Living Next To

Living next to an elevated subway track: First the train, then the car alarms

By Emily Feldman  | April 20, 2011 - 12:08PM

I had just wrapped up 18 months with an egregiously noisy pair of roommates, who taught me that indoor racket was something I couldn't tolerate. So when searching for a new apartment share, I told myself I would only move in to a place with quiet cohabitants. 

I found a place occupied by two women who made it clear that noisy people Need Not Apply. I thought I'd found the right place. And it was--on the inside.

My roommates, as promised, don't throw regular parties or have guests moving in and out every day. Unlike my former living situation, no one here is a loud walker, talker or TV watcher. No one comes home from a night of drinking and decides to play the piano or guitar. No one uses Rosetta Stone outside my bedroom door, awkwardly enunciating foreign words into a microphone for hours at a time, or decides to invite friends over at 1 a.m.

What I hadn't considered, though, were the G and F trains that run above ground between Smith Street and 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. That stretch of elevated track moves right past my building, about 200 feet from my bedroom window.

I'm not directly across the street from the train, but just around the corner, which I think may make it worse: The sound of churning wheels blast off the tracks and reverberate down the blocks below, bouncing off the walls of buildings and into my corner window.  

For three years, I had lived a block from the elevated tracks in Astoria and never heard a sound quite like this. When these trains blast by--and they blast by--they shake the earth. Everything in my apartment rattles a bit, from the coffee cups hanging on hooks above the sink, to my bed, up on a loft. With the windows closed, I've had trouble hearing people on the other end of the phone line when two trains heading in opposite directions pass simultaneously.  

To make things worse, I discovered my first night in the apartment that the most aggressive trains set off car alarms, leaving blaring sirens in the wake of the rumble.  

When the cars with sensitive alarms systems park elsewhere, plenty of other sounds fill my room. I live a few blocks from sanitation department garages, which means that when garbage trucks file out for their morning routes, or, say, when there's a blizzard and every available plow must hit the road, a parade of trucks growls past my window.  

Add to this 7 a.m. jack-hammering and bull-dozing that I've heard every weekday morning since work began on the elevated subway tracks just a month after I moved in.  And of course there's the usual noise that comes with living on a main road--sirens, horns, blasting music, the crescendo and decrescendo of motors speeding down the avenue, loud talking pedestrians and the snarling motors of backed up traffic (exacerbated by the subway construction that blocks the road from time to time).  

Interestingly, while I hate that I have to turn up my radio when the outdoor noise gets too loud (and then lower it immediately when the noise dissipates and I realize my radio could probably be heard down the block), I have learned to tolerate the outdoor noise much more than I ever tolerated indoor noise.

When I go to bed at night, the rumbling sounds disappear into my sleep. When the block is particularly noisy, the sounds blend together and become less offensive. Though I'm not thrilled that I have to live with so much racket, I still think that moving from indoor noise to outdoor noise is a move in the right direction. And if I'm lucky, my next apartment will give me the best of both worlds, though I know in New York, that's asking for a lot.

Living Next to....explores the good, the bad, and the memorable of living near someplace others would rather not.  Have a story to share? Let us know--we'd love to hear!


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