Peace and Quiet

Edmonton, Canada cracks down on loud street noise

Because, as this editorial in the Edmonton Journal opines, “there are limits to the noise that Edmontonians will put up with — and should have to put up with.” So how will the city deal with loud vehicles on their streets?  With this exciting project:

Edmonton has started testing automated enforcement for loud vehicles. City officials will continue that project this summer, hoping to be ready to start issuing tickets after.

The city council voted to test “photo-radar style noise guns that can detect, photograph or video excessively loud vehicles,” and eventually the city will develop a program to fine offenders. The program won’t just be sprung on residents and people passing through, as the city council want a education component that will use digital noise displays and “a public-awareness campaign to encourage noisy motorists to tone it down.”

 

Residents have the right to quiet in their homes

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

For thirty years, I have served on the Board of Directors of GrowNYC, largely overseeing its noise activities. In this capacity I worked with our staff on preparing information for our website that informs readers on how to protect themselves from noise and also to respect their neighbors’ rights to a quieter environment in their homes.

Readers who are having noise problems can read my post on how to deal with noisy neighbors or they may contact me through GrowNYC. I hope our advice has influenced readers to be respectful of neighbors’ right to quiet. But, sadly, the people I hear from are those who have neighbors who do not realize or care about imposing their sounds on their neighbors.

In his report on noise in New York City neighborhoods, Thomas P. DiNapoli noted the large number of noise complaints handled by the city’s 311 Customer Service Center as well as the results of a survey his office launched to gain greater insight into the types of noise complaints received by 311. Residential complaints, which were high on the list, included “…banging or pounding of music, party or people noise coming from a home.”

Although the Police Department can respond to some of the neighbor to neighbor complaints, e.g. very loud, disruptive parties, many of these neighbor complaints have to be resolved by landlords and managing agents. In New York State, the lease that tenants sign entitle them to a “warranty of habitability,” and under this clause they have the right to requisite quiet. Unfortunately, it has been the experience of many tenants that noise complaints are not taken seriously by their landlords and managing agents. I know this because many people with neighbor noise complaints call me at GrowNYC and I, in turn, where permissible, contact their landlords or managing agents.

While I have had much success in resolving neighbor to neighbor complaints, in those cases where I have not succeeded residents had to go to tenant/landlord court. I remember one case where neighbors were complaining about children running across uncovered floors late at night. The judge took the noise complaint seriously and told the mother that the children should have been asleep late at night and admonished her for being a “bad” mother. He also sided with the complainant and ordered the managing agent to enforce the right of this tenant to “reasonable quiet.”

I have some experience with residents in private homes in New York City and elsewhere having no other option but to go to court. But I don’t recall anyone receiving the high award for damages noted in this British case, where the complainant was awarded over £100,000 (approx. $138,000) in compensatory damages. I find the award of $138,000 dollars striking. Particularly since the judge also ordered the company that owned the offending flat to carry out work on the floors that would reduce the noise.

In the apartment noise cases I have been involved with, judges have asked landlords to make sure that tenants have proper carpeting on the floors which is often stipulated in leases. In one case, the judge had asked the resident who created the noise to put back the padding to the radiator she had removed when she remodeled the apartment since the removal of the padding allowed noise to enter the apartment below.

I wish tenants, landlords, managing agents, and judges involved in neighbor noise cases would read the article on the large financial payout for inflicting noise on a neighbor. It might make them realize that: (1) noise is indeed hazardous to well-being, and (2) action must be taken to abate the noise or there may be a financial price to pay.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Is there a link between NYC noise and crime?

Photo credit: Tony Fischer licensed under CC BY 2.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in The Crime Report examines a recent report about New York City noise by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. It’s fascinating read and carefully documents the chronic problem of noise in New York City along what the City has been doing (and not doing) to address it. More importantly, the article notes that “[n]oise complaints may be a clue to what else is going on in an apartment,” such as child or elder abuse or drug dealing, and, in any event, “not enforcing noise ordinances creates an environment that encourages lawbreaking.”

The author of the article is GrowNYC board member Arline Bronzaft, PhD, who is also a co-founder of The Quiet Coalition. In her article, Dr. Bronzaft discusses the link between crime and noise and why the City should devote more enforcement resources to the issue to improve the health, safety and welfare of New York City’s residents.

Thank you, Dr. Bronzaft for your passionate and long-term commitment to this subject!

