When it Comes to Lack of Noise Violations Against Bars, It’s All About that Bass
When it comes to a purported lack of noise violation enforcement, as Meghan Trainor would say, it’s all about that bass, no treble. That’s reportedly the reason city inspectors aren’t issuing as many noise violations based on neighbor complaints, according to an investigative report by NBC New York.
Anyone who’s lived above, adjacent to, or down the block from a boisterous club understands that bass is often the worst noise offender. Shrieking patrons eventually leave, but that thumping four-on-the-floor shakes a building to its core. No ear plugs can help with that. Yet, apparently, the city’s own inspection protocol doesn’t often record these lower Frequencies.
Alan Fierstein, an acoustic consultant who assists residents and businesses document noise levels (he’s at many CB3 meetings), believes inspectors often fail to record violations “because they often don’t isolate the lower frequencies associated with thumping bass.”
“Let me tell you what happens,” Fierstein said. “An inspector has ears. They go to someone’s apartment. The complainant says, ‘You can hear that restaurant, you can hear that bass booming through,’ and they say, ‘Yes, I’m sorry my meter doesn’t pick that up.'”
Noise complaints are the most common 311 call – 61,134 total citywide since 2015 – yet the NYPD reportedly issued only 237 summonses during that time.
Complainants can also escalate to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, but even there, the results are somewhat similar. According to the reporting, public data shows 180 DEP violations issued under the part of the NYC Noise Control Code related to music played in commercial establishments.
Tara Deighan, a DEP spokeswoman, said all inspectors who are likely to investigate reports of excessive nightlife noise are trained to use meters that can isolate noise on both the “A-scale” and the “C-scale.” But she said A-scale readings, which put more emphasis on higher pitched sound, are more likely to result in the recording of violations.
“Under the City’s Noise Code, it is more likely that an inspector will be able to issue a violation against a commercial music establishment using the A scale, but where appropriate, the C scale is also utilized,” Deighan said.
C-scale readings put more emphasis on noises in the bass range of the sound spectrum – which are harder to hear, but cause palpable vibrations.
Title 24, Chapter 2, Section 231(a) of the city’s Noise Control Code says restaurants can be fined for excessive noise on either the A-scale or the C-scale. In the last five years, the DEP has issued 180 summonses under that ordinance, but an examination by the I-Team found less than 10 percent of the tickets involved measurements that isolate the bass noise.