Experts say NYC’s noise issues will only grow worse

July 19, 2017

Photo via Nick Allen on Flickr

With its 8.5 million residents, honking taxis, constant construction and vibrant nightlife scene, New York City remains one of the noisiest places on Earth. Although quieter neighborhoods like the Upper East Side once offered a quiet reprieve from the city’s cacophony, these pockets of peace are getting harder to find as NYC’s population expands. As the New York Times reported, despite the fact that noise pollution has already been linked to harmful health effects like stress, hypertension and heart disease, about 420,000 noise complaints were filed citywide with the city’s 311 hotline in 2016, more than doubling the number of complaints made in 2011.

noise complaints, ben wellington, i quant ny
Chart of time and day of complaints from 2015 data compiled by Ben Wellington, via The New Yorker

According to 311 data, the majority of complaints came from loud music and parties, with 224,070 total complaints. Banging and pounding noises brought 64, 905 and loud talking brought 40,494 complaints. Loud television sounds were the cause of 4,033 complaints. To prevent the noise pollution problem from getting worse, city officials like Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side have made controlling noise a top priority. Kallos, along with Queens councilman, Costa Constantinides, is proposing legislation that would require noise inspectors to respond to complaints within two hours when possible.

“Noise is the No.1 complaint,” Kallos told the Times. “We need to take this problem seriously–take it head on without excuses–and give every New Yorkers the peace and quiet they need.”

Ben Wellington of Pratt Institute mapped out the city’s loudest neighborhoods on his urban planning blog, I Quant NY, by using data from the 311 hotline. The loudest area was Midtown Manhattan, followed by the East and West Villages and then Lower Manhattan. However, the city’s growing number of construction projects is spilling noise pollution into other neighborhoods. Almost half of all noise complaints handled by inspectors were in Manhattan, with the Upper East Side becoming the second-highest concentration of complaints in the city. Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen had the highest concentration of complaints.

The Buildings Department has issued more developers permits to work beyond the designated 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours than in recent years. Officials have issued 61, 199 permits for before or after work hours in 2016, an increase from 29,222 in 2011. As a result, noise complaints coming in late at night, early in the morning or on the weekend has increased dramatically from 7,635 in 2011 to 27,979 complaints in 2016.

In addition to the NYPD, inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection will also investigate noise complaints. Officials from the DEP inspect after hours-construction, alarms, air-conditioners and even dogs barking. Currently, there are 54 noise inspectors with eight more expected to be hired in the next year. Legislation proposed by City Council members would require the city to hire more inspectors. Councilman Kallos said: “It is time for the city to hire as many noise inspectors as it takes to respond to complaints when they happen.”

[Via NY Times]


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  1. I

    Two hour response is a joke, it has to be under an hour, 30 min if possible…!

  2. B

    Come to 2nd St & !st Ave any Tuesday night to see how Hell Square is expanding into the East Village. Since 2016 Spiegel Cafe (26 1st Ave, corner of 2nd St) has hosted a “Two Wheel Tuesday” event. Every Tuesday night 30-50 motorcyclists congregate in front of the bar and up 2nd St from 8PM until the bar closes at 1:30AM in an illegal block party. Bikes are double-parked on each side of the street and bikers hang out in the street and drink beer as there is no room on the sidewalk. All night we hear yelling, revving and idling of motorcycles, many with loud, altered mufflers. The bikers enjoy taking off with a roar, circling the block and returning. Repeated complaints to local politicians, CB3 and the 9th Pct. are useless. Calls to the bar get “It’s only 11 PM!” and “That’s New York!” We’ve seen NYPD officers observe the double-parked bikes, public drinking, disturbing the peace, and bikers in the street and do nothing.

    Working people and babies need to sleep. Children need to do their homework in peace. The elderly and the sick need rest. Meltzer Towers senior residence is just up the block. This was a quiet residential block until Hell Square moved north.

    Please take a look at the photos on the Spiegel Instagram page here: You will get an idea of the crowded sidewalks and street and you’ll see a couple drinking beer on the sidewalk. The photos do not convey the noise level but you can imagine what it sounds like.

  3. D

    Why dont they get noise barriers in place around the perimeter of each site like we have here in New Zealand? they make a Huge difference. – For reference their website is