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

Over the past thirty years, many New Yorkers have contacted me at GrowNYC to assist with their noise complaints. A large number of these complaints deal with neighbor to neighbor noise intrusions, with some complaints focused on children running and playing around in upstairs apartments on non-carpeted floors. Complaints about noisy children have increased during the pandemic because people are now working at home and are much disturbed by the upstairs “noisy” children. Though many parents of young children allow their children to play during the day, such play often ceases at dinner time when neighbors are returning from work. With the pandemic, however, residents working at home are hearing children playing during the day and they want such noises to stop.

I have also received some complaints from residents living in private homes about noisy children playing in their backyards but these have been few over the years. Complaints about loud music from parked cars outside apartment buildings have increased during the pandemic but the people playing the music are not children. Also there have been complaints over the years about loud music and loud voices in parks but these tend not to be complaints centered on small children playing in our parks.

Thus, I was surprised to see that a Japanese website set up to receive reports from locations in major cities about noise in the neighborhoods that focused on children making noise while playing in the streets. The site named “Dorozoku Map” started in 2016, and “as of this month has identified nearly 6,000 sites across Japan where people have made a complaint against children, parents or their neighbors.” According to Julian Ryall, writing for DW.com, the sound of children playing is angering an increasing number of people in Japan. The pandemic this past year has increased the number of such complaints and of course working from home has contributed to this increase.

Yet, there are those people who are upset by this website. One person interviewed remembered playing ball in the street when she was young, as did others. Another remarked that those complaining today probably played in the streets when they were young. I would join in and say the streets were the place I played as a child, and I was joined by the many children who lived on my block. I may also add that my children did indeed play on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn where I lived when they were younger. The administrator of the website acknowledges that children should be allowed to play outside but adds that they should not be doing so loudly in front of other people’s homes. He also adds that parents should take their children to nearby parks.

Noise has become an increasing problem in Japan’s urban areas, according to the article. In fact, local residents in one case in 2014 objected to a childcare center being built in their neighborhood in Tokyo because of the noise from children attending this facility. But Tokyo ruled that children playing “would no longer be considered a form of noise pollution.” While children playing had not been seen as a type of noise pollution, this does not mean that residents will cease complaining about noisy children.

The Dorozoku Map provides people with an outlet for such complaints, as well as neighbor noise complaints in general, and can give users the opportunity to identify “noisy” neighborhoods. It remains to be seen how this interactive noise map will impact on how noise pollution will be handled legislatively in Japan as we move forward.