Noisy Neighbors In South Qns. Put Money Where Their Amps Are

by Bryan Joiner, Chronicle Reporter
November 10, 2005

If it seems a little quieter in South Queens, it’s not a fluke: the 106th Precinct has been working to eliminate excessive noise in the area and has nabbed over 60 noise statute violators thus far.
Officers from the precinct conducted two Operation Silent Night sweeps in October, which resulted in their confiscating tens of thousands of dollars worth of stereo equipment. The equipment was confiscated from local businesses and private parties that were producing an “unreasonable” amount of noise, thereby violating the city’s noise code.

(Officers from the 106th Precinct display stereo equipment and vehicles confiscated during two Operation Silent Night sweeps.)

 Approximately three-quarters of the 61 summonses were issued for Queens Criminal Court, forcing the violators to answer before a judge, according to 106th Precinct Captain and Commanding Officer John Doherty. One-quarter were forced to appear before the Environmental Control Board, which can levy civil penalties.

Doherty and several other officers from the Ozone Park-based precinct proudly displayed their catch outside the station house last week. Sixteen stereo systems were lined up next to a small All-Terrain Vehicle and a souped-up coupe that the officers on the Silent Night beat caught drag racing down Lefferts Boulevard.

Doherty said that the sweep was successful because several of the offenders had been previously cited for violating noise statutes and failed to appear in court, and were subsequently jailed. The owner of the Flamingo Tropicale Nightclub at 115-88 Lefferts Boulevard, which Doherty said was blasting music that could be heard from one block away, was one of those arrested.

The community was apparently pleased with the effort. “We’ve gotten positive feedback from business owners. We’re putting the message out there that if you use stereo speakers, you may lose them,” Doherty said.

Losing those stereo systems are no small hit to the wallet: top-end speakers can cost up to $2,000, causing one DJ who was busted to claim that the police were putting him out of business. “Maybe some people will be less likely to throw these parties. Some of them have a total disregard for their surroundings,” Doherty said.

Noise has been the number one complaint to the city’s 311 phone system since it was implemented in 2002, averaging nearly 1,000 calls per day. Mayor Bloomberg announced the first overhaul in 30 years, of the city’s noise code in June 2004 based largely, he said, on Operation Night initiatives.

He said the overhaul would “maintain the city’s vibrancy by balancing the need for construction, development and an exciting nightlife with New Yorkers’ well-deserved right to peace and quiet.” He submitted the bill to the City Council later that month, where it has languished.

Bloomberg lashed out at the council in August for failing to act on the bill, targeting then mayoral opponent Gifford Miller. “It’s a disgrace that the council has not passed this legislation yet,” he said. “The inadequacies of the current noise code are clear to DEP, to New York residents bothered by noise, and the businesses that have to try to work within the law.”

The proposed changes are five fold:

  • Construction sound would be reduced. Permits for weekend and evening work would be contingent on operators using “noise management plans” involving sound-deadening devices.
  • Commercial music sources would receive a warning after the first offense, and would not be limited to the 45-decibel limit, which does not apply to bass-level music and vibrations. The new standard would be more flexible.
  • A uniform standard would be created for air conditioners. The standard would be 45 decibels for all air conditioning units. It is currently variable.
  • Apply a “plainly audible” standard to any current statute that involves noise meters.
  • Replace the “unreasonable” noise standard with more specific standards.

As of August, Operation Silent Night sweeps have resulted in over 5,500 noise summonses, nearly 5,000 felony arrests and over 15,000 misdemeanor arrests.