In addition to serving as vice chair of the The Quiet Coalition, David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, American National Standards Institute Committee S12, Workgroup 44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group—a partner of the American Hospital Association. He is the lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), a contributor to the National Academy of Engineering report “Technology for a Quieter America,” and to the US-GSA guidance “Sound Matters”, and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He recently retired from the board of directors of the American Tinnitus Association. A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The changing sound of earth

Claire Asher, the BBC, writes about how the world sounds different than it did a century ago. And the reason is not benign–climate change has had a dramatic effect on the oceans, for example,

How big is the impact, really? Bigger than one might expect. Writes Asher:

In 2015, a US team of scientists and engineers reported that the loudest sound in some waters now comes from millions of tiny bubbles, which are released by melting glaciers and icebergs. In the fjords of Alaska and Antarctica, the average noise level is now over 100 decibels – louder than any ocean environment recorded before.

Click the link to read the full article.  The changing soundscape is a warning sign, as “Earth’s natural soundscape is changing irreversibly, and human activity is driving the process.”

Quiet helicopters already exist! Now get charter groups to use them

Photo credit: FaceMePLS licensed under CC BY 2.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Quiet Coalition (TQC) heard recently from a local government official asking for advice about noisy helicopters and what could be done to address constituent complaints. It’s a great question with a straightforward answer: quiet helicopters already exist. Airbus makes them and here’s a case study of an American hospital–the University of California San Francisco—that is using one. Nothing new needs to be invented here—what’s needed is public pressure on helicopter users to substitute quiet craft for the loud ones that annoy you and your neighbors.

It’s no surprise that the quiet helicopter is made by Airbus, because Airbus has worked long and hard, under pressure from the EU Parliament, to develop quiet aircraft of all kinds. Here is a demonstration and review of the Airbus Colibri EC120B (4-passenger) quiet helicopter, which has a larger “cousin,” the EC130B (6 passenger) model.

You might say “this is NOT a truly quiet helicopter.” True, but it’s a heck of a lot quieter than what we’re exposed to now, which is an improvement—and one that could be substituted immediately. For those who want even quieter helicopters, take a look at this next-generation, all-electric helicopter from Germany (Germany has very strict noise-control regulations, which led to the development of this electric craft).

If you’re also concerned about airport noise from jet aircraft, please know that TQC is interested in this subject and has written about it several times over the past year. And, as with helicopters, quiet jet aircraft are already available–again from Airbus. Why do the Europeans have a leg up on the design and production of electric aircraft? Because the EU Parliament has worked long and hard to limit community noise and has strongly encouraged Airbus to address this problem. American companies should take note and get in the game before the EU wins it.

We at TQC believe that “technology substitution” (i.e., accelerating the adoption of quiet alternatives) is the only foreseeable, politically practical way to solve noise problems in America. TQC co-founder Jamie Banks, founder of Quiet Communities, has already demonstrated the practicality of technology substitution in another area where community noise has been growing problem–noisy and inefficient but cheap 2-cycle gas-powered leafblowers and lawn mowers. Her group has found that communities can change their local soundscapes by insisting that landscape maintenance crews use quieter, battery-powered electric devices.

True, it may take some organizing locally to get your local government to stand up and fight the plague of noise, but it can be done!

With regard to noisy helicopters, citizen groups need to apply direct pressure on the local owners and operators of these craft, petitioning them to substitute commercially available, quieter equipment. That is a much faster route to solving your neighborhood noise problem than trying to get a FAA representative or regional airport authority to develop and implement noise-control regulations. The regulatory approach seems only to lead to frustration and inaction. Aim for the operator’s pocketbook!

In addition to serving as vice chair of the The Quiet Coalition, David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, American National Standards Institute Committee S12, Workgroup 44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group—a partner of the American Hospital Association. He is the lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), a contributor to the National Academy of Engineering report “Technology for a Quieter America,” and to the US-GSA guidance “Sound Matters”, and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He recently retired from the board of directors of the American Tinnitus Association. A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Quiet’s hard to come by

Russell Wangersky, The Telegram, writes about being somewhere so quiet that he could hear two birds flying 20 feet above him.  He describes the sound their feathers made as they moved through the air–“It is a sound that almost defies description: both a swoosh and a rustle, and a hint of the sweep of a soft brush–a sound he notes he will likely never hear again. And that experience prompts his essay on sound and modern living, as he considers “how much sound there is all around us, and how that complication of noises gets ever-larger.”

Click the link to read this thoughtful essay.