by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed legislation that requires the New York City Transit Authority to once again submit reports on its efforts to reduce noise. Legislation requiring the reports existed in the 1980s but was deemed no longer appropriate by 1994. People who live near New York City’s elevated train tracks, including Angela Kravtchenko and residents of the Brightwater Towers in Brooklyn, welcome the passing of the “Stop the Noise Bill” introduced by State Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus and State Senator Leroy Comrie, because despite earlier efforts to reduce transit noise, elevated train noise continues to adversely impact their lives.
After conducting research on how elevated train noise reduced reading scores of children in classrooms adjacent to the tracks in an Upper Manhattan School in the 1970s, I continued to learn more about how elevated train noise affected people living, working, and attending schools near these noisy elevated trains.
Furthermore, I also explored ways that the elevated train noise could be reduced. It was then that I learned that train noise not only adversely affects the physical and mental health of people exposed to it, but the noise itself can be a predictor of future transit system breakdown. Thus, by correcting the noise problems, the transit authority is also protecting the system from serious breakdowns.
A car owner knows that a noisy car is indicative of future car problems and quickly brings the car to the shop. The same holds true for trains–wheels require regular truing and rails need to be regularly lubricated. In assisting the Transit Authority years ago in designing a quieter traction motor, I learned that the design we came up with also resulted in a longer lasting motor. The end result? Reducing train noise saves money.
While I applaud the enactment of this legislation, I know that the reports must also be properly analyzed and evaluated. I therefore urge Assemblywoman Frontus and State Senator Comrie to set up a procedure to ensure the reports will address the noise problem in a way that will actually reduce transit noise. I speak from past experience having read and commented on all the reports required by the former legislation.