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HVAC Noise from Next BuildingApr 17, 2007


The rear line units of our small co-op face the lower roof of a huge co-op. Over the past three years they have rented their retail space to a food store which replaced a one unit refrigeration unit with about 8 huge ones, though the permit posted said "rehabilitate HVAC." Then they added more HVACs, and larger ones. The whole lower roof looks like an industrial city. It does not bother anyone in their building because it is positioned far away but we have to look at all the equipment. In response to our complaints (informal from Board members and residents to their managing agect and Board) they erected an ugly green plastic fence which does nothing to attenuate the sound and only blocks out light from getting to our lower 3 units. The noise level is not loud enough to register with the DEP --it is like a bus idling outside their windows or a washing machine going 24 hours a day. The Board will not do anything to attenuate the sound though the owners of the food store said they would do whatever they could to improve the situation. Any one suggest how we can make this unsightly and noisy eyesore and improve the quality of life for our shareholders? Thanks.

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noisy HVAC (To Newbie) - Fat Nickie Apr 18, 2007


We have covered this subject before on this site. Check the archieves for previous post/responses.

FN.

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Noise laws change in July 07 - Big Al Apr 18, 2007


You can call 311 and complain - if it is over 45 decibles from within any apartments (windows opan and the reading taken from 3 feet inside) then they must abate the noise. If this new HVAC effects a previously known quality of Life, it must be abated. Again, call 311 and have them come take a reading.

the noise law code wil be updated in July making this even more enforcable. Thank god!

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AC's the new law - a summary - Big Al Apr 18, 2007


Here you are: (from citymayors.com) Concerning the new code:

Closing a loophole in current code provisions governing air conditioning and air circulating devices:

Air conditioning units on buildings, particularly clusters of them, are a growing source of noise complaints. Although the current code has a standard for air conditioning units of 45 decibels, it has been interpreted to apply only to a single unit. Because of this loophole, a cluster of air conditioning units could be generating 60 decibels of sound, but there would be no violation unless a single unit was creating more then 45 decibels. The updated code will create a uniform standard of 45 decibels for all installation of air conditioning units and mandate that existing units that exceed 50 decibels in the aggregate reduce their output by five decibels.

Simplify enforcement by using a ‘plainly audible’ standard instead of conventional decibel limits, which require use of a noise meter:

The existing code requires use of handheld decibel meters to issues many summonses. Although decibel meters are useful at obtaining acoustic measurements, they require frequent calibration, have a three decibels plus-or-minus margin of error, and the police officers, who are often responsible for enforcing the noise code, do not always have them available or have received the training necessary to operate them. The code adopts a standard of ‘plainly audible’ at specified distances. Police officers and noise inspectors will be allowed to issue summonses for a multitude of violations including car stereo, loud music, barking animals and loud mufflers using a common-sense standard and without a noise meter. This standard has been used and upheld by courts in many other states.

Increase enforcement effectiveness by limiting the Code’s use of a standard of 'Unreasonable to a person of normal sensitivities': The existing code prohibits ‘noise that is unreasonable to a person of normal sensitivities.’ This standard is too vague to be consistently defensible. The new code replaces it with more specific and defensible standards. For areas not specifically covered in the code, sound is prohibited from any source that increases the ambient noise in a residence by ten decibels during the day and seven decibels at night.

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Re: AC's the new law - a summary - b Nov 17, 2008


i have been in my co-op for 2 years now and have experienced nothing but heartache.
i have been complaining about mold for 2 years now around my air conditioner and have not gotten anyone to come look at until last week. when someone did come take a look at courtesy of the board,not only did they not fix the mold but they said it was because of my airconditioner sleeve. they took out my air conditioner changed the sleeve and left my air conditioner sitting on the floor. they refused to put it back in. they said the board told them not to put it back in. THEY NEVER TOLD ME THIS UPON THEM COMING IN AT ALL. HE TOLD ME HE WOULD PUT IT BACK IMMEDIATELY. they have also complained that i am using a 220 volt amp to run my air conditioner which was allready established before i moved in and one that they have seen during 3 inspections they have done. They are abusing thier power in order for their electrician and air conditioner people to get paid.
CAN SOMEONE HELP ME!!!!

