Will noise cameras protect all New Yorkers?

Photo credit: Kelly

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

As the New York City Council debates extending its pilot project of installing noise cameras to detect loud vehicles and issue violations to drivers, some are concerned that this technology may punish people of color. Erica Walker, a professor of epidemiology at Brown University, raised the possibility in a Guardian article by Alaina Demopoulos. According to Walker, groups vary with respect to their views of loud sounds and she fears that neighborhoods where youngsters enjoy playing loud music may be unfairly punished.

Reuben Peckham, a developer of the noise camera technology, thought a negative reaction to noise cameras because they discriminate against people of color was “nonsense.” Edward Timbers, director of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, thinks the technology brings relief to New Yorkers. I would assume this means all New Yorkers. But Peckham adds that noise cameras were developed for a different demographic than Walker is suggesting — “aggressive drivers of supercars, like Porsches and Ferraris, who’ve been driving the wealthy residents of Central London crazy by revving their engines in the middle of the night.”

Les Blomberg, director of Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, an organization working to lessen noise in cities, said this about noise cameras: “the world is going to get quieter because of this.” Blomberg adds that these cameras will be protecting the “people we pollute most,” including people of color and low-income people. Blomberg also envisions a quieter future in urban areas with an increase in noiseless electric vehicles.

Noisy vehicles are impacting many communities in New York City. I would hope that readers articulate their views about ways to reduce noise from loud vehicles and other sources to their City Council members.

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