Neighborhood sleuths unmask source of disturbing sound

Photo credit: nuria.mpascual licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

When people in Brooklyn Heights continued to hear “a mechanical chirp or high-pitched repeating whirr” for days and then weeks, they knew it was time to take action to discover the source of this disturbing sound and to get it turned off. When a complaint was filed with 311, the case was closed because the source of the sound could not be located.

Community members then tried to find the source on their own. They investigated nearby scaffolding as possibly being the source as well as a nearby MTA construction. These were ruled out. Cadman Towers, a large co-op complex in the community, sought out the possible source in its own building as well as neighboring buildings. A drone was even flown over its complex trying to identify the source.

Then, finally, on November 18th the “mysterious sound” was found to be emanating from the apartment of a resident living in Cadman Towers. A coop dweller in this complex had gone on vacation and left a “Bird-X pigeon repellent Super 100 sound machine” running on the terrace. It was a neighbor who had keys to the apartment who heard the chirping from the outside door to the apartment and was able to enter the apartment and finally detect the sound that was disturbing an entire community. The machine was turned off and the “chirp” disappeared.

Target, which sells the device, claims the “sonic and ultrasonic sound waves” of the device are used to disrupt pests but apparently the sounds also disturb people. As an article in The Brooklyn Eagle notably states, researchers have found ultrasounds to be disturbing.

What should be pointed out is that city agencies, the city council member, and many building superintendents and nearby residents helped in trying to find the source of this mysterious sound in the neighborhood. This reaction by the community should set an example for other communities in New York City and elsewhere to participate in actions to lessen noise pollution. Such actions can actually lead to satisfactory solutions.

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