WHAT? Dangerous Noise Levels in New York City

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cara Buckley, The New York Times reporter, talks about her reporting on noise levels in NYC stores, bars and restaurants - and how often the decibel levels exceed safety standards.


Cara Buckley

Comments [40]

kevin from upper LS

why in the world,is she so completely avoiding, the obvious, political issue here. republicans/conservatives, are the big biz people,who don't want regulations, that protect humans. it's all bottom line. come on NYT's reporter,lets go there,instead of your, "church of the obvious" fluff.

Jul. 24 2012 05:18 PM

@Robert Davey and the board of WNYC

96.7 does that constantly to not only wnyc, but wbai and wfuv as well.

That station has been a menace for months! And there are no signs that it's being addressed.

Jul. 24 2012 01:19 PM
Robert Davey from Bridgeport, Conn.

The most annoying sound for me this morning was the rock radio station that kept breaking into the Brian Lehrer show, preventing me from enjoying the show as I usually do.

Jul. 24 2012 12:17 PM
snoozer from nyc

my next door neighbor's behemoth AC
illegal fire crackers (and dogs going nuts at the sound)
car alarms
motor cycles
subway stations and trains
people generally playing their music very loudly. in cars and homes.
Being anywhere in the vicinity of Washington Heights is loud.

Jul. 24 2012 12:16 PM
altoman from Glen Cove

As musician (sax), I find myself very sensitive to loud sounds. I always arm myself (ears)when I go to any performance. It seems that most presentations using sounds in performance are way too loud. Even childrens' group sing alongs. I've used tissue and napkins with water and roll into a ball, and insert in emergencies.

Jul. 24 2012 12:13 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Estelle - the CALM Act, concerning the volume of tv commercials takes effect on December 13, 2012.

Jul. 24 2012 12:08 PM
sandy from E. 15 St. NYC

our building on E. 15 St. has been battling the equipment noise belonging to the iHOP restaurant on E. 14 St. nyc since they opened last September. DEP has issued violations but we are still suffering.  So what good are the laws?

Jul. 24 2012 12:03 PM
JustHavingFun from Washington Heights

As a relatively recent transplant to NYC (Manhattan), I am sensitive to noise that people around me don't even notice!

We are just inundated with noise in the background: whir of air conditioners, buses, sirens, blasting music, people wheeling suitcases, street repair, subway, people yelling into cell phones, people yelling at each other, musicians in the subways (especially drummers), diesel trucks idling, honking traffic, etc.

Inside my apartment I can't keep the outside out. I sleep with the radio on (WNYC, of course) to block out the outside noises.

Jul. 24 2012 11:58 AM
Trent from Hell's Kitchen

I've heard it suggested that noise-cancelling headphones may actually contribute to hearing loss.

You may not be able to hear the frequency, but it's still blasting your eardrums with sound waves.

Jul. 24 2012 11:58 AM

restaurant Exhausts and ac's are very loud outside

Jul. 24 2012 11:58 AM

The new Metro North trains announce each stop with 4 sets of 2 ridiculously loud beeps.

The new buses make a sound like piercing back-up beepers whenever they open the doors.

Jul. 24 2012 11:58 AM

What ever came of that legislation to lower the volume of TV commercials? I haven't noticed that it's gone into effect...?

Jul. 24 2012 11:57 AM

What's up with the awful, high-pitched BEEEP when you swipe through the turnstyle? It could really be any sound.

Jul. 24 2012 11:57 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

The acceptance in our society of very loud music is a symptom of the glorification of Rock & Roll. And how dare anyone be a party pooper by suggesting that the music need not be deafening to be enjoyable. All part of the "party" mentality that everyone feels they need to live up to.

When my boys were very little, we used to take them to a Nathan's in Yonkers, where they had a play climb area for kids and they piped in VERY loud, booming, music.

That's it, indoctrinate the kiddies from the youngest age.


Jul. 24 2012 11:57 AM

I also marvel at people who can watch whole films on planes; sans noise-cancelling headphones, it's so hard to hear the dialogue over the plane noise that you have to max out the volume, thus compounding the aural perturbance.

Jul. 24 2012 11:57 AM from NJ

I think business should be required to provide disclosure to employees of expected noise levels and possible effects but they should not be forced to change their business practices. If someone wants to work at a private business and they are given information via disclosure then great but if it's not suitable to the potential employee then he/she is free to not take the job--but a private business should not be forced to change their business. A private business is private and no one is forcing anyone to work there.

