Open Streets program spurred sidewalk noise complaints

Photo credit: New York City Department of Transportation

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

Open Streets is a program that uses urban spaces for physical activity and recreation. Scientific articles have found that this program had positive impacts in that it encouraged increased physical activity such as “walking, cycling, safety and social interactions. There is, however, a downside to this program. A study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has linked an increase in street and noise complaints to the Open Streets program that launched during the COVID pandemic.

Researchers Vivian Do, Jeff Goldstein, and Sabastian Rowland, using data provided by the NYC Department of Transportation and NYC 311, found an association between Open Streets and sidewalk noise complaints. In response to the findings of this study, a doctoral student James Bernavidas noted that Open Streets, which may be considered a positive program, needs to be accompanied by an analysis of “potential unintended impacts.”

This article rightfully acknowledges the adverse effects of environmental noise on our health and well-being. That is why it is essential that programs introduced to benefit residents must also factor in the potential for noise impacts. But as noted regularly in our writings on this site, too often government agencies tend not to do this with respect to noise impacts.

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