NYC’s Noise Code

New York City StreetsWalking through the streets of New York City, it is very apparent why its been nicknamed “The City that Never Sleeps.” Honking taxis, loud-talking passersby, and screeching subway trains are sounds that now characterize the Big Apple. As a result, noise is the #1 complaint among the city’s residents, and for good reason.

While the occasional humming of construction or barking dog may can be tolerated, long-term exposure to loud noise can have serious,negative effects on our health. In fact, noise pollution, any unwanted or disturbing sound that disrupts normal activities, has been linked to high blood pressure, changes in the immune system, cognitive impairment, and hearing impairment, to name just a few. The most commonly identified side effect of noise is the interruption of much-needed sleep.

As a result of the very serious consequences of too much noise, the City of New York has recently updated its expansive Noise Code in order to reflect its current landscape and acoustic advancements in technology. The following are a few of the most common sources of noise in New York City, and the Code’s guidelines for keeping disturbances under control:

Construction

Construction sites are now synonymous with city living, and New York is no exception. In order to limit construction noise, the Noise Code requires all sites to create and submit a noise mitigation plan prior to the start of any project. Further, the Code designates hours during which construction can occur, and sets standards for noise levels created by construction equipment and materials.

Bars & Restaurants

New York is known for its nightlife, with bars, clubs, and restaurants open until the wee hours of the morning. Due to the common use of music to create a fun and energetic atmosphere, the Noise Code specifies a number of guidelines that these establishments must follow. For example, sound levels must not exceed 42 decibels as measured from inside nearby residences, and 7 decibels over the ambient sound levels between 10 pm and 7am.

Garbage Trucks

In a city with a population well over 8 million, the accumulation of large amounts of trash is inevitable. As a result, noisy garbage trucks are a common site city. Though necessary, these vehicles are often a disruptive presence in most neighborhoods. For this reason, the Noise Code limits the acceptable level of noise to 80 decibels as measured at a distance of 35 feet from the truck, between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

Even with strict guidelines, residents should take a few residential soundproofing steps of their own to reduce their daily exposure to noise. One quick and easy solution is to install soundproof windows. Whether at home or in the office, such windows are capable of reducing up to 95% of external noise, effectively improving quality of life and lowering stress. To improve sleep, consider purchasing a white noise machine. This small addition successfully blends external disturbances into a fray of acoustic frequencies, enabling your brain to pay less attention to unwanted noise. In the event that disruptions still occur, residents are encouraged to call 311 to report a NY noise complaint.

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