New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Responding to New York City’s Top Complaint, Noise, in Time to Fix It

Responding to New York City’s Top Complaint, Noise, in Time to Fix It
Noise Inspectors Would Actually Show Up When Noise Is Likely to Happen with Bill 
by City Council Members Kallos and Constantinides


New York, NY – Noise is the number one complaint in New York City, but to Council Member Ben Kallos and 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 Council Member Ben 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 Costa 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 9PM, DEP should send an inspector by 11PM. If they can’t, an inspector will be sent that Saturday or the following Friday at 9PM.
In 2016, violations went down as complaints went up, according to the New York Post. Analysis found that noise complaints peak dramatically after 8PM then falls after midnight with a second increase between 7AM and 9AM according to Pratt Professor Ben Wellington in The New Yorker.
Noise complaints received by 311 in 2016, according to Open Data were routed to one of four agencies:
  1. New York Police Department (NYPD) – 360,780 complaints - banging or pounding (224,866), loud music or party (65,107), loud talking or television (55,385), vehicle horn or music (11,387), and engine idling (4,034).
  2. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – 58,488 complaints - construction equipment, jack hammering, and before or after hours (36,028); barking dogs or other animals (6,924); equipment for air conditioning, ventilation, and lawn care (4,779); alarms (3,765); vehicles including cars, boats, private garbage trucks, and even ice cream trucks (3,308); and manufacturing noise (543).
  3. Economic Development Corporation (EDC) – 1,003 complaints – helicopters.
  4. Department of Sanitation (DSNY) – 204 Complaints – garbage collection.
The average time for the DEP to close a noise complaint of 111 hours or 4 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.

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