of Sanitation does not have to see a violator leave garbage on their front lawn for sanitation officers to issue a ticket. Why can’t the Police Department be given the same right? The Police Department has a variation of that kind of approach via red light cameras, where tickets are issued to the owner of a vehicle that runs the light. The principal can translate to noise coming from apartment buildings. Why not ticket the management company who will then pass the cost to the person whose name is attached to the apartment via an existing lease or current records?

We’re living in a data world. Is it too much trouble for a police officer to review 311 complaints made on a building and direct HPD and/or the Buildings Department to send letters to building managements, warning that fines would be imposed if they continue the culture of noise? Or are building managers so far removed that it allows noisy tenants to run wild?

Looking the other way is not an approach that solves issues. For residents to really take back their quality of life, it requires an aggressive avalanche of calls to 311. The system, set up in 2003, works as an accountability metric. So if 311 analysts begin to see an uptick in noise complaints, perhaps the NYPD will revive Operation: Silent Night, which dedicated cops to exclusively answer to noise complaints in so-called “high noise zones.” The premise had the DNA of the NYPD’s Broken Windows Theory: stopping quality of life noise to thwart bigger crime. Police officers, working with other agencies, had used sound meters to determine the frequency of sound and issue tickets.

Should the program be implemented, the first step would be to purchase more sound meters. As it stands, only one meter, albeit outdated, is available at each precinct. Not exactly adequate resources to combat the number one quality of life complaint in the city. The New York City Council should consider upping the NYPD’s budget to get those meters.

Fighting crime does involve data-driven analyses. That’s where residents come in. The more they flood 311 with noise complaints, the more the Police Department can get a clearer picture of how bad the noise is. Standing back does nothing. If you hear loud noise, call it in. Otherwise, the only peace you’d get may be moving to a quieter neighborhood.

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One thought on “Editorial: Let’s Cut Out That Racket

  1. Cynthia Tuohy

    One of the most significant sources of noise in the summer months is amplified music in the Gun Hill Meadow of Van Cortlandt Park. The problem is that the park is in the 50th Precinct, but the neighborhood is in the 52nd Precinct, so calls to 311 are always misdirected to the 5-2 based on the intersecting streets. The park (site of the violation) and neighborhood (impact of the violation) are also in different community boards so no one wants to take responsibility for addressing the issue. The number of violators is so large that individual patrol officers won’t risk the consequences of confronting people who bring loudspeakers into the park. The music is powered by gas generators which people keep in their apartments creating a fire hazard.

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