New York City approves bills meant to decrease noise pollution

Photo credit: Alex Azabache

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

The New York City Council has introduced four new policies, under the Stop the Noise Act, to address the city’s growing number of noise complaints. Noise complaints to 311, the city’s non-emergency service and information line, have skyrocketed. Citizen surveys have revealed that New Yorkers are frequently disturbed by noise at home. As our readers know, many of our blog posts stress the link between noise pollution and adverse mental and physical health effects.

One of the policies centers on the use of noise cameras to catch, and fine, individuals who speed by in their vehicles at high decibel levels. The Department of Environmental Protection has already installed noise cameras in several locations as a pilot project but has not yet issued a report on how effectively these cameras have reduced noise levels. The bill requires five noise cameras to be installed in each borough by Sep. 30, 2025. Other policies in the Noise Act will give DEP inspectors greater authority in measuring construction-related noise, a type of noise that many New Yorkers complain about.  

Recent legislation indicate that City Council is interested in lowering the decibel level in New York City. However, rather than taking a piecemeal approach to deal with our city’s noise problems, I suggest that City Council consider updating the entire New York City Noise Code — which was last revised in 2007. We now know that lower decibel levels can result in hearing loss; that the literature linking noise to adverse mental and physical health impacts is stronger; and that modern technology has provided people with the ability to assess noise levels on their own more easily. These are just a few reasons for updating the city’s Noise Code.

I was involved in the last Noise Code update sixteen years ago, and would like to discuss the need for a more relevant and up-to-date Noise Code with our city’s councilmembers.  

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