Bloomberg Overhauls City’s Three-Decade-Old Noise Code

Mayor Bloomberg responded to residents’ cries for peace and quiet by proposing legislation on Monday that will overhaul the city’s noise ordinance for the first time in 32 years.

The legislation focuses on reducing noise from construction sites, bars and clubs, air conditioners, as well as addressing how the ordinance will be enforced. The proposal would allow police and Department of Environmental Protection inspectors to adopt a “common-sense standard” when issuing summonses for a multitude of violations.

The legislation also prohibits sound from any source that increases the ambient noise in a residence by 10 decibels during the day and 7 decibels at night.

Bloomberg said that the legislation would “maintain our city’s vibrancy by balancing the need for construction, development and an exciting nightlife with New Yorkers’ well-deserved right to peace and quiet.” The mayor added that the revision to the noise code would “make New York quieter and more livable without stifling growth.”

Bloomberg announced the proposed legislation at Astoria Park on Monday. Residents near the park have long complained about the noise from motorcycles and scooters in the area.

The overhaul of the noise ordinance would add to the mayor’s “Operation Silent Night,” which launched in 2002 and targeted 24 high-noise neighborhoods in the city. Astoria was one of these neighborhoods.

“Noise is the biggest source of complaints to my district office—from motorcycles to car alarms to loud music, and I am happy to have been able to work with the mayor to send an even louder message: it will no longer be tolerated,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.

Noise has been the biggest complaint across the city, as the 311 citizen service hotline has been flooded with calls. According to the mayor’s office, the hotline is averaging about 1,000 calls a day for noise complaints.

Among the changes the legislation seeks is to require noise jackets for jackhammers and portable sound barriers at all construction sites. In addition, it would seek the use of “greater discretion in granting permits for night and weekend work.”

The revamped ordinance would also establish a more flexible standard and enforcement for music sources from bars and clubs that would waive the penalty for first offense if compliance is met. It would also have a new standard for measuring “bass-level and vibrational sound,” which are not captured by the city’s conventional 45-decibel scale.

The current noise code mandates that air conditioning units are not louder than 45 decibels, but it applies to one unit. The legislation seeks to prevent excessive noise from a cluster of air conditioning units by setting the 45-decibel limit for the total number of units.

Another stipulation of Bloomberg’s proposal is to allow police officers to use a common-sense approach to issuing violations for car stereos, loud music, barking animals and loud mufflers. Before, the officers had to use decibel meters in order to determine violations.

If Bloomberg’s legislation is passed, it could also ban all music on ice cream trucks beginning in 2006. Until then the trucks would be required to use manual bells or music and not electronic devices.

The mayor’s legislation has support from the city’s Nightlife Association, the League for the Hard of Hearing, the NYPD, the Real Estate Board of New York, the General Contractors Association and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

The legislation will go through a series of public hearings and must be approved by the City Council.

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