Jul. 24 2012 11:56 AM
Amy from Manhattan

They must have held a contest for most annoying sound possible when they chose the noise a bus makes when the ramp is being deployed for a passenger who uses a wheelchair. Come to think of it, those passengers have to hear it every time they take a bus, unlike people who don't need the ramp. I'm glad there are now buses designed to let wheelchair users board, but why does the accompanying noise have to be so annoying?

More generally, why are so many signals (like when you open a bank's door 2/your ATM card) either high-pitched beeps or annoying buzzes? Why not a nice chime?

Jul. 24 2012 11:55 AM
Zeke from Philly

It's funny — I think I really offended a friend when he invited me to a concert and I spent the whole show at the back of the room where the volume was nice and comfortable. I'd been with him toward the front and could hear the bass vibrating in my cup of beer. Then, I was on a date and held my ears when an ambulence went by. My date, who teaches kids, said I reminded her of her learning-disabled students.

I just don't want to be a deaf old man!

Jul. 24 2012 11:54 AM

I've stopped taking group classes in gyms -- e.g., spinning, Zumba -- due to the painfully loud soundtrack over which the instructors have to yell. I tried ear-plugs but standing farther from the speakers but it's still too loud. Sad as that was my favorite mode of exercise.

Jul. 24 2012 11:54 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

RJ from prospect hts: I have worked at bars in Brooklyn, and wondered the same thing - why blare the music? Apparently the loud noise hypes people up, makes them eat and drink faster. Does not sound particularly healthy!

Jul. 24 2012 11:54 AM
Chris from Pittsburgh

Movies! They are getting unbearably loud, especially the rumbling previews. I often ask management to turn down the sound, or I stuff bits of napkin in my ears.

Jul. 24 2012 11:54 AM
John A

Going from 90 to 95 db should be just over a 3X increase in absolute sound. IIRC. (since sqrt(10)=3.2)

Jul. 24 2012 11:53 AM
T from manhattan

I work in a woodshop with young children. Not too much power tools, but lots of hammers. All. day. long. Not to mention the voices- children can be loud!

Jul. 24 2012 11:51 AM

Both very high-frequency and very low-frequency noise can cause damage _beyond_ they auditory system. The US military has experimented with noise _weapons_. Noise can burst capillaries in the brain and eyes, among other things.

As for why US laws are lax, does anybody doubt the reason?! The US leads the world in giving corporations free rein to do whatever they please — finance, physical safety, health care — you name it.

Jul. 24 2012 11:50 AM

Could keeping the TV on at home all day be an unconscious stressor?

Jul. 24 2012 11:50 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

That writer fellow Jacobs who does those interesting projects (reading the entire Britannica, living Biblically, etc) investigated the entire scope of health & exercise claims and trends in his most recent book.

I heard him interviewed a couple of times, and he kept coming back to mentioning how noise affects our health adversely. Something easily overlooked and dismissed, yet he found the effects to be profound.

Jul. 24 2012 11:50 AM
Frank DeGregorie from NYC

I heard on WNYC a couple of years ago that the noise level of the subway has not been looked at in 15 years.

Shocking. What can WNYC do to bring attention to that noise problem that we have to bear everyday as riders.

Please talk about it on the air today.

Thank you

Jul. 24 2012 11:49 AM
RJ from prospect hts

I have deep sympathy for those workers who dislike and are hurt by high decibels at work (it's a longtime problem in industry).

But I have asked a number of bartenders, in places where I've just stopped for a casual drink, why the volume level was so high, particularly when so many patrons seem to be trying to talk to each other--and are, of course, yelling. The answer I've gotten, from place to place, is "it's a bar; what do you expect? It's what our patrons expect." I'm not a bar hopper, so I have no idea where this perception comes from--except maybe TVs and movies. It's painful, and I spend less time stopping off because of it.

Jul. 24 2012 11:49 AM

what about the new noise weapons used by governments and militaries

Jul. 24 2012 11:49 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Countless annoying noises make up NYC's patchwork quilt of sound pollution that drive us INSANE but the worst include: car alarms, subway trains screeching to a halt, and people blasting cheap headphones too loudly on the train.

Jul. 24 2012 11:48 AM
Mike from Triebca

We don't near any bars, so our biggest nuisances are jackhammers and the air conditioning systems of large office buildings.

