1250 Broadway, 27th Floor New York, NY 10001


DiNapoli: Silencing Excessive NYC Noise a Major Challenge

Comptroller's Report Examines 311 Calls, Surveys New Yorkers on Noise Issue

Noise complaints to New York City's 311 system rose from approximately 200,000 to about 384,000 between 2010 and 2015, yet few complaints are ever found to be in violation of the city's Noise Code, according to a report, Noise in New York City Neighborhoods, released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report maps noise trends and patterns over six years of 311 complaints and examines the efforts to address them.

"Noise in New York City is a significant quality of life and public health concern," DiNapoli said. "This report gathers data that could be used by state and city agencies to focus noise control efforts more effectively. The city has a model noise code and should be commended for taking steps to better enforce local law, but there is more that city agencies can do to control noise disruptions. We hope our reports on noise provide useful information that enables city and state agencies to improve the quality of life for residents of the five boroughs."

"The data presented in Comptroller DiNapoli's report confirms that noise is a serious problem in New York City," said Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., professor emerita, City University of New York and chair of the Noise Committee of GrowNYC. "Research shows that noise is not only a nuisance, but more importantly, has adverse effects on our mental and physical health. I hope that city officials will use this information to improve on ways to address noise intrusions and make New York City a less noisy and healthier place in which to live."

From 2010 through 2015, New Yorkers made 1.6 million noise complaints via 311. The vast majority of these are handled by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the city's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which face staffing and resource challenges that can hamper their ability to quickly respond to complaints.

Analysis of 311 complaints found:

  • Noise complaints are often made about the same location. Of 1.4 million complaints listing addresses in the 311 system, more than half (895,598) concerned addresses with 10 or more complaints.
  • Over the six year period, the DEP investigated approximately 230,000 complaints and issued fewer than 6,000 violations.
  • The NYPD investigated 1.3 million complaints, made 791 arrests and issued 5,482 summonses.
  • Nightlife and construction noise complaints were the most vexing, given their high frequency and the significant role nightlife and construction play in the city's economy. These complaints also fall under the City's direct authority to regulate, unlike air traffic noise for example.

In February 2016, DiNapoli's office asked New Yorkers to participate in a survey regarding noise in New York City, as part of an on-going risk assessment of urban noise management. New York City's 59 Community Boards and media disseminated and publicized the survey. Directly involving people in governance in this way can strengthen accountability and transparency and is intended to increase confidence that government responds to community concerns and priorities.

More than 4,000 residents responded to the survey. Their responses offered valuable insight into the complexity of managing urban noise, and helped develop audit objectives.

Highlights from the survey results are included in the Noise in New York City Neighborhoods report:

  • 92 percent who reported a noise complaint said it was recurring.
  • More than half (61 percent) felt noise had increased since moving to their address.
  • Only 75 people of the more than 2,000 who made a 311 complaint said someone measured noise levels in their homes.
  • 83 percent were dissatisfied with how their complaint was handled, with more than 1,100 saying there was no follow-up and nearly 500 saying they felt their complaint was not taken seriously.

In June and August, DiNapoli released two separate audits of New York City's responsiveness to nightlife noise complaints and construction noise complaints. Based on the responses auditors received from NYC, improvements have been made in the enforcement of the city's Noise Code.

The NYPD established the Detective Bureau's Vice Enforcement Division as the central NYPD liaison to the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) to improve how nightlife noise complaints are handled. The Vice Enforcement Division is conducting training in each patrol borough to update commands, refreshing them on how and when reporting to the SLA is required, and developing a database of SLA reports to track recidivist locations for the NYPD Patrol Services Bureau.

The NYPD has also assigned Neighborhood Coordination Officers to mediate repeat noise complaints, document any actions taken and complaint resolutions, and to report regularly to borough commanders. City residents who responded to the noise survey had suggested that the city identify a public official to manage nightlife noise complaints.

In response to DiNapoli's construction noise audit, the Department of Buildings (DOB) committed to improving communication with the DEP and to streamline the sharing of information regarding locations with an excessive number of noise complaints. The DOB also indicated that it is open to receiving construction noise complaint, violation, and inspection data from the DEP to review during the After Hours Variance application screening process.

Read the report, or go to: http://osc.state.ny.us/reports/health/noise-in-nyc.pdf

For access to state and local government spending, public authority financial data and information on 140,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote transparency in government and provide taxpayers with better access to financial data.