2007-07-05 / Other News

Revised Noise Code May Let City Sleep A Little Sounder

Some New Yorkers are glad revised city noise rules require Mr. Softee truck drivers to shut off music while serving customers. 
Some New Yorkers are glad revised city noise rules require Mr. Softee truck drivers to shut off music while serving customers. By Neil S. Friedman

The city that never sleeps may be able to sleep a little sounder from now on since the city instituted new noise reduction regulations that went into effect last Sunday.

According to city statistics, noise complaints are the number one quality of life issue for New York City residents; however the city's old noise code had not been changed since the 1970s. The new legislation establishes a flexible, yet enforceable, noise code that responds to the need for peace and quiet.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the new rules "the first overhaul of the city's noise code in 30 years."

The latest regulations impose restrictions on a number of things, including excessive dog barking, loud music at nightclubs and bars, jackhammers, ice cream truck music and lawn mower use.

Furthermore, those who listen to personal music systems with head phones, like iPods and portable CD players, are subject to fines if it can be heard from feet away.

The city's commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, Emily Lloyd, said, "Over time, it will really make a difference in the quality of life."

The DEP has assigned 45 staffers as full-time noise code enforcers, who will implement the new rules using handheld monitors to register decibel levels.

Noise complaints to the city's 311 hotline numbered more than 275,000 since last July with more than half attributed to boisterous neighbors.

On the first day for the new noise rules, the city reported the 311 hotline received 15 less calls than the previous Sunday and over 150 less than two weeks ago. However, a city official noted that "one day does not signal a trend."

Lloyd said the city will use discretion and tact to enforce the new noise limits and likely issue warnings to first time offenders. After that fines ranging from $70 for dogs barking more than ten minutes to $8,000 for nightclubs and bars that exceeded the mandated decibel level. Fines will increase for re-peated offenders.

According to the mayor's office, the noisiest Brook-lyn neighborhoods were Flatbush and Williamsburg, which combined for almost 10,000 complaints since last summer. Hamilton Heights in Manhattan topped the list of most noise complaints citywide.

Some changes in the new noise code include:

+ Mister Softee and other ice cream trucks can only play music while in motion.

+ Owners of dogs that bark for more than five minutes from 10 p.m.- 7 a.m. or ten minutes from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. may be fined from $50 to $175.

+ Noise from bars and restaurants may not exceed 7 decibels when measured from 15 feet or more from the street.

+ Lawn mowers cannot be used before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m. or sunset on weekdays. They are also banned on weekends and holidays between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m.

For complete limits and details on changes to the city's noise code, go to the DEP's Web site: http://home.nyc.gov/html/dep/home.

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