The Impact of Noise

Reducing Noise Pollution Through Respect

Arline l. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, City University of new York

My noise research started with two studies over forty years ago, on the adverse impacts of elevated train noise on children’s reading scores who attended classes at P.S. 98 in Inwood that were adjacent to the nearby elevated train tracks ( These two studies, considered the landmark studies in the field, have had a major impact in quieting schools near airports, rails and roads. They also altered my career in that I continue to do research and write articles on the effects of noise on mental and physical health. I also work with communities to lessen noise in their environment. I owe a big thanks to the Inwood community who supported my research and for putting me on the path to lessen noise in our communities.

Today, while the literature linking noise to adverse health effects is strong, efforts to reduce noise with appropriate policies are lagging behind (( However, communities worldwide are battling for a less noisy, quieter and healthier environment and Inwood/Washington Heights has taken a leadership role in this effort. As I explored the causes of noise pollution in our environment, I learned that while aviation, traffic and rail noise contribute to making our environment noisier than it need be, it is the decisions people make that contribute significantly to noise pollution.

In New York City, I serve on the Board of GrowNYC (Mayoral, non-paid position) and GrowNYC is involved in actions to lessen noise in New York City. Thus, many New Yorkers with noise problems contact me. Many of their complaints involve noise from neighbors, e. g. music played loudly late at night, failure to cover one’s floors with adequate coverings to abate noise to the apartment below. I assist the callers by contacting landlords and managing agents asking them to look into the complaints. Many of them are resolved. How do they get resolved? Neighbors recognize that their music or stomping on the floor are disturbing other people. They then correct their behavior.

After dealing with many neighbor noise complaints, as well as complaints about loud restaurants, bars and music venues, and autos and motorcycles zooming down the streets, I have come to the conclusion that If people were more respectful of others, there would be far fewer noise complaints. Also, if government agencies were more respectful of individuals living with road, rail and aircraft noise, they would do a better job of lessening transportation noises. Yes, there are noise ordinances in cities and states that attempt to limit sound levels, but these are too often ignored and far too often not enforced. Abiding by rules also depends on respect as does law enforcement.

Quiet is needed for a healthier life and disrespecting others by contributing to noise pollution is robbing them of a healthier quality of life. If individuals followed the Golden Rule and the Bibical Principle: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” we would not only have a more respectful, decent society but also a quieter, healthier one.