Volume 73, Number 6 | June 9 - 15, 2004


Noises off!

Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement on Monday that he plans to overhaul the city’s noise code for the first time in three decades comes as welcome news.

Although Bloomberg’s Operation Silent Night program had some success on noise in targeted trouble spots, obviously more was needed. Noise continues to be the chief complaint to the city’s 311 quality-of-life hotline.

The proposal would empower Department of Environmental Protection inspectors and police to issue violations — without using a sound meter — upon hearing noise that is “plainly audible” from, for example, a car alarm or loud nightclub. Such a common-sense approach is long overdue.

Now, if a motorcycle with its muffler removed comes blasting by, rattling windows, a police officer or inspector who, from a distance of 200 ft. away, perceives it as overloud, can issue a ticket of at least $45. The top fine for noise would be $25,000.

Nightclubs would be judged by noise level from 15 ft. away, with their doors open. Bass vibrations in neighbors’ apartments would now be eligible for measurement and subject to violation.

To the relief of residents everywhere, construction projects would probably be curtailed on weekends and at night and there would be requirements for noise reduction, such as sheaths for jackhammers.

We all know noise is part of city life. The Villager from the 1930s reports then-Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was also battling noise: Kids on metal-wheeled skates and organ grinders were the chief culprits of the day.

Sure, if one wants quiet there are the suburbs and country, where all one hears at night are crickets. But a modicum of quiet in the city shouldn’t be too much to ask for. The mayor’s plan is definitely a step in the right direction and will be a victory for all New Yorkers’ eardrums and peace of mind.

Give FEVA a chance
The proposal by the Federation of East Village Artists to transform an unused part of the old Essex St. Market building into a Downtown hub for the arts strikes us as a terrific idea. FEVA hopes to rent or buy the city-owned building, and proposes to relocate into it local performing arts spaces displaced by high rent. Plans also call for a TKTS booth, a shop with T-shirts and arts-related retail and a cafe.

For the last six years, the building has been leased to Henry Rainge-Megill, who has failed to develop the banquet hall and other amenities he promised before getting a 20-year lease from the city. Rainge-Megill hasn’t paid rent since 2000 and currently owes $500,000.

FEVA is a large organization with a strong leadership in Phil Hartman, who is a successful local businessman (Two Boots Pizza, Pioneer Theater), and new manager Greg Fuchs. Last year, Hartman and FEVA pulled off the first HOWL! arts festival, with a longer festival scheduled for this summer.

Hartman says they’d gladly talk to Rainge-Megill about running a food concession in the planned arts center. That seems a more manageable option for Rainge-Megill. Let the larger organization with the proven track record take over the building. Right now, the valuable space is going nowhere — and the city’s not making a penny on it.

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