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Reply re: HVACs - BP Apr 18, 2007


Newbie, having to deal with unsightly, noisy HVACs from the bldg next door isn't uncommon. In NYC, space is limited, bldgs are close together, and we can't change that.

It sounds like the bldg next door is trying to help you. A lot of bldgs would just say "too bad". If the green plastic fence they put up is ugly and blocks light from getting to your apts, a couple ideas you could suggest to them:

- Put up an open-weave fence (e.g., chain link, lattice) - something to generally hide the HVACs from your view but allow more light to get through to your bldg.

- Put an enclosure around the individual HVAC units instead of a wall of fencing between your bldgs so at least you look at that, not the HVACs, and get more light. There are enclosures (I've heard them called "cake covers") that fit over various rooftop units. They look like a shed like you see in backyards for tools/garden equipment.

As for the HVAC humming sound, an enclosure like the above may muffle it. Everyday noise within individual apts may override it. People, especially in a place like NYC, also learn to adapt. Your residents may get used to it. When I was growing up, we lived not far from an elevated subway line. Visitors from out of town used to ask how we could stand the noise. Our standard reply was "What noise?"


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READ me (the new law)/ noise - Big Al Apr 23, 2007


§24-227 Circulation devices. (a) No person shall operate or permit to be operated a
circulation device in such a manner as to create a sound level in excess of 42 dB(A)
when measured inside a receiving property dwelling unit. The measurement shall be
taken with the window or terrace door open at a point three feet from the open portion of
the window or terrace door.
(b) On and after the effective date of this section, when a new circulation device is
installed on any building lot or an existing device on any building lot is replaced, the
cumulative sound from all circulation devices on such building lot owned or controlled
by the owner or person in control of the new device being installed or the existing device
being replaced shall not exceed 45 dB(A), when measured as specified in subdivision a of
this section. For a period of two years after the effective date of this section, this
subdivision shall not apply to the replacement of a circulation device that was installed
16
on any building lot prior to the effective date of this section by a device of comparable
capacity.
(c) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision b of this section, with respect to
circulation devices installed on any building lot prior to the effective date of this section,
the sound level limit of 42 dB(A) referred to in subdivision a of this section shall apply to
each individual device except that if the cumulative sound from all devices owned or
controlled by the same person on a building lot exceeds 50 dB(A), when measured as
specified in subdivision a of this section, the commissioner may order the owner or
person in control of such devices to achieve a 5 dB(A) reduction in such cumulative
sound level within not more than 12 months after the issuance of such order.

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HVAC NOISE NEW LAWS - Board Newbie Apr 24, 2007


Thanks, Big Al. This is all good stuff but not sure what this means in terms of the noise problmes we are having. It may not be measurable by DEP meters becuase it is low frequency constant rotating noise--like you're in a washing machine or a bus is idling outside your apt. seems And where to begin? We actually have two rear yard offending neighbors-a Chinese restaurant that does their own illegal installations and repairs-called DOB when they were gerry-rigging another piece of noisy equip to their roof and the DOB has not responded to our 311 complaint. When and if they finally send an inspector, half the time they don't seem to know what they are looking for -there's so much junk up on that roof, and they close out the complaint- say "no response required-no work being done." Of course not, it was two months ago when we called! The other building has three tenants with equip on the roof (including a new exhaust for their lobby) and they all say it's the other guy's equipment making the noise. The DEP came by a month ago after the restaurant was closed so we knew noise was from Building #2 but it was just under the legal level--still enough to disturb our rear shareholders-they are not being unreasonable-some subletters are threatening to not renew because of the noise. We are thinking of sending a letter to the DOB Commish to have a meeting and go over the plans and permits for these buildings and compare it to a photo of what is up on the roof tops. The offending Board does not seem to want to do anything about the noise but the store owners say they would be happy to work with us to attenuate. SO there is a disconnect here. Doesn't each new piece of equipment require an electrical and/or plumbing permit whether it's an addition or a rehab? Are these new laws actually significantly lowering the threshold for the offending noise or just taking a reading on cumulative noise? Thanks for all the feedback we've gotten from Board Talk members.

