State: New York City needs to improve response to noise complaints

Photo credit: Keng-Yu Lin licensed under CC BY 2.0

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has released an audit showing a “growing number of noise complaints related to nightlife establishments in New York City,” with noise complaints more than doubling between 2010 and 2015. DiNapoli says that the audit “highlights the need for the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to better communicate and crack down on bars and clubs with persistent noise problems.” Despite the doubling of complaints, “including tens of thousands involving nightlife,” DiNapoli’s auditors “found limited communication between the SLA and NYPD to address the grievances.” Incredibly, bars and nightclubs with “hundreds of complaints lodged against them faced little or no repercussions.”

Residents of the Lower East Side, an area hit particularly hard by nightlife noise, won’t be surprised by the report, as that neighborhood has become increasingly popular as a nightlife destination. In fact, residents there are working together to stop a force they see destroying their quality of life. Stacey Delikat, Fox5NY, writes about the residents’ efforts, and reports that party buses pull up at 2:00 a.m., the streets are clogged with drunks, and there is vomit on the sidewalks, something the residents call “just an average weekend on the Lower East Side.”

So now that the state and city are aware of the increase in complaints and the failure to address them, what’s the plan? DiNapoli recommends that the SLA “develop a formal process to access and analyze 311 noise complaint data….and develop and implement a formal communication protocol with the NYPD” and other public oversight authorities responsible for addressing noise matters that “pertain to SLA-licensed establishments.” DiNapoli also suggests that the NYPD enhance record keeping of noise complaints to improve “management analysis of response times and the effectiveness of the actions taken” and develop “system-wide procedures to follow up on establishments with high volumes of noise complaints” that include “periodic communications with the SLA.”

While better communication between the NYPD and SLA can’t hurt, the report states that although the SLA took actions against establishments with a high level of complaints, “actions were rarely taken (if ever) against certain establishments with comparatively high levels of noise complaints.” Rather, the report notes, “officials usually do not open cases based solely on noise complaints, such complaints are coupled with other issues (such as alcohol sales to minors or non-compliance with building codes) that officials believe are of greater importance.” Perhaps the report should simply have recommended that the SLA make noise complaints a higher priority.

In any event, within 90 days of the Comptroller’s report the SLA is obligated to report to the governor, comptroller, and various legislative leaders to tell them what steps were taken to implement recommendations, which recommendations were not taken, and why; the NYPD is requested to do the same.

Next up? The press release ends with a note that the Comptroller “is currently conducting an audit on construction noise in the city.”

 

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