A Real Look at NYC’s Noise Stats

By Michael Lentin

According to NYC Open Data, 17,198 official noise complaints have been submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection in New York City from 2010 to recently. As The Big Apple is one of the noisiest cities in the entire world, this likely comes as a surprise to no one. A lot can be learned about the city, however, from the descriptions of each noise complaint, as well as the location and time of each.

The site even allows you to see visually the areas of the city that are the loudest:

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Photo courtesy of NYC Open Data

As you can see, if you’re looking to escape from the noise, Manhattan is not the place for you. You may be able to find some reprieve, however, in certain areas of Brooklyn and Queens:

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Photo courtesy of NYC Open Data

If you look closely, you can see that the areas which show to be comparatively more quiet than others include the shoreline of the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the northern and western tips of Brooklyn, as well as Navy Hill, also known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard. If you move much further east, however, you can see that the noise continues to grow.

In addition to noise location, NYC Open Data also allows you to see the types of complaints residents submit. The descriptions alone paint a great picture of the noises New York residents are forced to deal with on a daily basis.

1. Dogs aren’t the only animals to cause noise.
While 92 complaints were from barking dogs, 84 complaints (almost the same amount) were from animals other than dogs, citing nothing more than “other animals.” While one can only wonder what “other” animals this may consist of, a few possibilities could be: birds squawking, cats meowing, or maybe even the neighing from outside carriage horses, to name a few.

2. People hate the sounds of ice cream trucks.
While the jolly jingle of an ice cream truck turning the corner may bring back sweet memories from childhood, it appears to only remind New Yorkers of how annoying the tunes actually are. A whopping 1,459 of the 17,198 noise complaints to the DEP were caused by ice cream trucks—that’s almost 10%. Love ice cream or not, the loud music coming from these vehicles is driving many residents crazy. One New York Post article claims that there have actually been over 7,000 complaints in total (to other forums than just the DEP) over the last four years, with residents complaining that the trucks will drive by their homes at 10:00 pm, as they’re trying to put their children to bed.

3. Jack hammers are much more common that anyone ever realized.
It comes as no surprise that 12,337 noise complaints (almost 72%) were construction-related, but it was interesting to see that 879 of the total noise complaints were specifically from jack hammers alone. At an estimated 130 decibels, the noise from these bad boys is said to be louder than even a jet taking off. There’s even a Jackhammer Noise Complaint Form on NYC’s government website, proving that this obnoxious noise is clearly an issue.

4. Boats are also very loud.
While only bringing in 61 complaints, the fact that a boat could even make enough noise for a single complaint is worth noting. People claim that their engines and/or music playing on the boat are the causes for most of the complaints. This is (clearly) only an issue for those who live on the water, but it’s understandable as to why you wouldn’t want to be constantly awoken at night by the sound of someone blaring boat tunes.

5. Indoor alarms are more than alarming— they’re annoying.
Just short of a thousand (959) of the official noise complaints stemmed from alarms sounding throughout various buildings. Whether the alarms were actually signalling an emergency or some kid just earned $20 for completing a dare is unclear, but one thing’s for sure—fire alarms can be as loud as 120 decibels.

Hence, New Yorkers have a lot to complain about, but not without good reason. If you call the city home, you may want to re-consider finding a permanent solution, such as the Soundproofing Window Systems found at CitiQuiet—we’ve got a lot of people who will speak for the difference it’s made in their own homes. Even if you don’t call NYC your home, you can now purchase CitiQuiet’s Windows through our recent Home Depot partnership giving the option of a more serene home to people across the country.

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