Shut Up, New York! Living with Peace and Quiet in Manhattan

During a recent news conference about noise pollution, Michael Horodniceanu—the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s president of capital construction—had to shout in order to be heard while speaking at a Second Avenue construction project. “If you really want quiet,” he bellowed, “go to the country.” 

That statement says it all…oh the joys of living in New York City. Without a doubt, if the city’s president of capital construction admits that a quiet lifestyle doesn’t exist here, perhaps it is truly pointless to throw time and money to soundproofing…even the most advanced techniques won’t silence that wrecking ball demolishing the condemned building across the street. 

Alas, noise pollution is a significant problem for almost anyone living in a densely populated environment. As studies—and basic common sense—suggest, few metropolitan areas have bigger issues with noise than the Big Apple; it is one of the most common complaints boards and managers receive. Though, over the years, many engineers, architects, and designers have developed ways to reduce excessive noise in multifamily buildings. Some have had more success than others. 

According to A Guide to New York City’s Noise Code: Understanding the Most Common Sources of Noise in the City—as documented by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)—people complain about disturbing noises coming from these most common violators: construction, animals, vending machines, air conditioners and other circulation devices, garbage trucks and other motor vehicles, neighbors, and music from bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. 

A recent New Yorker magazine article found that that top ten noise complaints from 311 calls centered around loud parties, construction noise, barking dogs, cars, air conditioning or ventilation equipment. Loud music or parties accounted for 52,369 complaints (37 percent); construction noise, 23,180 (16 percent); loud talking, 18,210 (13 percent); car/truck music, 8,962 (6 percent); barking dog, 7,480 (5 percent); construction equipment, 5,819 (4 percent); air conditioning/ventilation equipment, 4,200 (3 percent); car engine-idling, 3,886 (3 percent); car/truck horns, 3,374 (2 percent); banging or pounding noises, 3,087 (2 percent) and other, 10,098 (7 percent).

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