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Noisy Neighbors Aren’t Just a City Problem

Westchester County

Noise complaints, suburban real estate, co-op and condo boards, COVID-19.
Sept. 8, 2020

You think noisy neighbors are a city problem? Think again. Last week we reported that demand for real estate in the suburbs has hit “insane” levels as New Yorkers seek homes with more indoor and outdoor space. Now we report that New Yorkers who flee the city believing they’re also going to get peace and quiet are instead getting a rude awakening.

A New Yorker who recently traded a city co-op for a suburban house writes: “The noise from the leaf blowers and lawn mowers is constant and so loud. Does this go on all the time? How do people tolerate it? Are there no regulations about this kind of noise?”

The Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times replies: This spring, several municipalities around New York urged homeowners to limit the use of noisy landscaping equipment because so many people were home during the pandemic. A number of towns in Westchester County, for example, enacted temporary bans on leaf blowers so families could work and study in peace.

Check to see if your local municipality has an ordinance in place, as your neighbors may be using the equipment at hours or during months that are prohibited. Check to see if any county, state or health department rules about noise might apply.

Jamie L. Banks, the founder of Quiet Communities, an advocacy organization, suggests keeping a record of when the noise occurs, and videotaping or photographing the disruption as it happens. Record the noise levels at your property line with your smartphone using a sound level meter app. (The information you gather could be used to bolster your claim, should you decide to report your neighbor for noise violations.) But before you go that route, introduce yourself to your neighbors and raise the issue with them. Explain how the noise disrupts your life. There are solutions to this, as some landscapers do use quieter equipment.

If the rules in your community are lax, write letters to your elected officials requesting that they address the issue, especially as so many people continue to work and study from home. You could also look to see if any local environmental groups are already tackling the problem. This could be an opportunity to join their effort.

Or, if your co-op or condo apartment in the city is for sale, you might want to take it off the market – and start enjoying the fact that traffic and construction noise in the city is down from pre-pandemic levels, and you’re rarely subjected to the music of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed whackers and other charms of suburban living.

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