Jul. 24 2012 11:48 AM

I'm stunned by noise levels across the city. There's a restaurant diagonally across the street, 100 yards away from me, that routinely plays music so loudly that I can hear it in my apartment with my double-glazed windows closed.

Loud noise is part of _every_ New Yorker's day. That's way the really loud noise is so dangerously loud — people are ramping up the noise _above_ the already high background noise of the city.

It's no accident that the #1 311 complaint is noise.

Jul. 24 2012 11:47 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

the new "whooping" police sirens should be illegal!

Jul. 24 2012 11:47 AM

The most annoying noise in NYC is the SQUEAKY WHEELS OF THE SUBWAY BRAKES! Every other subway system I've ever ridden is quieter. It's no wonder that most people are plugged in and isolated from the community experience of riding the train together.

Jul. 24 2012 11:37 AM
Karen from Brooklyn

The most annoying noise is not necessarily the loudest. I find having to listen to other people's phone conversations extremely annoying. It's an invasion and I really don't care to hear about other people's personal lives. The use of cell phones has become totally annoying and people feel the need to be constantly connected and in conversation with someone or texting someone. What about just walking down a street and taking in the beauty of the surroundings and the day? All that is pushed aside when one constantly talks or texts.
Also on the list...booming music in passing (or parked) cars (don't they realize it's bad for their ears?) car alarms, impatient drivers who feel they have to honk,

Jul. 24 2012 11:21 AM
Amy in Soho from Soho

The most annoying street noise to me are people walking down the street on their cell phones. I can't stand hearing half of your conversation about what you had for lunch and where you're going now while you clog the sidewalk because you're not paying attention to the world around you. I would much rather people stand out of the flow of traffic, finish their conversation THEN walk.

Jul. 24 2012 11:05 AM

Most annoying noise -my upstairs neighbors! They have children who play sports indoors (my apartment shakes), a dog with a metal collar that hits the hardwood floor every time he lays down AND they refuse to get a rug.

Jul. 24 2012 11:04 AM
Bobby G from East Village

Most annoying noise: CAR ALARMS.

Jul. 24 2012 11:01 AM
John from NYC

Attend a sports event at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium or even the Staten Island Yankees ballpark and the sound is deafening. You can barely talk to the person next to you since they feel that every moment of the event has to filled with some activity. The sound system/DJ people who are hired at these sports venues need to be told they are harming people. I would like to see and would definitely attend a promotion night at a Yankees game with no DJ to pump up the volume.

Here is an article from the NYTimes - June 6, 2011 - Stoking Excitement , Arenas Pump Up the Volume

Jul. 24 2012 10:59 AM
gary from queens

I solved the city noise problem 35 years ago, with ear plugs. And it helped me in other ways also. it changed my life.

It started when my friend recommended ear plugs for health. He said noise restricts our blood vessels. Not sure it was true, but I bought some of those spongee plugs that expand in your ear. It was made by Cabot Safety Corp. in Indianapolis. it said it reduced noise by 29 decibels.

I tried wearing them on the subway first. I realized that it doesnt eliminate sound. it muffles it. it takes and edge off it. You can still hear things, both loud and not loud. I discovered as I got off the train and walked to work, that I was very calm and collected. As if I had just awakened from sleep. it was unmistakable.

Then I tried wearing it while i slept. That turned out to be the real benefit. Because I worked nights, which means I had to sleep during the more noisy daytime. On summer days, with no AC, I had my windows open.

What I discovered was amazing. I usually required 8 hours or more of sleep. But when I wore these ear plugs, I found that I received all the restful sleep I needed after just 4 hours! To this day, I sleep 4-5 hours a night. No more. Sometimes less. But when I do not wear them, like falling asleep while watching TV, I always need 7-8 hours of sleep.

Why? What was happening to cause that? I learned that the real restful sleep we require occurs when we are in deep sleep, or REM sleep (rapid eye movement). It takes an hour or two to enter REM sleep. And ambient noise delays you from getting into REM, or staying in REM.

So in my case, the outside noise was the problem. The dog that barked; the honking of cars; etc etc. All of those noises were not loud enough to wake me up, but it was enough to delay REM, or roust me from REM prematurely. My body needed that REM, so I remained in bed that much longer.

I recommend that everyone try it. You wont regret it.

(gotta leave soon. i will answer questions when i get back after 5 PM today)

Jul. 24 2012 10:23 AM

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