Facing a sharp rise in noise complaints related to late night construction, the City Council will consider a proposal to limit after-hours construction work to between the hours of 6 a.m and 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends.
Normal construction hours in New York City are between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. The special after-hours permits can enable work on a project to last through the night and into weekends.
Council member Carlina Rivera, who represents portions of Lower Manhattan, introduced the bill on Wednesday. The legislation has five co-sponsors to date.
In 2017, the New York State comptroller issued a report showing that construction noise complaints called in to New York City’s 311 system has risen significantly in recent years, from 14,259 in 2010 to 37,806 in 2015—a jump of more than 165 percent. The report attributed most of the complaints to after-hours construction work.
According to a New York Times story, the Department of Buildings issued around 67,000 new and renewed variance permits last year, more than double the 31,569 issued in 2012. After-hours work on a project is often by necessity, having to do with reasons of traffic and safety. While the DOB must balance those issues against the sleep needs of New Yorkers, the activity has generated huge revenues for the city. Fees from the permits in Manhattan alone added up to $21.8 million.
Unsurprisingly, real estate interests are expected to oppose the bill. The Times story reported that the Real Estate Board of New York declined to comment, saying its members wanted to review the legislation first. But the New York Building Congress said it would fight the proposed regulations.
Increasingly, disruptive and loud noises are being viewed more than as a simple nuisance but also a potential health hazard. "Long-term exposure to noise can lead to cardiovascular disease and hearing impairment,” Council member Rivera told the New York Times.
In April, the Times reported on how construction noise from a $100 million renovation of an Upper West Side brownstone had affected neighbors, human and pets alike.
Deborah Brown, a retired editor at House and Garden and House Beautiful, partly blamed the din for her new $5,000 hearing aids and for the need to give her miniature poodle calming doses of tranquilizers. She even showed Gothamist the prescription bottle, which had a label that said, "For construction."
On top of that, it's becoming increasingly difficult for New Yorkers to avoid living near a construction site. In June, the NYT reported that almost 40 percent of listings for sale or rent in the city are less than one or two city blocks away from new residential construction.
Alluding to the news that the city's development boom has resulted in a glut of high-end residences, Rivera told the Times, “I want to make sure we don’t continue to rubber-stamp construction that leads to more empty luxury towers."