Combating Noise Pollution in NYC


New Yorkers can file a noise complaint online.

By Andrew Glover

Even the two pillows covering your head won’t tune out the screeching sounds caused by the 4 train as it zooms past your building or the piercing sirens of not 1, not 2, but 3 NYPD cars that constantly patrol your neighborhood or even the tunes of Bachata that are blaring from the apartment adjacent to yours.

“It’s crazy that people find this normal,” says Jonah Vargas, 25, who has recently moved to New York City. “People walk around as if [noise] doesn’t exist.”

Mention pollution to a New Yorker and majority of them will first describe the air and waste pollution plaguing the metropolitan area, but not many of them will mention one of the most common types of pollution that New Yorkers encounter on a daily basis — noise pollution.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft, an anti-noise activist and member of GrowNYC, visited Lehman College where she discussed her ongoing fight to end noise pollution.

Noise, she said, is when a person deems a sound to be ‘unwanted, unpredictable and uncontrollable.’

New York City’s Noise Code defines unreasonable noise as “any excessive or unusually loud sound that disturbs the peace, comfort or repose of a reasonable person of normal sensitivities, injures or endangers the health or safety of a reasonable person of normal sensitivities or which causes injury to plant or animal life, or damage to property or business.”

Sounds of New York

The 1 train


Con Edison construction

Pitbull barking

Bronzaft said her first case was one where noise pollution was impacting local wildlife. She was an “environmental psychologist” at Lehman College where, she joked, “I use to give therapy to trees.” Bronzaft explained that trees often rely on birds to disseminate their seeds. A factory opened and caused so much noise that it startled the birds.

In New York, birds often learn to vocalize more loudly in order to compete with the noise of the city, she said. In this particular case, the birds simply fled. Ultimately the seeds were never disseminated and the trees died.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft discusses the negative impact of noise on quality of life.

Ever since then, Bronzaft has fought to minimize noise within the metropolitan area and she hasn’t been the only one. New York City Councilwoman Margaret Chin has introduced a bill that would require the city Department of Environmental Protection to install miniature detectors that would collect noise data on sound decibels in neighborhoods.

The official website of the city of New York has helpful tips on how to combat a series of noise problems, including noisy neighbors, bar, construction sites or dogs.

“You can make a difference,” said Bronzaft. “It’s a power of people.”

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