When Noise Reaches Unbearable Levels: Where is the Sound Proofing?
Edward L. Sadowsky of Long Island City complains that officials have not muffled the fans in a building visible from his 39th floor apartment. Below: The fans seen from Sadowsdky's window.
In New York City, industrial fans that clean subway airspace when workers are making repairs are driving people to distraction – and sleepless nights. In fact, for some residents of Queens the noise from the fans makes sleep virtually impossible.
They have been in place for decades and sound like a giant rattle shaken at great speeds, unrelentingly and with no set pattern. One weekend they might run for just an hour, the next weekend for 24 hours straight. At a subsidized housing complex for the elderly that sits right next to the fans, the sound became so intense and lasted so long, people approached the building’s superintendent crying because the noise prevented them from sleeping.
The fans are necessary for maintenance crews to do their jobs. However, the sound that one neighbor compares to “a blender running at full speed on the pillow next to him,” and another to the roar of a jet engine just before takeoff, the potential for serious health effects is high. .
“I wear earplugs, I put a pillow over my head, but I still can hear it,” said Nancy Haitch, who lives on the 11th floor of the building, Citylights, the first residential high-rise built in what was once an industrial wasteland.
Area residents affected by the fan noise have lodged complaints through the city’s 311 system and with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but to no avail.
Transit officials say that it would cost $300,000 to muffle the noise, but that money would be hard to come by with the agency facing serious financial problems. The authority offered a reprieve last weekend: It instead turned on fans in Manhattan, on the eastern edge of Tudor City, according to a transit worker stationed by the fans in Queens.
“These are real people, and it’s real lives being affected,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the neighborhood affected by the fan noise and organized the meeting. “We’re talking about sleepless nights here, not just an inconvenience.”
Charles F. Seaton, a spokesman for New York City Transit, which operates the subway and bus service, could not say when the fans would come on during this period.
“I don’t have the schedule in front of me,” he said in an interview. Mr. Seaton added that while the agency has been considering a couple of alternatives to address the problem, “It would be a little bit premature to say what they are and how they would affect the fans’ noise.”
At Citylights — which has 42 floors and offers breathtaking views of the city — the noise has become the topic of conversation among neighbors who bump into one another in the lobby, in an elevator or at the lounge next door. And in some ways, it has brought them closer together. Mr. Christie, an office manager who has lived in the building since 1997 when it welcomed its first residents, said that though he welcomes the camaraderie, he is more concerned with how the noise might be affecting his health.
“I find myself going to bed at night wondering if the fans will come on and wake me up,” Mr. Christie, 44, said. “This unpredictability is psychologically draining, and after a while, it really gets to you.”
Excerpted from an article by By Fernanda Santos, New York Times