Noise is the number one complaint in New York City, but to NYC Councilman Ben Kallos and NYC Council Environmental Chair Costa Constantinides it doesn’t need to be a fact of life in the Big Apple. Kallos and Constantinides introduced legislation in June to be heard in the fall that would require the city to respond to noise complaints for nightlife and construction within two hours or on a subsequent day within an hour of the time of the complaint. The bill aims to increase the likelihood that inspectors will identify the source of the noise, issue a violation, and restore quiet.
“Noise is such a big problem that it might be better to call us ‘Noise’ York City. If 311 is any indication, residents are tired of all the noise, and it is time we did something about it,” said Councilman Kallos. “It is hard to imagine a government of the people for the people ignoring the people’s top complaint and expecting them to be happy living here. I am disappointed by recent reports that the city is actually doing less to quiet noise as complaints rise. We as a city need to take this problem seriously, take it head on without excuses, and give every New Yorker the peace and quiet they need.”
“The nuisance that bothers New Yorkers most is loud noises, however, it could take days for agencies to respond to noise complaints. By that time, a violation would unlikely be issued. That's why we're introducing this legislation that would require the city to respond to noise complaints within two hours. New Yorkers deserve a responsive government and noise-free neighborhoods. Thank you to my colleague Council Member Ben Kallos for leading the way on this quality-of-life issue,” said Environmental Committee Chair Constantinides.
Under the legislation, following a noise complaint about construction or a commercial establishment the DEP would have to send an inspector within two hours or at a later date but within an hour of the time the original complaint was received. Which means that if you make a complaint about noise from a bar Friday at 9 p.m., DEP should send an inspector by 11 p.m. If they can’t, an inspector will be sent that Saturday or the following Friday at 9 p.m.
In 2016, violations went down as complaints went up, according to the New York Post. Analysis found that noise complaints peak dramatically after 8 p.m. then falls after midnight with a second increase between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., according to Professor Ben Wellington in the City & Regional Planning program at Pratt Institute, as quoted in The New Yorker. Noise complaints received by 311 in 2016, according to Open Data were routed to one of four agencies, NYPD, DEP, Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Sanitation. Complaints consisted of loud music, parties, vehicle horns and alarms, construction equipment, barking, lawn care, ice cream trucks, helicopters and garbage collection to name some.
The average time for the DEP to close a noise complaint is 111 hours or four and a half days, according to an analysis of 311 data from 2016. Questions are raised about the response times for DEP to dispatch inspectors and whether the times inspectors are dispatched to measure decibel levels are actually likely to result in finding a violation.