New York City Noise Complaints

Check out this data-driven essay in The New Yorker describing the spatial and temporal distribution of noise complaints in New York City. Here is an excerpt of Ben Wellington’s excellent essay:

In New York, there are two kinds of noise: the sounds of the city (car horns, loud neighbors, construction equipment, barking dogs) and the sound of New Yorkers complaining about it. In 2007, the city modernized its noise code for the first time in thirty years, in an effort to get a better handle on the first category. Despite the changes, however, 311 logged more than a hundred and forty thousand noise-related complaints between the winter of 2013 and the fall of 2014. That works out to one complaint every four minutes, day in and day out, all year.

Here is a deeper question, however, that all these data do not address: why should New York City municipal law criminalize the production of loud noise? That is, why should the law favor silence-lovers over noise-makers? In reality, this a “reciprocal problem”: although noise-makers no doubt do disturb the peace and quiet of silence-lovers, at the same time, people who complain about noise also impose a burden on the people who produce such noise. Without more information, then, it’s not clear to us why silence should win out over noise, especially in a big and exciting city like NYC …

New York City’s most common noise complaints

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