In the 1930s, New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia launched a “noiseless nights” campaign aided by sensitive noise-measuring devices stationed throughout the city. New York passed dozens of laws over the next several decades to muzzle the worst offenders, and cities throughout the world followed suit. By the 1970s, governments were treating noise as environmental pollution to be regulated like any industrial byproduct.
Planes were forced to fly higher and slower around populated areas, while factories were required to mitigate the noise they produced. In New York, the Department of Environmental Protection – aided by a van filled with sound-measuring devices and the words “noise makes you nervous & nasty” on the side – went after noisemakers as part of “Operation Soundtrap.”
After Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted new noise codes in 2007 to ensure “well-deserved peace and quiet,” the city installed hypersensitive listening devices to monitor the soundscape and citizens were encouraged to call 311 to report violations.
—Why Are We Always Searching For “A Quiet Place?”, Matthew Jordan / Smithsonian
I was astounded to learn about historical efforts in NYC to reduce noise since the early 1900s, because from where I sit in my apartment on Broadway, I sure as hell can’t hear any impact from those efforts of yore.
Are those “hypersensitive listening devices” still monitoring the soundscape? Are they being enforced? Because there’s an SUV blasting crappy music so loud the bass shakes my floor passing by every 5 minutes.
There’s a lot of things I’ve adjusted to about living in NYC. But noise is one quality of life issue that never ceases to raise my blood pressure. If there’s one thing that will end up driving me out of the city, it will be that.