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Mayor seeks to overhaul city noise pollution code

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"Our goal is to turn down the volume on noise complaints, if you'll pardon the pun," Bloomberg said in Astoria Park, where in 2002 he launched "Operation Silent Night," an initiative that stepped up nuisance abatement in 24 high-noise neighborhoods.

The city service hotline 311 received some 1,000 noise complaints a day in May, Bloomberg said, proving the issue is the city's No. 1 quality-of-life concern.

Underscoring the point, the mayor's news conference was drowned out at times by the roar of a passing motorcycle and the relentless buzz from a commercial sander less than 100 yards away.

The 45-page proposal, which was drafted with the City Council and Department of Environmental Protection, is a "common sense" approach to dealing with noise pollution, the mayor said.

It would do away with handheld decibel meters, which police use to issue summonses. The meters are bothersome and impractical, he said, because they are hard to use and not always available.

Using an "audible noise standard" would make it easier for cops to crack down on car and house alarms, loud music at bars, motorcycles, and ice cream truck jingles, he said.

If the City Council adopts the proposal, police could issue summonses based on what they hear with their ears - not a meter.

"It's going to make our job much easier," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

The proposal aims to restrain construction noise by revoking work permits for evening and weekend jobs. It would also mandate that builders implement "noise management plans" in which they put up noise barriers and place buffers over loud equipment.

Bar and nightclub music would be more stringently regulated, with owners forced to control the amount of bass they are broadcasting. Bass, which is not captured by most decibel scales, is the sound element that creates the most vibrations.

The overhaul seeks to strike a balance between commercial growth and quality of life - two things that are often at odds, Bloomberg said. The city does not wish to punish business owners and developers, he said, but to cooperate with them. To that end, nightspot owners could skirt fines for first-time offenses by investing in buffering equipment, he said.

It also cracks down on the hum and howl from air conditioners by mandating that individual units or clusters be quieter than 45 decibels.

City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) said he was pleased that the proposal incorporated his initiative to get rid of decibel meters in favor of using distance to measure noise. He had a message for the loud and defiant:

"Turn down the radios. Turn down the motorcycles. Turn down the club music."

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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