Tag Archive: New York City

An interesting look at the cultural response to noise

Photo credit: Julian Mason

In “Living loud in China’s lively public spaces,” , BBC News, writes about noise in China’s bustling cities. McDonnell states that “[t]here is something incredible about the way in which societies, cities, subcultures find their level in terms of acceptable public volume.”  For example, he notes that there are “bustling cities – rammed with millions of people – where you could be frowned upon for disrupting others with a raised voice: Seoul, London, Tokyo… especially Tokyo.” But McDonnell has lived the last 12 years living in China, where, he notes:

There are some societies where people are expected to avoid being noisy in public and they behave accordingly. Then there’s China.

He describes the “cacophony of chaos” he experiences in a cafe, where someone “starts a phone call at the top of their voice,” as two buddies loudly play video games on their phones, and “a young convert to Christianity sits down next to [him] and starts praying” just as a nearby “hippie looking Chinese bloke has booted up his laptop and Coldplay starts belting out of the speakers.”  This experience is not atypical, he writes, and adds that, looking around, “nobody but me has reacted as if this is anything but completely normal.”

Interestingly, he says that there is only one other city where he has seen this phenomenon–New York–where he describes a similar experience in a diner.  McDonell ponders, “[m]aybe you have to speak up in order to be heard amongst a huge population?”  That is, maybe it’s the space and not just the culture that determines the “acceptable public volume?” After all, he asks, “what noise does a Chinese farmer have to compete in the field?”

 

A victory for residents living near NYC’s LaGuardia Airport!

Photo credit: Eric Salard

If it seems like airplane noise has been in the news lately, it’s because it has.  Whether it’s East Hampton residents petitioning the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision on the town’s proposed airport noise regulations, or an opinion piece debunking a study by a conservative think tank that tries to dismiss legitimate complaints about aviation noise due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s program known as NextGen, airplane noise is an issue that simply isn’t going away.  And with the money and power squarely on the side of the FAA and the airlines, it’s exciting to see residents win a round, as neighbors of LaGuardia Airport did this past week.

Donald Wood, Travel Pulse, writes that “officials from Delta Air Lines announced the carrier will no longer be flying one of its loudest aircraft at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport due to complaints from residents around the facility.”  Specifically, Delta is replacing the noisier MD-88 aircraft “with quieter, more fuel-efficient Airbus A320s, Boeing 737s and several MD-90 mainline aircraft.”  Naturally LaGuardia Airport’s neighbors are thrilled.  Wood writes that the old planes “caused some residents in the Queens borough of New York City to deal with noise so loud that it shook their homes on a near constant basis since the Federal Aviation Administration changed flight paths four years ago.”

The Times Ledger reports that U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), former co-chair and founder of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, weighed in, saying:

Delta’s move will have a positive impact on airplane noise over our borough, and it will make a difference to those who reside near the airport. I look forward to building on this switch to quieter aircraft and working with airline officials to further mitigate airplane noise.

U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) added that:

[Delta’s] move that is not just about improving the quality of the traveling experience but also about improving the quality of life for New Yorkers on the ground. While airplanes can never be truly silent, we can work to make them less disruptive to the families who live nearby and I applaud Delta for taking steps toward that goal.

Here’s hoping Delta and other airlines employ this fix at other airports around the U.S.

 

Not surprised at all:

Noise tops list of complaints to NYC’s 311 last year. Noise complaints made up 9.3% of all complaints to 311, New York City’s official complaint line, according to Trulia, a real estate listings firm.  So, just how many complaints was that exactly?  212,318.

There’s a reason why New York City is known as the city that never sleeps.

UK charity takes on restaurant noise

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Action on Hearing Loss launched Speak Easy, its campaign that asked restaurants, cafes, and pubs “to take noise off the menu,” this past summer.  Last week, the organization announced that its free Speak Easy Campaign Pack is available to the public.  The pack includes:

  • Discreet, supportive materials to hand over to staff or leave with your bill.
  • Ideas for sending effective feedback.
  • A thumb prop for expressing your views on social media.

Action on Hearing Loss understands that “[r]epeat customers are the lifeblood of restaurants, cafes and pubs,” and that millions of people would like to enjoy a meal or drink out at a quieter venue.  Rather than waiting for places to discover this underserved market, they are giving Brits the tools they need to demand quieter options.

Although there isn’t a similar campaign in the U.S.–yet–readers who live or work in New York City can find quieter venues by visiting our sister site, Quiet City Maps, which reviews and rates the noise level and comfortability of New York City restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and more.  Whether you’re at your desk planning a night out with friends, or on your smart phone looking for a nearby quiet place, Quiet City Maps can help you quickly find the perfect place to eat, drink, and have a conversation!

Hope (eventually) for New Yorkers:

20151207_141729_resized

To Create a Quieter City, They’re Recording the Sounds of New York.  Emily S. Rueb, The New York Times, reports on the Sounds of New York City, or Sonyc, a joint project by New York University and Ohio State University, which aims to create an aural map that “will help city agencies monitor and enforce noise pollution, and will empower citizens to assist in the process.”  Researchers from both universities “are training [their] microphones to recognize jackhammers, idling engines and street music, using technology originally developed to identify the flight calls of migrating birds.”  Ten-second snippets of audio will be collected, labeled, and categorized “using a machine-listening engine called UrbanEars.”  The researchers hope that the sensors “will eventually be smart enough to identify hundreds of sonic irritants reverberating across the city.”

