We've been chronicling the many noise issues that plague our fair city, be it planes, construction or screaming babies in bars, and today we're turning our attention to DUMBO, a neighborhood rocked by the constant rumble of the N,Q, B and D trains.
We recently used a noise decibel meter to measure decibel levels all around the neighborhood, focusing special attention on spots in close proximity to the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, as well as construction sites. For reference, according to NYC's Noise Code [pdf], a normal conversation hits about 50 - 65 decibels, a vacuum cleaner at 10 feet clocks in at 70 decibels, a motorcycle hits 88 decibels and a thundercap is about 120 decibels
And according to our readings, life in DUMBO is extremely loud (and incredibly close to Shake Shack):
On Gold and Front Streets, from 1:50 p.m. to 1:55 p.m., noise from a construction site down the block got the decibel level jumping as high as 74.5, with regular fluctuation from 65 to 72 decibels.
On Jay and Plymouth Streets, from 2:14 to 2:20 p.m., truck traffic and construction contributed to a maximum decibel level of 78.7. The average hovered between 65 and 75.4 decibels.
Under the Manhattan Bridge at York Street, from 2:25 to 2:35 p.m., the average levels hovered around 75 to 80 decibels, jumping considerably when a train rumbled overhead. At a maximum, the meter hit 90.5 decibels. Intrepid meter-taker Angely Mercado noted there was "a huge amount of noise here, it was almost painful at times."
Under the DUMBO Archway, from 2:37 p.m. to 2:47 p.m., the echo from trucks and trains on the bridge, combined with echoing noise from passersby and nearby cars, got the decibel level up to the low 80s. It hit a maximum of 88.1.
Under the Manhattan Bridge at Plymouth Street, from 2:50 p.m. to 3 p.m., noise levels hit a troubling maximum of 93.1 decibels, thanks to dual train noise and trucks traveling overhead.
At the corner of Main and Plymouth Streets from 3:03 to 3:08 p.m., drilling from a nearby construction site combined with bridge traffic spiked sound up to an 84.3 maximum, with decibels hovering in the high 70s to low 80s for the most part.
The waterfront by Jane's Carousel was relatively serene. From 3:10 to 3:15 p.m., noise hovered in the high 60s to the mid 70s, achieving a maximum of 76.1 decibels.
Under the Brooklyn Bridge at Front Street, from 3:20 p.m. to 3:25 p.m. cars and trucks contributed to noise levels averaging in the 70s, spiking to a maximum of 85.6 decibels.
Under the BQE at Washington Street, from 3:33 p.m. to 3:38 p.m., cars and trucks on the expressway combined with street noise got noise levels to a maximum of 85.7 decibels. Generally, they decibels hovered in the mid-70 range, though they would spike if a number of trucks rumbled overhead at once.
We also scoped the noise scene at Jay and Front Streets and at Washington and Water Streets, where noise levels hovered around high 60s and low 70s (Jay Street was a little quieter).
"Everybody likes to talk about noise in DUMBO," Alexandria Sica, the executive director of The DUMBO Business Improvement District (DUMBO BID), told us. "There are always people who are asking what we can do about the trains. To which I respond, 'They were here before you were.'" A spokesperson for Council Member Stephen Levin, who represents DUMBO on City Council, told us the main noise-related complaints from constituents concerned ongoing overnight construction on the Brooklyn Bridge, and not day-to-day cacophony.
Should we be concerned about all this noise? Well, maybe. Researchers have found that constant exposure to high decibels can contribute to a wealth of ills, including (but not limited to) hearing loss, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, respiratory and heart problems. But noise affects everyone differently: "There are some people who can either habituate to a noise source or will be hypersensitive to a noise source," Eric Zwerling, the director of the Rutgers University Noise Technical Assistance Center, told us.
And though it's hard to tell how noise will affect you until you're hiding under a pillow fort to protect your ears from a bar crowd congregating across the street from your brand new apartment, Zwerling suggests potential property renters/buyers do some due diligence before settling on a place. "Observe that location throughout the day and the week, if possible, and through the seasons. I realize that last one may be difficult," he said. "There are some [noise] sources that operate only at night. There are some sources that only operate seasonally, like municipal salt yards, or something to that effect."
Zwerling cautions that certain noise sources, like traffic and train noise, are not going to go away. "In that case then, your choice is to disrupt the path in some manner. That would include things such as replacing windows with acoustically made windows...acoustically insulating the envelope of a structure...and...install[ing] an environmental noise machine."
Most importantly, though New Yorkers love to complain about noise, they should probably remember that none of their bitching matters. "It's important for people to have reasonable expectations. If you live in New York City, it is reasonable to expect that there are going to be some elevated noise levels," Zwerling said. "It is amenable to a number of treatments, but if you’re looking for pristine silence, living in a city may not be for you."
Maybe! But complaining is fun, and we're going to do it forever! We can't even hear your naysaying, because this train rumbling by is too damn loud! Nyahnyahnyahnyah.
What neighborhood should we take our noise meters to next? Do you have a noise complaint? Do you hate noise and things? Leave your suggestions in the comments.
Additional reporting by Angely Mercado.