Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim licensed under CC BY 2.0

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

Throughout my career, I have studied the impacts of noise on health. I am the member of GrowNYC’s Board who responds to noise complaints and am very familiar with the types of noises that disturb New Yorkers–-car horns, overhead aircraft, music from late-night bars, idling traffic, construction projects, as well as with complaints about neighbors—loud music late at night, young children running on bare floors, late night parties.

The coronavirus pandemic and its “stay at home” mandate have resulted in less traffic, fewer planes overhead, and the closing of many establishments playing loud music into the morning hours. So, has the coronavirus outbreak impacted noise complaints?

The title of the article by Zijia Song in the Bedford and Bowery,As New Yorkers Stay Home, Less Complaints About Noise” answers this question. Non-residential complaints–that is, noise occurring outside apartment buildings and homes–have gone down, especially construction noise. By contrast, however, neighbor-to-neighbor complaints have held constant and Zijia Song cites examples of the complaints articulated by these New Yorkers who are staying home. The complaints now are about the loud conversations, the same song being played over and over again, and the sound of disturbing neighbor coughs.

While the article notes that some of these people newly exposed to “neighbor noises” have registered formal complaints, one of the individuals interviewed for the article believes there are more important things to worry about than listening to an “Ed Sheeran song a few times.” But management agencies could suggest to their residents the following as Halstead Management has: “Please take care to avoid causing any unnecessary noise or disruption that can be heard by others in surrounding apartments.”

As I have repeatedly suggested: One way to reduce noise complaints is to be respectful of others.