Mayor Pushes Initiative For a Quieter New York
Many Residents Say: Fat Chance, Bloomberg
By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 13, 2004; Page A03
NEW YORK -- Ali Rosado, bike messenger, considers Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest attempt to muffle the noisy city. He's standing on the corner of 57th Street and Broadway at midday and he's not hopeful.
"Oh, man. The mayor's -- "
BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! A crosstown bus narrowly misses Rosado, a reporter and three elderly ladies.
" -- crazy. No one can shut -- "
WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! The burglar alarm on a nearby pizza delivery car has gone off for no apparent reason.
" -- this city up. I grew up here, and you can't sleep. This place is nuts."
DRRNNNNNNNNNNNNG! A pneumatic drill fires up, and molars begin to vibrate. Rosado hops on his bike, waves and sails into downtown traffic.
These dulcet sounds of summer in the city are very much what Bloomberg (R) had in mind when he declared a war on sound last week. His detailed 45-page proposal would allow police officers to issue fines for everything from 180-decibel industrial-strength construction generators to Chihuahuas that yip more than five minutes to the Mr. Softee ice cream truck that lets that jingle go on just a bit too long.
Noise, the mayor explained, is driving New Yorkers batty. During the month of May, residents called in 1,000 noise complaints a day.
"Noise disturbs our sleep, prevents people from enjoying their time off . . . and too often leads to altercations," the mayor explained. "These complaints are not frivolous."
New York City forever flirts with sensory overload. There is the screech of four subways pulling into a station at once (100 decibels or so), the clangor of fire engines-ambulances-and-police cars (95 decibels), the banging of the sanitation truck on its appointed rounds (85 decibels as workers compete to hurl cans back on the sidewalk) and the whirr of helicopters ferrying very important people to very important meetings (110 decibels). None of this takes into account the city's 9.34 million cell phones and the drunken howls of the 3 a.m. inebriated. But trying to put a sock in this is another matter.
"New Yorkers are a noisy bunch," a Queens councilman, James F. Gennaro, acknowledged at last week's news conference. Then he turned to the mayor and offered to make his own contribution to a quieter New York by "giving two less speeches per week."
"It's a start," Bloomberg replied.
The quest to find a sleeve of silence is as old as the cacophonous city. In the 17th century, wealthy Dutch burghers complained of sea-shanty singing drunks carousing along the docks. In the 19th century, Manhattanites went to City Hall to seek relief from the incessant screams of touts, and the loud tooooooooooooooot of whistles as a dozen steamboat companies vied for passengers to travel up the Hudson River.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company