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Hospitality Industry Guide to Environmental Compliance in New York City

Noise

The New York City Noise Code contains many sections that apply to restaurants, hotels, and other food service and nightlife establishments.

The noise code sets decibel (dB)* standards for measuring noise levels within your neighboring residential buildings. Specific information about allowable decibel ranges will be outlined in this section.

This guide will explain how the noise code affects your business by focusing on the following five areas:

  • Construction Activities
  • Circulation Devices
  • Commercial Music
  • Refuse Compacting Vehicles
  • Vending Vehicles

* The Noise Code sets sound level standards using the decibel (dB), an international standard for measuring sound. Familiar sounds and their dB levels are measured at a person’s distance from the sound source in the “A” weighted scale, also known as dB (A), which attempts to simulate human hearing.


Construction Activity

  • You are allowed to conduct construction on your business property between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays. At all other times, including anytime on the weekends, you must get/apply for after-hours authorization.
  • Any person or business doing construction in the city must develop a Noise Mitigation Plan (which explains what you will do to reduce construction noise) before the start of construction or renovation.
    • You will need to check off that you have a Construction Noise Mitigation Plan in your Department of Buildings application for a construction permit.
    • If you are seeking an after-hours construction permit with the Department of Buildings or Department of Transportation (i.e., a variance), you must have your noise mitigation plan already in place.
    • You do not have to file your plan with DEP, but it must be available on site in case we inspect your business or property.
    • Download a copy of a plan template
  • If nearby construction impacts your business, make sure to call 311 to report a complaint.
  • To avoid fines, be sure that your contractor(s) is aware of these construction activity requirements.

Circulation Devices

Circulation devices include air conditioning equipment, exhaust fans, pumps, and blowers. These devices are generally found operating in the food service and hospitality industries.

The noise code sets the following decibel standards:

  • 42 dB (A) is the maximum sound level for a single circulation device when measured by an inspector using a meter. Readings are taken from a point within the premises 3-feet from an open door or window.
  • 45 dB (A), in the aggregate, is the maximum sound level for multiple devices as listed above, as measured within a residence.
  • When we receive a noise complaint, we contact the person who filed the complaint and arrange an appointment to measure noise levels.
  • A visit to your business by one of our inspectors may require you to shut down your equipment for a short time so noise levels can be accurately measured. We will make every effort to accommodate your business to avoid unnecessary disruptions.
  • You and your contractor must carefully consider the placement of air conditioners and circulation devices. Be mindful when placing these devices on rooftops or near residential buildings because they are noisy and often drive complaints.
  • Proper maintenance and frequent examinations of your equipment can help you avoid costly violations.

Zero Penalty for First Violation of Circulation Device Rules

DEP recommends a “zero penalty” policy to the City’s Environmental Control Board as an incentive for business owners with a first-time violation to fix the problem and comply with the City’s noise code.

If you want to take advantage of the zero penalty option when our inspector finds your business in violation of the noise code, you must follow these steps:

  • Admit liability to the violation
  • File a certification with DEP that includes a letter on a contractor’s or consultant’s letterhead with proof that improvements have been made
  • Take measurements that substantiate that the circulation device is in full compliance with the sound levels described in the NYC Administrative Code, Section 24-227 (detailed above).

NOTE: The application for Zero Penalty is mailed along with the Notice of Violation.

The zero penalty rule is a progressive way to help businesses like yours to comply with the noise code. The money that you would have paid for the violation ($560 for a first offense) can be used to mitigate the noise problem so that additional fines can be avoided.

If you do not fix the problem causing the noise code violation, we may issue you more violations, adding to your costs and hurting your bottom line.


Commercial Music

Commercial music is defined as any music coming from a commercial establishment like your restaurant, hotel, or nightlife establishment. It includes live performances or recorded audio content.

We understand that music and entertainment in the hospitality industry are critical for the economy of New York City and the operation of your business. That is why the noise code attempts to balance the need of residential neighborhoods to have a reasonable quality of life, while also supporting a vibrant and flourishing hospitality industry.

Commercial establishments that play music must limit the level of noise that escapes onto the streets or into nearby residences by not exceeding any of the following sound levels:

  • 42 dB (A) as measured within nearby residences.
  • 7 dB(A) above the ambient noise level, as measured on a street or public right-of-way 15 feet or more from your business, between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM.
  • 10 dB(A) above the ambient noise level, as measured on a street or public right-of-way 15 feet or more from your business, between 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM. Our inspectors will be as least disruptive as possible while conducting a noise inspection at your business.

Zero Penalty for First Violation of Commercial Music Rules

DEP recommends a “zero penalty” policy to the City’s Environmental Control Board as an incentive for business owners with a first-time violation, measured within nearby residences, to fix the problem and comply with the City’s noise code.

If you want to take advantage of the zero penalty option when our inspector finds your business in violation of the noise code, you must follow these steps:

  • Admit liability to the violation
  • File a certification with DEP that includes a letter on a contractor’s or consultant’s letterhead with proof that improvements have been made.
  • Take measurements that substantiate that the commercial music is in full compliance with the sound levels described in the NYC Administrative Code, Section 24-231 (detailed above).

NOTE: The application for Zero Penalty is mailed along with the Notice of Violation.

The zero penalty rule is a progressive way to help businesses like yours comply with the noise code. The money that you would have paid for the violation ($3,200 for a first offense) can be used to mitigate the noise problem so that additional fines can be avoided.

If you do not fix the problem causing the noise code violation, we may issue you more violations, adding to your costs and hurting your bottom line.

Video and Acoustical Tool Guide

We have put together an informational video that can help you understand DEP’s regulations of commercial music, and how we measure sound levels during inspections.

The acoustical tool guide provides you with specific information on a range of acoustical products, vendors, and professional services available to help control the sound and vibration coming from your business.

These acoustical tools, when appropriately incorporated into your business, should help reduce noise, and help you achieve compliance with the noise code.

Projecting Sounds onto Sidewalk

Please note that it is unlawful to use any sound reproduction devices (like musical instruments, tape recordings, or electronic sound amplifying systems) that project music onto sidewalks and streets to draw attention to your business. Be very careful when planning the arrangement of your sound equipment, and try to avoid placing any devices near doors or window openings so that you are in compliance with the noise code.


Private Waste Carting Vehicles

The hospitality industry relies on the private carting industry for collecting refuse. You should be aware of the decibel levels that the noise code sets for carting vehicles. Please note that residents often file complaints on the noise created by the private carting vehicles when they crush or compact your picked-up refuse.

The rules are as follows:

  • When your private carter’s vehicle is not compacting picked-up refuse, the maximum noise levels it produces may never exceed 80 dB(A) when measured at a distance of 35 feet or more from its compacting unit.
  • When your private carter’s vehicle is collecting refuse between 11:00PM and 7:00 AM, the maximum noise levels it produces within 50 feet of a residence cannot exceed 80 dB(A) when measured at a distance of 35 feet or more from the vehicle.

You should check that your private carter meets these requirements.

It can also help if you speak with your carter about schedules and timing of your pick-up to minimize any noise complaints in your neighborhood.


Vending Vehicles

With the expanding popularity of food trucks, it is useful to know that the noise code prohibits the use of electrically-operated or electronic sound signals, including jingles, when a vending vehicle is parked on a public street. Music may only be played while the vehicle is moving through neighborhood streets.

How to Reach Us

Please call 718-595-4436 or e-mail edu@dep.nyc.gov

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