Volume 73, Number 34 | December 24 - 30, 2003

Mayor says loud nightclub music is way off bass

By Elizabeth O’Brien

If a noise is loud enough to hear without straining, never mind the decibel level or sound meters — the mayor says he’s going to do something about it.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has recommended an overhaul of the way the city defines and prosecutes noise, which will affect everything from wailing car alarms to pumping bass music and clattering air conditioners. The modifications would change the current standard of “unreasonable noise” to “plainly audible,” the Daily News first reported last Sunday.

“This is a complete revision of the noise code,” Jordan Barowitz, a spokesperson for the mayor, told The Villager.

Noise complaints top the list of quality-of-life-concerns reported to 311, the new city information hotline. The mayor is expected to submit a draft of new noise legislation to the City Council next month, and then public hearings will be held before the Council decides whether to make it law.

Local residents greeted word of the proposed changes with skepticism.

“Before they change the laws, they should think of how they’ll enforce them — we don’t have any more beat cops,” said Anna Sawaryn, chairperson of the Coalition to Save the East Village.

“It’s great to talk about these changes, but what’s the point?” asked Stanley Bulbach, a resident of W. 15th St. “It’s fantasyland.”

Detective Mike Singer of the Sixth Precinct said he couldn’t comment until he heard more details about the mayor’s plan. But he said there would be enough police resources to enforce any changes.

Noise “is definitely one of our priorities, and it will continue to be,” Singer said.

Singer said he could anticipate what local residents will say at the public hearings.

“I can assure you that people in the Village will be complaining about bass,” Singer said.

The current noise code does not adequately address bass vibrations, Singer and others have said. Currently, if a resident complains about vibrations from bar or club music but cannot hear loud lyrics, then there’s little the police can do, Singer said.

Under the mayor’s changes, a pumping bass line would be considered “plainly audible,” the Daily News reported. When asked how the code change would address complaints of vibrations without any audible lyrics, Barowitz said he did not yet know.

Many city buildings aren’t equipped to withstand the sound systems that many bars and clubs have, Sawaryn said, so it’s not uncommon for a bass line from the ground floor or basement to cause a whole building to shake.

Bulbach said that the city would have to change its zoning regulations to get a firm handle on noise problems. Zoning dictates where clubs and bars can be built.

“We don’t plan in New York City very well,” Bulbach said. “We just ram through development.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs recently unveiled a proposal to replace the city’s cabaret law with a new nightlife license law that also aims to better control noise from nightclubs and dance clubs.


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