New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Times New York Becomes the City That Never Shuts Up by Winnie Hu

New York Becomes the City That Never Shuts Up

Taxis at a crosswalk on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Noise has become an increasing problem there.CreditJustin Gilliland/The New York Times

Richard T. McIntosh has never heard such a racket outside his window. He is hardly alone.

Traffic roars through his neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side at all hours. The whine of refrigerated grocery trucks by the curb makes things worse. And construction of a new apartment tower across the street forces him to flee his own home. There is the deafening rat-a-tat of jack hammers and the incessant banging and high-pitched wail of construction equipment that echoes in his head.

“I’ve had two years of absolute violation of my right to peace and quiet,” said Mr. McIntosh, a television producer who has lived on the Upper East Side for more than five decades. “I think it’s against the Geneva Conventions to have this much noise.”

New York City has never been kind to human ears, from its screeching subways and honking taxis to wailing police sirens. But even at its loudest, there were always relatively tranquil pockets like the Upper East Side that offered some relief from the day-to-day cacophony of the big city. Those pockets are vanishing. As the city grows more crowded, with a record 8.5 million residents and a forest of new buildings, finding respite from loud cellphone chatter, rooftop parties, backhoes digging foundations, or any other aural assault has become harder and harder.

In other words, New York is really living up to its reputation as the city that never sleeps.

Five years after The New York Times took a noise meter to restaurants, bars, stores and gyms across the city and found dangerous decibel levels, the city’s noise problem has only gotten worse, according to noise experts and residents. Citywide, about 420,000 noise complaints were lodged with the city’s 311 hotline in 2016, more than double the number of 2011.

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