Photo credit: Craig Adderley

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 Department of Environmental Protection has been conducting a pilot study that employs a noise camera to identify vehicles emitting sounds louder than allowed under city and state law. Once identified, a ticked is issued to the offending vehicle with fines that have grown from $220 at the start of the program to $1,000. Several city council members are proposing even higher fines.

With data, not yet presented to the public, demonstrating the success of their limited pilot project, DEP plans to set up eight additional cameras. Erik Bottcher is asking that his Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen council district receive two of the eight noise cameras. Supporting his request are data that show Hell’s Kitchen is home to the most traffic noise complaints.

Recognizing that noise is hazardous to our health and well-being, Council Member Bottcher wants New York City to consider expanding its pilot project to include “other kinds of bothersome, noise, like those from ‘unnecessary honking’ and loud stereos.”

Without noise cameras, violations by very loud vehicles had to be identified by police officers with manual decibel meters. Bottcher noted that enforcing noise violations by individual police officers has not proven to be “an effective and efficient tool.” As with other noise issues in New York City, enforcement has proven to be a problem.

But not everyone is in favor of keeping the decibel level down–a petition started on behave of “car enthusiasts” is asking for the right to have louder vehicles. The signers of this petition claim that loud vehicles allow them to escape the stress of everyday life. They also claim that loud cars keep drivers and pedestrians more alert.

As a researcher and writer on the adverse health effects of noise and as someone who has listened to many New Yorkers complain about these loud vehicles, I support cracking down on them.

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