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  June 13, 2004

New Yorkers Do Not Deserve a Headache
By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

Noise is the number one quality-of-life complaint in New York City. Last month, an average of more than 1,000 noise complaints came into our 3-1-1 hotline each day. Most complaints about noise are not frivolous. Blasting stereos, honking horns, and ear-splitting jackhammers can ruin a good night’s sleep and diminish our quality of life. They can also increase our stress levels and lead to unnecessary arguments and altercations. That’s why, a few days ago, our administration unveiled a plan to bring the City’s noise code – which hasn’t been updated in 32 years – into the 21st Century.

Now, we recognize that there’s a balancing act required on this issue. Noise is the inevitable byproduct of our working, thriving city. Our goal is to turn down the volume of noise complaints, while at the same time allowing construction, entertainment, and other business activities to go on in ways that are not as disruptive to New Yorkers.

For instance, we want to encourage the vibrant nightlife that makes New York the fun and exciting city it is. But even in the city that never sleeps, we all need some rest now and then. That’s why we’re proposing to provide clubs that are first-time offenders of the noise code with an option: they can use the money they would have to pay in fines to instead fix their noise problems, which might mean installing more noise-proof insulation. We worked with the nightlife industry to arrive at this consensus solution, and we’re pleased to have their support. We also achieved consensus with the construction industry. Under our proposal, we’ll work together to establish noise management plans. These would, for example, incorporate more use of portable noise barriers and “noise blankets” on power equipment. We’ll also explore cutting back on permits for major construction at night and on weekends in residential areas.

Our proposals would also simplify enforcement against blasting sound systems and dogs that bark continuously. As for ice cream trucks, who doesn’t love them? But a lot of people are annoyed when a truck sits on a corner for hours and blares a jingle over and over again. After receiving many complaints about the trucks – including 243 in the last month alone – we’ve proposed replacing their loud music with a quieter, old-fashioned bell. When the proposal goes to the City Council, public hearings will be held and if better ideas come up, we’ll revise our approach. There’s no reason why New Yorkers can’t enjoy Mister Softee’s delicious ice cream without feeling like he has set up speakers in our living rooms.

We think we’ve struck a balance that is practical and rational. It’s time that New York adopted the same kind of common sense standards that are used in many other cities.

Noise is a fact of life in New York. But we can improve our quality-of-life if we take reasonable steps to reduce excessive noise.