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by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

GrowNYC is a city environmental organization, with a Board appointed by the Mayor of New York, that provides New Yorkers with healthy food choices through its farmers markets, supports community gardens and offers programs to school children that allow them to interact with their environment. Viewing noise as an environmental urban problem, it has set up a section on its website that advises New Yorkers about the dangers of noise and suggests ways that can be employed to lessen the noises in their lives as well as the lives of others. Should a reader of this section want advice on a noise problem, he or she is directed to contact me at GrowNYC.

With noise a top complaint to NYC 311 phone line, you can well imagine how many people have contacted me over the years. Neighbor noise is a major complaint and many of the people calling me confess that they have imposed noise on their neighbors to express their anger at the noise intrusions. Thus, I was not surprised to learn that the noise from a fight between two people provoked someone living in the same apartment to play loud music in his room after the arguing did not stop. A bit surprising was that the dispute ended with the fighting couple killing the roommate. Since the person killed was a roommate, I believe we need to know more about the situation.

Let me stress that noise from neighbors triggers anger and much distress–I can readily detect these emotions in the voices of the people who call me. I spend the first five minutes of a call listening to the person describe the noise situation while calming them down. We then work out a plan which can involve me contacting a landlord or managing agent to resolve the noise issue. In the calls I handle, I strongly urge the people not to respond to noise with noise and, if they have already done that, to cease doing so immediately. I have had many successes with noise resolutions and do not recall a situation that has resulted in murder.

This was not the first story I have read over the years where disputes over noise resulted in violence. There are also stories in which noisy apartments have been indicative of one person mistreating another person, e.g. a child being beaten by a parent or an older person by a family member. In my article on crime and noise, I refer to such cases and urge police officers to pay more attention to loud sounds coming from homes and apartments. Doing so may prevent serious harm or even death.

While my articles tend to focus on the adverse effects of noise on health, I have been long aware that noise can trigger violence or be an indication that someone is being physically harmed.