I’d go out and scream the praises of the new ordinance that will make it a hugely expensive quality-of-life offense to make noise in New York City, but I can’t afford the fine.
The City Council, in an attempt to be even stricter than Mayor G. (not to be confused with Mister G.), has proposed giving out big fines to anyone accused of making excessive noise. ”Excessive” in this case being jackhammers before and after dark, radios, car horns, car alarms, animals, motorcycles, bars, and air conditioners that groan on interminably. Tragically, the proposed law does not include politicians who do the same.
Here’s how it will work: Take car alarms for example. The first time someone attempts to break into your car, and the alarm goes off for more than five minutes (or not enough time for the cops to arrive), you can be fined up to $250. If you live in a high-crime area, and your car gets broken into on a regular basis, the city may clip you up to $500 for the second break-in. The third can cost you up to $750–not counting the repair job on the smashed windows and busted door locks.
The downside of a quieter New York, of course, is that you could go broke trying to protect your property.
But even this isn’t as bad as it seems. For one thing, it may force you to get a third job so you can move to a better neighborhood. Of course, you will no longer be able to afford a car, so it all works out for the best. Really.
If you can afford to garage your car in the first place, you needn’t concern yourself with any of this.
I’m poking fun, but as the official president of the NYC chapter of the Polite Police, I can’t help but to (quietly) applaud the new measure. I have no patience for egomaniacs who make noise. Why, for example, must I be forced to listen to other people’s choices in music? And can anyone explain why loud people think that screaming outside a bar validates their existence? Or why one human believes that another human has an unrelieved desire to hear their dog bark all day and night? What empowers enraged drivers to imagine that honking in gridlock does anything more than shatter the quiet of a neighborhood?
Hang ’em high!
But I’m worried that in reality the city may not be able to enforce the new anti-noise ordinances with their huge and wonderful fines. See, the glitch in the council’s measure is that there are nearly 8 million people (not counting commuters) making noise in the naked city, and there are only 34 environmental staffers assigned to give out fines. It’s enough to make you scream.
I mean, they can’t keep up with the quality-of-life crimes already on the books, let alone the ones that are going to be added. We still have rogue pretzel vendors on unassigned streets, do we not? And how many times have each and every one of us tried calling for an environmentalist while coming off the Deegan onto the ramp to the Third Avenue Bridge? No one in history, in fact, has ever escaped without getting good and squeegeed despite the fact that it is illegal.
And really, do you think that these already overburdened 34 environmental types will be on the job at 3 a.m.? ”Hello? Noise patrol? Sorry to disturb you at this hour, but the guy next door has an air conditioner that really gets on my nerves. Do you mind coming over and getting him out of bed and slapping him with a fine of up to $4200? Thanks so much. And have a nice night.” It can be tricky, not to say downright dangerous.
I have an idea, though. Since we keep being told that there’s no more crime in the city, why not cut the police force in half and assign all the laid-off cops to quality-of-life patrol? Then no one will ever again be able to say, ”You can never find a ticket-giving environmentalist when you need one.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 28, 1997