Tag Archive: Dr. Arline L. Bronzaft

NYC must better regulate noise

Photo credit: Vlad Alexandru Popa from Pexels

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

Sarah Sax’s recent article in City & State New York, “New York City Needs to Better Regulate Noise,” joins the growing number of articles that have recently appeared stressing the adverse impacts of noise on mental and physical health. These articles have acknowledged, unfortunately, that the federal government has essentially abandoned its role to regulate noise in the U.S. as called for in the 1972 Noise Control Act. That Act, still on the books, established a national policy to protect citizens from noise that jeopardizes health and well-being. As a result, Sax writes that curbing noise is essentially a local matter.

While recognizing that New York City has passed and updated legislation for many years to restrict noise impacts, Sax notes that noise complaints rank high on the city’s 311 complaint line. Sax cites State Comptroller DiNapoli’s 2018 report highlighting noise complaints to 311, which surveyed a sample of New York City residents on noise and found the majority of the people completing the survey were not satisfied with how their noise complaints were handled. And the noises complained about continued. In response to this report, the City’s Department of Environmental Protection added more agents to deal with noise complaints.

The New York City Noise Code was updated, in large part, in 2007, but there have been some recent updates regarding construction noise. Still, there is increased talk among the members of the New York City Council that the city needs to go further to improve its code, especially as it relates to regulating noise related to construction.

As Sax reports, New York University’s Sounds of New York City program, which is placing sensors around the city to more accurately measure sound levels, may be a tool that would enable the DEP, with whom SONYC is sharing sensor data, to better act on noise violations. This remains to be seen, as Sax states.

Sax also writes about how loud traffic noise is, and I am confident she will agree with me that the “Don’t Honk” signs reminding drivers to restrict use of their horns–which  were removed years ago–should be put in place again. There are fines associated with honking and signs reminding people to limit honking are good prompts for appropriate driving behavior.

That said, large numbers of noise complaints also come from residents complaining about their neighbors and from people living near New York City’s three airports. These sources were not discussed in Sax’s article but also require greater attention. State legislators should study how strongly the “warranty of habitability” section of leases, which covers noises in apartments, is being enforced. Aircraft noise complaints have grown with recent changes in flight patterns, and despite efforts by some New York Congress members, to address this problem, there is still little being done to curtail airport-related noise.

In the end, I agree with Sax’s conclusion that public officials must acknowledge that noise is a significant health hazard and act to limit it.

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.

 

New York City tries to deal (again) with nighttime contruction noise

Photo credit: Tomwsulcer has dedicated this photo to the public domain

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

The New York Times reports that the building boom in New York City has been accompanied by a “noise boom,” especially with the increase in overnight work.

A construction boom, given the difficulty of doing construction work in Manhattan, has led to an increase in the number of variances being requested to allow nighttime construction work. Although the New York City Noise Code includes a section pertaining to construction noise rules and regulations, it is the Department of Buildings that oversees the issuance of variances to the Noise Code rules and regulations.

Councilwoman Carlina Rivera understands the adverse health impacts of noise. As reported in the New York Times, she has introduced a bill to the City Council that would limit construction work to no earlier than 6 a.m. and no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays, with weekend construction limited to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with some variances allowed for utility and government projects. As to whether this legislation will pass, is a difficult question to answer in a city where developers and the real estate industry have strong political influence.

Ms. Rivera asserted that the Department of Buildings does not have enough employees to review all the permit applications for variances it receives. As a result, it may have issued variances without much consideration about how construction noise would affect those living nearby. There was, sadly, no indication in this story that the Department of Buildings asked for additional staff to more effectively review the applications. The one response from a department spokesman, was that “no one likes construction” but that the after-hours permits were “necessary to a growing city.”  Such a statement appears to be dismissive of the accepted knowledge that noise is hazardous to both mental and physical health.

