Noise: NYC’s Top Neighborhood Quality of Life Problem

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Today’s New York Post reports:

Street noise is so out of control that frustrated and sleep-weary New Yorkers cite it as the Big Apple’s No. 1 problem, a new survey has found.

This, according to a survey by former Congressman Peter Kostmayer’s organization, Citizens for New York.

Kostmayer said that if half the drivers who needlessly honk their horns stopped, neighborhoods would be significantly more peaceful. "What we’re talking about is unnecessary noise," he said.

He blamed selfish behavior of violators – not the lack of government enforcement of noise abatement and anti-littering laws – as the principal problem.

"I don’t think horn-honking is the mayor’s fault," Kostmayer said.

Certainly, it’s not the Mayor’s "fault." The question is whether Mayor Bloomberg could be doing more to begin to get a handle on the problem and work towards solving it. The answer to that question is a definitive "yes." Take a look at the City of London’s Road Traffic Noise Map:

Noise maps will help to establish the existing baseline so that we will be able to measure the effectiveness of future initiatives to control noise. They will also let us see in an understandable and visual way how noise spreads from roads and into residential areas.

Bloomberg himself would probably tell you that the first step to solving a big problem is to quantify it. The Noise Map program, common in European cities (sigh… I’m getting sick of hearing myself say that) is the kind of program you would expect from a Mayor billed as a business-like manager, problem-solver and skilled technocrat. Yet, all Mayor Bloomberg has offered New Yorkers for their number one quality of life complaint is Operation Silent Night, a short-term public relations stunt and a new noise code dependent on decibel meter enforcement rather than prevention.

Despite the lack of attention to urban environmental issues from the Bloomberg Administration, it should be noted that things could be a whole lot worse. Violent crime ranked 24th in the CFNY neighborhood survey.

"The city is doing well. The fact that we’re not talking about homicides, rapes and assaults says a lot," Kostmayer said.

Amen. The NYPD’s CompStat program helped solve those problems. Maybe it’s time for a NoiseStat or a QualityofLifeStat.

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