In the nearly 50 years Barbara Dolensek has lived on City Island in the Bronx, she has grown to expect the sound of frequent, booming gunshots.
They ring out across Eastchester Bay from Rodman's Neck — home to the NYPD’s shooting range — where officers practice their aim, detonate bombs, dispose of confiscated fireworks and take certification courses. When the wind picks up, Dolensek said the shots blare into her home and can be heard as far away as New Rochelle in Westchester County.
It’s an ear-blasting interruption that could soon come to a halt. New proposed legislation in the state Assembly would impose sound limits on the shooting range, and ensure the city and the NYPD answer the decades-old pleas of nearby residents for peace and quiet. If it passes, the bill could end the sound-fueled saga that began when the NYPD first opened the shooting range on the northeastern Bronx peninsula in 1960, and has since troubled several mayoral administrations.
The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Michael Benedetto earlier this year, would require the shooting range to be fully enclosed, and limit its operating hours. The bill also directs the state health department to monitor the soil and water around the range to determine whether there are high traces of pollutants. Benedetto’s colleague, state Senator-elect Nathalia Fernandez is expected to introduce it on the Senate floor when her term begins in January. The bill proposal comes nearly 30 years from the time state lawmakers attempted to reduce gunshot noise at the range.
Benedetto said he and others in the community have spent decades pushing the city to improve conditions for residents who live near Rodman’s Neck. In the 1990s, then-Mayor David Dinkins suggested building sound barriers at the facility. Then, in 2007 when the NYPD announced it would move its training facility to College Point, Queens, it said the shooting range would move with it. But neither plan came to fruition, and area residents were left to close their windows and shut their doors in an effort to keep out the sound.
In February 2017, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio allocated $275 million in capital money to upgrade the facility and address residents’ concerns. It was slated as a five- to seven-year project, and marked welcome progress for residents towards achieving the changes they had long called for.
But nearly six years later, community members say the noise is just as loud. And without legally-binding rules to limit the shooting range’s sound, some have grown concerned that the even the suggested upgrades won’t fully abate the noise. Questions remain over whether the range the NYPD plans to build will be fully enclosed and if a request for proposals has gone out to developers, said John Doyle, a long-time City Island resident and a legislative aide for Benedetto.
“People are tired of the promises the city has been making for years,” Doyle said. “The hope is state legislation will force the city to take this much more seriously.”
Construction is expected to start in the summer of 2023, according to minutes from Bronx Community Board 10's public hearing on the new facility.
With Fernandez’s election to the state Senate, Doyle said he is optimistic the bill will have enough momentum to pass, ending the back-and-forth over the facility’s redesign.
An NYPD spokesperson confirmed that the department is building a new facility at Rodman’s Neck that will address residents’ concerns, and said that it has long been aware of ensuring it minimizes noise at the facility. The department did not respond to questions on the design plans or timeline for the updated facility.
“We all see the need, there's no question about that,” said Bob Bieder, head of the 45th Precinct Community Council, which serves the area. “The communities have suffered for a long time with the noise, and it's just not fair. So we're hoping that we're going to get some resolution.”