Discussion on Urban Noise Stirs Debate Between Opponents, Officials


Published February 18, 2010

A panel of public officials, activists, and academics spoke about the issue of noise pollution in New York City in a Feb. 9 event held in Lowenstein room 1004. The discussion, entitled “City Sounds: How New Yorkers Deal with Noise,” was organized by Harold Takooshian, professor of psychology, and co-sponsored by Fordham University’s Psychology Association, Psi Chi, Urban Studies program, SPSSSI-NY, and the U.N. Committee on Human Settlements.

First to speak were two environmental psychologists, Pete Walker, a professor at Hofstra University, and Arline Bronzaft, chair of the NYC Counsel of the Environment’s Commission on Noise. They spoke about what exactly constitutes noise, and what effects excessive noise exposure can have on physical and mental health. “Listen to your own music, that’s okay,” Bronzaft said. “It’s someone else’s you might not want.”

Charles Shamoon, a member of the New York City Department of Environment Protection, spoke about the new noise code for the city passed in 2005, the first revision of the noise code in over 30 years.  According to Shamoon, the new code is a “reasonable compromise” that “won’t be outmoded the way the previous code did.”

Richard Tur, founder of NoiseOff.org, an independent organization that advocates against noise pollution, identified a comprehensive list of sources of unwanted noise, including: car stereos, bars and nightclubs, new “rumbler” sirens, and illegal motorcycle exhaust pipes.

Tur said the NYPD was “pretty indifferent to the issue [of noise pollution].”   Tur discussed a bill introduced to the New York City Council which would have enabled officers to ticket motorcycles parked on city streets with exhaust pipes without a proper EPA stamp. The legislation, called Intro 416-A, expired in 2009 without being passed into law. The topic was met with vocal opposition when one audience member, a self-described “motorcycle enthusiast,” said that “[illegal] loud pipes are not acceptable,” but the “label system doesn’t work.”

Aaron Friedman of MakeMusicNY.org concluded the discussion with a reflection on an event his company organizes every year. The block party, based on a French holiday celebrating the summer solstice, drew 900 participants last year. “People feel connected to their communities when they hear the sound [of music],” he said.