If you're contemplating buying, renting or selling an apartment besieged by street noise, remember that not all noise pollution is created equal: Very high and very low-frequency sounds like screeching sirens and rumbling garbage trucks will be harder to block by replacing or soundproofing your windows.
"Diminishing the sound of talking from the street will be easier than a stereo with a deep bass," says Leon Geoxavier of Rand Engineering & Architecture.
Garbage and fire trucks aside, "everyday normal street traffic and talking can be almost eliminated to the point where you see the cars, trucks and buses passing by but you don't hear them," says Michael Damelin of Cityproof, which manufactures and installs the interior soundproofing windows that some apartment dwellers prize as much as customized closets, high-speed Internet, and running water.
(Full disclosure: Michael Damelin is a really knowledgeable guy who takes his work very, very seriously, and his company, Cityproof, is a sponsor of BrickUnderground.)
The most common noise complaints, says Damelin, "stem from sirens, car alarms, garbage trucks, construction and demolition sites, loaded trucks hitting potholes, music from bars, noisy neighbors across a courtyard or next door, heating/air conditioning units on a nearby roof, cars/trucks/buses accelerating from a red light, general car and street traffic, people walking by and talking loudly, people hanging out outside a bar smoking, talking and generally being rowdy because they had too much to drink, etc, etc. Every neighborhood is different."
So if you're considering buying or renting a noisy apartment, how do you know if a little self-help in the soundproofing department will buy you a good night's sleep?
Damelin says he gets about 10 calls a week from potential residents, who want to know if Cityproof has done any work in that building or the vicinity.
"We can advise on what has worked in a particular neighborhood and possibly put you in contact with people experiencing what you think you will," says Damelin.
He receives about half as many calls from sellers with noise problems, including a recent one from an Upper East Side seller saddled with an apartment affected by the Second Avenue subway construction.
"The seller put in windows on the broker's recommendation and raised the asking price by $100,000," says Damelin. The outcome? Still pending.