What is clear in the literature with respect to health and well-being is how dependent our health is on a “good night’s sleep,” something that is certainly being denied to those exposed to the growing New York City nighttime construction noise. Furthermore, a city like New York, proud of its diverse and talented workforce, should also be aware of the fact a loss of sleep can decrease work productivity the next day.

We wish Ms. Rivera success, and a quieter night to all in New York City.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

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.

 

Where is NYC’s promised Quality-of-Life Plan?

Photo credit: Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view licensed under CC BY 2.0

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

In his Gotham Gazette article “City’s Promised Plan for Quality-of-Life Issues Yet to Materialize,” Ethan Geringer-Smith writes that the Citizen Budget Commission’s NYC Resident Feedback Survey results issued earlier this year found that 40.4% of city residents who responded “rated the city’s control of street noise as excellent or good.” Fewer residents in Manhattan, Bronx, and Brooklyn, as compared to Queens and Staten Island, rated control of street noise as excellent or good. This was a 6.1% improvement over the 2008 survey.

One question I have about this finding is this: What is meant by control of street noise? Also, considering Geringer-Smith states that “[o]verall, last year, the number of 311 noise complaints rose to nearly 437,000, up from roughly 260,000 in 2013,” I would like to know more about what types of noises people are complaining about and why wasn’t the improvement in the “control of street noise” reflected in the numbers of noise complaints. Still, Geringer-Smith states that according to the CBC’s data, residents point to noise “…as among the greatest areas of dissatisfaction in the city.”

I hope the questions raised above will be addressed in “a big study” of quality-of-life problems that Deputy Mayor of Operations Laura Anglin told Geringer-Smith her office was conducting. I would suggest that Ms. Anglin reference two studies that I was involved in that looked at different types of noise and how New York City residents’ behavior was affected by these noises, as well as State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report last year on New York City noise complaints.

Ms. Anglin, in an email to the Gotham Gazette wrote that the study’s goal was to seek out solutions. Discussing the adverse impacts of noise on health and well-being in her report would add strength to this goal.

Knowing that City Council recently passed legislation strengthening the regulation of construction noise and being aware of community residents clamoring for less noisy emergency vehicles. as well as researching and writing on the adverse effect of noise on health, I am looking forward to reading the report that will soon emanate from the Deputy Mayor’s office.

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.

 

Hospital noise is bad for health

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

In a 2017 presentation, referring to an earlier paper I had written with Rita Wynne Herzig in 1999, I noted that hospital noise was a serious problem for patients and staff and that not enough has been done to reduce sound levels in hospitals. Suggestions to lessen hospital sounds included better design and quieter equipment.

A recent article, “Noise Pollution in Hospitals,” underscores the fact that noise still remains a hazard for hospital patients and staff. The authors of a study linking sleep loss to increased feelings of pain would agree, as they use their findings to call for lower sound levels in hospitals. In fact, they suggested the distribution of earplugs to patients to lessen the sounds and improve their sleep. But researchers who have studied the impacts of noise on health for many years know that it is best to reduce noise at the source. Some ways to reduce hospital noise can be found at Dr. Susan E. Mazer’s blog.

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.

Arline L. Bronzaft, PhD, awarded APA’s 2018 Presidential Citation

Photo credit: Susan Santoro

The Quiet Coalition co-founder Arline L. Bronzaft, PhD, as been awarded the first American Psychological Association Citizen Psychologist Presidential Citation “as an exemplar of passion, coalition building and leadership for her sustained community activities in New York City.” The award is in recognition of Dr. Bronzaft’s service to five New York City mayors as the chairperson of the Noise Committee of GrowNYC.org, her landmark research in the 1970’s on the effects of subway noise on children’s learning, her work helping the NYC Department of Environmental Protection update the city’s Noise Code, and her work implementing a noise education curriculum for the NYC public school system.

The APA has honored Dr. Bronzaft for her lifelong commitment to making the world quieter and healthier.  Kudos, Dr. Bronzaft!