Lowering the Volume on After Hours Construction Noise in New York City Passes Council

Lowering the Volume on After Hours Construction Noise in
New York City Passes Council
City to Respond to After Hours Noise Complaints When They Are Happening or Likely to Happen Again
 
Noise Limit Lowered for After Hours Construction in Residential Neighborhoods

 
New York, NY – Noise is the top complaint in New York City with booming construction surrounding residents who complain only to see their concerns go unaddressed for days or met with a small fine paid by developers as a cost of doing business. After hours noise will be targeted with new rules for responding when the noise is still happening or is likely to happen again, turning down the volume on after hours construction noise in residential neighborhoods over the next two years, and empowering the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to shut down equipment that is too loud. Introduction 1653-B was authored by Council Member Ben Kallos in collaboration with DEP who helped improve it and co-sponsored by Environmental Committee Chair Costa Constantinides, which passed that committee and is on track to pass the City Council today.
 
In 2016, violations went down as complaints went up, according to the New York Post. Analysis found that noise complaints peak dramatically after 8PM then falls after midnight with a second increase between 7AM and 9AM according to Pratt Professor Ben Wellington in The New Yorker.
 
“New York City may be the city that never sleeps but that shouldn’t be because of after hours construction noise waking you up. Our new law will turn down the volume on after hours construction noise in residential neighborhoods,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza for his agencies expertise and collaboration on this legislation, to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Environmental Committee Chair Costa Constantinides for their partnership and hearing this important legislation, as well as to the countless residents who have complained regularly about after hours noise that led to this legislation to keep our city a little bit quieter.”
 
“The nuisance that bothers New Yorkers most is loud noises, however, it could take days for agencies to respond to noise complaints. By that time, a violation would unlikely be issued.  That's why we're introducing this legislation that would require the city to respond to noise complaints when they are happening, or likely to happen again. New Yorkers deserve a responsive government and noise-free neighborhoods. Thank you to my colleague Council Member Ben Kallos for leading the way on this quality-of-life issue,” said Environmental Committee Chair Costa Constantinides.
 
“Working with the City Council, this legislation will empower our noise inspectors with new tools to more effectively enforce the City’s Noise Code,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.  “By lowering the allowable after hours noise limit in residential areas, allowing inspectors to take noise readings from the street, rather than from inside an apartment, and empowering inspectors with the ability to issue a stop work order for noisy equipment, this legislation should help bring some much needed relief to New Yorkers.”
 
The legislation would require the following:

  • Responding to Noise Complaints When They Are Likely to Happen – DEP will adopt rules for responding to after hours noise complaints in order to ensure that inspections happen when the noise is likely to continue or repeat.
  • New After Hours Construction Noise Limits in Residential Neighborhoods - within 200 feet of a residence after hours building construction noise would be capped at 80 decibels starting next year and 75 decibels in 2020.
  • Measuring After Hours Residential Noise Inside or Outside – within 200 feet of a residence after hours building construction noise could not exceed 8 decibels above the ambient noise levels inside the home with windows and doors closed, which in 2020 will decrease to 7 decibels. In addition to measuring building construction noise levels inside the home, noise could now be measured outside the home at least 50 feet from the noise source and within 200 feet of the residence.
  • New Noise Standards for Interior Renovations – interior renovations will now be explicitly subject to new rules for noise mitigation, methods, procedures and technology.
  • Electronic Filing of Noise Mitigation Plans – noise mitigation and alternative noise mitigation plans would need to be filed electronically to make it easier for inspectors and the public to access online.
  • Review of Alternative Noise Mitigation Plans – when construction cannot be done quieter than 85 decibels the developer would be required to submit an alternative noise mitigation plan that would now be required to set a specific decibel limit for the project and would also be subject to city approval.
  • New Enforcement Powers to Stop Noisy After Hours Construction – whenever after hours building construction exceeds noise levels the city would have to issue an advisory or violation and could also issue a stop work order for a specific piece of equipment.
  • Reporting on Noise Enforcement – DEP will report annually to the Council and the public on the number of noise inspectors, number of complaints by type, the number inspected on time, how the complaint was resolved, the number of alternative mitigation plans and the number of advisories, violations and stop work orders issued.

Under the legislation noise levels for roadwork in residential communities would remain unchanged and existing construction projects would be grandfathered under existing noise mitigation or alternative noise mitigation plan.
 
Noise complaints received by 311 in 2016, according to Open Data were routed to one of four agencies:

  • New York Police Department (NYPD) – 360,780 complaints - banging or pounding (224,866), loud music or party (65,107), loud talking or television (55,385), vehicle horn or music (11,387), and engine idling (4,034).
  • Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – 58,488 complaints - construction equipment, jack hammering, and before or after hours (36,028); barking dogs or other animals (6,924); equipment for air conditioning, ventilation, and lawn care (4,779); alarms (3,765); vehicles including cars, boats, private garbage trucks, and even ice cream trucks (3,308); and manufacturing noise (543).
  • Economic Development Corporation (EDC) – 1,003 complaints – helicopters.
  • Department of Sanitation (DSNY) – 204 Complaints – garbage collection.