The program, which is in the first phase of the five-year project, is primarily funded by a $4.6 milion grant from the National Science Foundation.  The article explains how the researchers are capturing the audio snippets, examines the problems inherent in placing the devices used to monitor noise (read: pigeon poop, among other things), and discusses the “antagonizing effects of noise.”  Rueb looks at how the data may be used to help address noise complaints, writing that eventually “an app called Urbane will allow users to interact with the data, while another app will complement 311 reporting and possibly help New Yorkers track how complaints are handled.”

One hopes the program is a success because, as Rueb tells us, the city has only 53 noise inspectors to serve all five boroughs.  It will be interesting to see if the city, armed with the program’s data, will make a serious attempt to enforce its noise ordinances.

 

Well, it can’t hurt:

New Bill Seeks to Make it Easier to Catch Developers Breaking Noise Rules.  DNAinfo reports that “[a] new City Council bill is putting pressure on developers behind noisy construction sites by making information about their mitigation plans more accessible to neighbors.”  Long and short, the new bill “would require the Department of Environmental Protection to post noise mitigation plans for construction sites on its website, and would require developers to post the plans on construction fences in clear view.”  Ok, that could help, but we couldn’t help noticing that the bill text doesn’t include penalties for violation (although that must surely be provided elsewhere).

Construction in the city is endless.  Every handful of dirt seems to have a construction crew attempting to put highrise on it. Anyone living near one of these sites knows that their quality of life takes a hit.  Recently Community Board 1 in Manhattan held a construction forum to address common complaints.  Click this link to read the responses to these complaints from representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Buildings.

 

 

Meet New York City’s noise warriors,

who are fighting to keep the city quiet(er). Nicole Levy, writing for DNAInfo, introduces us to three New Yorkers who have been working to protect their fellow citizens’ health and well-being.  Levy first profiles Arline Bronzaft, an environmental psychologist, who published a widely cited, ground-breaking study on the effect of subway noise on children’s’ reading ability in 1975.  Today, Bronzaft volunteers her time with GrowNYC, where she takes on the hardest cases: people who have tried everything to stop noise but failed.  Bronzaft “asks the complainant to list all the steps he has taken to mitigate the offending noise, and writes to the apartment’s managing agent or landlord ‘on GrowNYC letterhead,’ she specified, presenting the case and inviting a discussion.”  “They listen,” says Levy, “because if any name in the anti-noise movement carries clout in New York City, it’s Arline Bronzaft.”

Levy next introduces us to Janet McEneaney, the president of Queens Quiet Skies, an advocacy group against aviation noise and pollution.  McEneaney became involved in fighting aviation noise when she awoke one morning in 2012 to the sound of roaring jets flying over her home every 60 seconds.  She learned that the noise was “an unintended consequence of a new air traffic control system, The Next Generation Air Transportation System.”  The noise persists, but McEneaney, on learning about the health consequences of noise, took her research to U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, who introduced the “Quiet Communities Act of 2015” last fall (the bill remains in committee).

Finally, Levy writes about Tae Hong Park, an associate professor of music composition and technology at NYU, who has created a project he calls Citygram that is  “an audio version of Google maps.”  The first phase of the Citygram project, in which sound recording technology runs on a web browser that anyone with internet connection can use, has been completed.  Park says that phase two will involve gathering information and analyzing patterns, followed by phase three, in which the whole process is automated “so machines can tell us the answers to what sounds are the loudest, what sounds disturb or concern the public the most.”

Reading about Bronzaft, McEneaney, and Park calls to mind this Margaret Mead quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Eater’s Updated Guide to What’s Wrong With Restaurants Today

So what is the number one complaint?  You guessed it–noise.  What will the response be from restauranteurs?  If the past is any indication, nothing.  Until people refuse to eat at restaurants that serve a side of tinnitus with their meal, nothing will happen.  We at Silencity believe in voting with your wallet.  If enough people ask that music be lowered or complain to the manager about noise, eventually something will be done.  So be sure to tell the owner or manager why you won’t be returning to their restaurant or why you’ll pass on a table.  And while we wait for restauranteurs to react, go to our sister site, Quiet City Maps, and let them help you find a relatively quiet restaurant, bar, or coffee shop in noisy New York City.

New Yorkers, mark your calendars:

On September 24th the Noise Hackathon is presenting a series of fascinating talks that will look “into the complexities of noise including urban noise pollution and noise music to jump-start a full day of noise hacking.”  One of the talks will be presented by Dr. Arline Bronzaft, one of the leading experts in environmental psychology, who will talk about the impact of noise on health, particularly the  “non-auditory health risks and physiological disorders, including children’s learning skills, hypertension, sleep deprivation, and cardiovascular complications, as well as work productivity and social behavior.”

The September 24th Noise Hackathon is presented as part of NoiseGate Festival 2016, a “5-day music festival focusing on the environment, bringing awareness to spatial and urban noise pollution “in 3D” via Data-Driven, Art-Driven, Community-Driven efforts.”  Admission to the Noise Hackathon is free.  Just click the link to RSVP.

Noise keeps you up at night?

The Audiophiliac has the cure.  And his short answer is this: get some disposable earplugs.   Not exactly earth shattering.  Although The Audiophiliac’s review of options may be useful, it is, after all, a short answer for a short-term remedy.  Perhaps the author should consider the longer-term remedy and contact his city councilperson demanding real noise regulation in New York City.  Just a thought.