Originally Posted on November 13, 2014

Monitoring noise at community level and publishing annual report will create a more proactive, publicly accessible approach to handling noise concerns and protecting public health and quality of life throughout New York City

Today, Council Member Margaret Chin introduced new legislation at tomorrow’s City Council stated meeting that would require the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to collect data on noise pollution throughout the city and publish an annual report based on that data.

Noise complaints—particularly those regarding traffic and construction noise—consistently rank among the most frequent 311 complaints by New York City residents. A study released in April by the city’s Health Department showed that around 40 percent of New Yorkers reported quality of life disruptions by noise from outside their homes. The same study found that disruptive noise “can cause and other psychological problems, and noise can be more disturbing to people experiencing…physical or mental illness.”

Currently, New York City does not systematically monitor ambient noise (the noise coming from traffic, construction or other outdoor sources). Instead, the city relies primarily on tracking noise complaints through the 311 call system. However, the aforementioned Health Department study states that “311 complaint data do not allow a full understanding of the burden of ambient noise because they may not capture information about all noise exposure.”

Council Member Chin’s legislation—attached—would require DEP to install noise monitoring equipment at major intersections and recreational areas throughout the city, to get a precise readings of the noise levels (in decibels) at all of these locations. The legislation would also require DEP to submit an annual report to the Mayor and City Council based on that noise data at the end of each year, and would require the annual report to be posted online so it can be easily accessed by members of the public.

In addition, the legislation would require the City to use that data to identify communities that are experiencing unhealthy noise levels, and to develop and implement measures to reduce or eliminate the short-term and long-term problems with noise in those communities.

“It’s time for our city to be proactive—not just reactive—when it comes to tracking and mitigating noise pollution,” said Council Member Chin. “Millions of frustrated New Yorkers face quality of life problems and potential health risks as a result of elevated noise levels—especially those who live around areas with heavy traffic or construction. The noise monitoring and annual report required by my legislation will enable our city and the public to get all the real, hard data on neighborhood noise levels, while also pushing the city to take action to reduce the negative impacts of noise in our communities.”