New NYC pilot program designed to catch loud cars


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Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

The familiar sound of loud cars on the busy streets of New York City can now result in fines for drivers.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection quietly launched a pilot program that installs “roadside sound meters” at undisclosed locations around the city.

These sound meters act as speed cameras, monitoring passing cars and automatically taking photos of the car’s license plate and model when there is a violation. Instead of monitoring for cars going above the speed limit, however, the sound meters are listening for vehicles driving too noisily.

“Vehicles that emit obnoxious levels of noise in violation of state and city law have become a top quality of life concern for many New Yorkers,” Commissioner Rit Aggarwala said in an article from Patch. “This technology offers some real promise in helping us to provide some relief for our neighbors.”

This Department of Environmental Protection law limits the volume of many day-to-day activities in the city, including food vendor trucks, animals and construction, to reduce noise pollution and create a more pleasant New York City experience.

For standard cars, the city regulates how loud their mufflers and exhaust sounds can be. A car’s sound is considered excessive if it can be easily heard from at least 150 feet away.

For example, the noise of a truck is deemed unreasonable if its sounds can be “plainly audible” while it is 200 feet or more away.

“The making, creation or maintenance of excessive and unreasonable and prohibited noises within the city affects and is a menace to public health, comfort, convenience, safety, welfare and the prosperity of the people of the city,” the New York City Noise Code reads in part.

Without sound meters to detect when cars exceed their assigned sound limits, it would be difficult for the city to enforce these rules. Now that there are sound meters in random locations throughout the five boroughs, the Department of Environmental Protection holds drivers to the noise code.

Drivers whose cars emit noise above the accepted city limit receive a notice in the mail that offers to have their car’s muffler or exhaust fixed so it won’t be as loud.

One of these notices was posted on Facebook by a recipient. The driver was instructed to show up at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on a particular day during a six-hour window for “noise testing.” Once the testing is complete, the driver would have the ability to get the issue fixed and avoid a fine.

After the first notice, a driver will receive a summons to get their car noise tested. If they fail to comply again, they will be fined up to $875.

“A meter that checks the sound of your car when you pass by, takes a picture of your car and plate and sends the ticket to you, NYC is on a different level of crazy right now,” the driver who posted a photo of their summons wrote on Facebook.