New York City Implements New Noise Code
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Back now with DAY TO DAY.
New York isn't exactly a demure city. It's brash, it's dirty, and it is loud. A new law is attempting the Sisyphean task of telling New Yorkers to politely can it.
Sally Herships reports.
SALLY HERSHIPS: I love Mister Softee, but that song drives me nuts. You know, do-do-da-do-da-do-da-do…
(Soundbite of music)
HERSHIPS: Especially when the truck is parked outside my apartment and I hear it over and over and over. It makes me want to do bad things. Thank goodness New York City has a new noise code. Effective July 1st, Mister Softee won't be able to park and play anymore, at least in residential areas like mine. But why do people get so heated up about noise? I talked to Dr. Arline Bronzaft, an environmental psychologist who helped write the new code.
Dr. ARLINE BRONZAFT (Chair, Noise Committee, Council on Environment, New York City): Being annoyed, being angry, being irritated, wanting to kill, being frustrated - these are not good psychological states.
HERSHIPS: The Environmental Protection Agency says people shouldn't be consistently exposed to more than 75 decibels, less than heavy city traffic. For Arline, it's about the quality of life.
Dr. BRONZAFT: My own daughter, who lives in a community subjected to aircraft noise. She's an administrative law judge - got on a television show and said, you know, sometimes I feel like shooting those planes down.
HERSHIPS: That's exactly how I feel about Mister Softee and the other noisemakers in the city. I decided to hunt some of them down to find out if they new about the new regulations, and also to find out why they have to make so much noise.
Tell me what you're driving here.
Unidentified Man #1: Harleys.
Unidentified Man #1: They make a lot of noise.
HERSHIPS: It's a weekend night in Greenwich Village. I'm in front of Katz's Deli with the Outcasts, a Harley-riding motorcycle club from Queens.
Unidentified Man #1: You want a little more, huh? How about this, huh?
(Soundbite of motorcycle engine)
Unidentified Man #1: Take that, and that, and that.
HERSHIPS: The Outcasts didn't know about the new code. It says if a bike can be heard from 200 feet away, the driver could receive a minimum fine of 440 bucks. They say they've been getting hassled by cops for years. New penalties won't make much difference to them.
(Soundbite of music)
Next stop: that guy. You know, the neighbor who seems to drop bowling balls on the floor above you for fun…
Unidentified Man #2: I had actually put a drum set into my bedroom once and we had rehearsal in my bedroom for about two days until all the neighbors decided it was an awful idea. So we stopped that pretty quick.
HERSHIPS: The new law says people can complain about noise from neighbors. The key is it has to be unreasonable, and that has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. But if cops can hear music from 15 feet outside a bar or a club, a fine for first offense can be $3,200 to $8,000. Good for quiet lovers like me, but what's a musician to do? Next stop: my arch nemesis, Mister Softee.
Mr. ALI QUIZON(ph) (Mister Softee Driver): Most people are happy when they hear us.
HERSHIPS: Ali Quizon is one of the Mister Softee drivers in my neighborhood. He says he lives next to a bus stop which wakes him up at least three times a night, but he doesn't complain.
Mr. QUIZON: We don't make complaint and people live their life. So this is Mister Softee part of life.
HERSHIPS: The new regulations could mean a $700 fine for Ali so he keeps the jingle playing to a minimum. Ali was such a nice guy I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd actually called 311, the city hotline to complain. But I did tell Arline.
Dr. BRONZAFT: Well, you and 350,000 other complaints have come in to 3-11.
HERSHIPS: Actually, it was about 335,000 in 2006, all calls complaining about the noise. New York City is loud.
Dr. BRONZAFT: The one thing we do know from all our literature is that noise diminishes quality of life. And health is actually living a good lifestyle, not one in which you are subjected to stress.
(Soundbite of car alarms)
HERSHIPS: But what would New York City be like without all these noises? So maybe we can all just turn down the volume a tiny bit.
For NPR News, I'm Sally Herships.
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