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Noisy construction vehicles are parking on my block and making my life miserable. What can I do?

By Virginia K. Smith  | October 20, 2016 - 3:59PM

I live down the street from a construction site, and large trucks are constantly idling outside my apartment at all hours before going to work. I’ve called in individual noise complaints, but nothing has changed. Is there anything I can do, like potentially reporting the developer?

Unfortunately, your problem is a common one in New York City. If you really want to get to the root of things, it's time to focus your efforts on the issue of vehicle idling, rather than traditional noise complaints.

To cut down on both air pollution and noise pollution, NYC passed a law back in 2009 requiring that idling drivers turn off their engines after three minutes or, if they're in a school zone, one minute. However, idling rules tend to be spottily enforced, and the problem has been persistent enough that back in 2015, two city councilmembers (including Upper West Side's Helen Rosenthal) attempted to pass a bill incentivizing citizens to snitch on idling vehicles. The bill itself doesn't seem likely to gain real traction, but you've still got a few different avenues for reporting the problem.

First, as with just about any quality of life issue, it'd be wise to start documenting infractions. Get the name of the project and developer, take notes on dates and times of noise disturbances and, if possible, take photos and videos of the vehicles that are noisily setting up camp on your street.

From there, a staffer from Rosenthal's office suggests submitting a Citizen's Air Complaint form through the Department of Environmental Protection, which includes a specific option for making an idling complaint. Take note, however, that if your complaint results in a summons for the developer in question, you might be required to appear in court to back up your complaints.

You can also file a similar complaint with the Department of Environmental Conservation, either by calling in or submitting an online form (they've got instructions on both here).

The complaint options don't stop there: "Construction projects are required by law to have something called a Noise Mitigation Plan," says Acoustilog's Alan Fierstein, and per the standard form for noise mitigation, that includes a plan for minimizing dump truck noise. Which means that besides calling in a standard noise complaint if they're making a racket before 7 am or after 10 pm, it's also worth submitting a Construction Noise Complaint via the 311 website. Based on what you've written, it's highly possible the construction site on your street hasn't submitted the proper forms, or isn't following protocol.

However, before you submit your litany of (justifiable) complaints, Fierstein suggests giving diplomacy a try. "Go to the construction site, talk to the foreman, and say, 'Before I start making things difficult and going to the DoB and the DEP, why don't you fix the problem within the next two days, and if that happens, I won't do anything'," he suggests. "Give them a chance to fix it. It's the neighborly thing to do."


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