Noise complaints about city construction more than doubled
Aug 31, 2017
There’s a building boom — and it sure sounds like it.
Complaints about construction noise in the Big Apple more than doubled in recent years — while the city just kept handing out more permits to allow jackhammering and excavation at all hours of the morning and night, according to a report issued Thursday.
Construction-noise complaints to 311 skyrocketed from 14,259 in 2010 to 37,806 in 2015, the audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found.
The vast majority of those complaints — 74 percent — were for early-morning or late-night work.
Meanwhile, the number of “after-hours variances” — permission to do construction work outside the standard 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours, sometimes around the clock — shot up by 89 percent between 2012 and 2015.
During the same period, noise complaints — mostly for after-hours building — went up by 112 percent, the comptroller found.
Noise complaints are perpetually the No. 1 complaint to 311.
Even when the Department of Buildings was aware that residents were at their wits’ end, officials continued to approve the after-hours work, the audit found.
For example, the agency renewed the variance allowing construction until midnight at 100 East End Ave. in Yorkville 24 times between August 2015 and July 2016, even though the site was right near a residence that had made 112 noise complaints for after-hours construction.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection is tasked with sending inspectors to look into complaints, but in 84.4 percent of cases examined by the comptroller’s office, the inspectors determined that there was “no excessive noise.”
But they often get to the scene too late — an average of five days after the racket was reported.
In 2015, the DOB approved 99 percent of all variance applications — issuing 59,895 and rejecting only 431.
But the agency says it cleaned up its act last year, approving just 18,164 of the after-hours permits.
A DOB spokesman says its officials agree with many of DiNapoli’s recommendations — which include improving communications with the DEP and taking complaints into account during the permitting process.
The DEP defended its work, saying it maps the data and follows procedures.
One city source argued DEP workers’ hands are tied — they can’t cite a company for making noise when the cacophony has been permitted by the variance.