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action - big al Apr 24, 2007


311 is horribly inefficient and the inspectors just sometimes seem to be lazy. You often have to call the complaint in multiple times and BE VERY SPECIFIC as to when/where the equipment is that may not have a permit. do it today. do not delay. If you hear the noise from the neighboring coop and it is disturbing - it is probably over the legal limit. Often, with city agencies (inc the DEP) you have to continually contact them and compain and send many letters to have them be fully efficient. It is worth the effort.
noise is a health hazard.

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Taking action re: noise - BP Apr 25, 2007


I agree that 311 is very inefficient. City agencies (incl the DEP) can be too. As Big Al said, you often have to call or send many letters before you get any real action from them. What a waste of time and energy that is.

Newbie, did your managing agent call the DEP re: noise from the coop next door? Sometimes they seem to respond more quickly/effectively to a call from an "authorized" agent instead of an lone individual, even if it's a board member.

I'd also suggest calling your district councilman. Get to get to know him and those who work for him. He may be very responsive and get further than you can with the City, specially if he's proactive, up for reelection soon or new to his office. If the noise next door disturbs your bldg, it may disturb others too. Talk to the boards/residents in neighboring bldgs. Maybe they can help make a stronger case for you with your councilman. There's strength in numbers.

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311 - Steve Apr 29, 2007


Big Al and Newbie are right about 311 and the city's response.

Here's what I've learned from calling 311 (about a neighbor building's construction trash heap). If there's no response the first time, call back a week (or so) later. When I called the first time, the 311 operator sent my request to the DOB. As you may have guessed, there was no response, or the response was like the one you mentioned (along the lines of "no action needed.").

So I called again. Made the same complaint, but this time the operator forwarded it to the DEP (she did this on her own; it wasn't my suggestion). This time, a Dumpster was hired, the trash went in it, and when I called 311 back to find out what had happened, I was told the building had two violations and a date for a court hearing!

You won't be so successful all the time (I'm not either -- don't get me started with Sanitation Dept problems), but don't give up. Try having another board member or a neighbor down the hall make the same complaint. When the city sees that there's more than one person complaining, they're more likely to take action.

Steve

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new case law - noise - Big Al May 10, 2007


this does not directly relate to neighboring buildings but it does relate to the fact that coops must be very careful additions that make noise that may violate warrent of habitability/ quiet right to enjoyment:

March 2007: Excessive Noise from Ventilation System Violated Cooperative's Warranty of Habitability

Any lease of residential real property, including a cooperative proprietary lease, is deemed to contain a warranty of habitability. This warranty, codified in Real Property Law § 235-b, provides that the landlord or lessor is deemed to have warranted that the premises are fit for human habitation and the uses reasonably intended by the parties and that the occupants of such premises shall not be subjected to any conditions which would be dangerous or hazardous to their life, health, or safety.

In Misra v. Yesid, 2007 N.Y. Slip Op. 1371, 2007 WL 474018 (1st Dep't Feb. 15, 2007), the Appellate Division upheld a trial court decision holding that a Cooperative had breached the warranty of habitability based upon excessive noise from the Cooperative's ventilation system, which was located directly above the plaintiff's unit. The plaintiff claimed that her apartment was uninhabitable for more than two years because the ventilation system was so loud that she was unable to live in peace and quiet. Plaintiff contended that despite being on notice of the problem, the Cooperative failed to take any effective remedial action. In support of her claim, plaintiff produced reports from the Cooperative's own engineer, indicating that the level of noise and vibrations exceeded those permitted by the New York City Administrative Code. The Court accepted plaintiff's contentions and rejected the Cooperative's argument that the plaintiff had not suffered any damages because she had been traveling and was away from the apartment for some or all of the time period in question. The court ordered a hearing to determine the amount of plaintiff's damages, which could include, but were not limited to, the amounts she paid in maintenance charges during the period in which the apartment was uninhabitable. However, the Court dismissed plaintiff's claim for breach of the warranty of habitability insofar as it was asserted against the Cooperative's management company, because only the landlord or lessor owes obligations under the warranty of habitability.

The Appellate Division also affirmed the trial court's ruling that plaintiff's could pursue a claim of fraud against the person who sold her the unit and the seller's real estate broker. There were issues of fact as to whether the broker had actively concealed the noise problem by reducing the fan speed of the ventilation system when plaintiff came to visit the apartment before acquiring it.

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