When Did the Suburbs Get so LOUD?


From The New York Times

Several municipalities around New York have urged homeowners to limit the use of noisy landscaping equipment because their neighbors are home during the pandemic.

Credit…Nadia Pillon
Ronda Kaysen

By Ronda Kaysen

  • Sept. 5, 2020

Q: I just moved from New York City to the suburbs and assumed I’d need time to adjust to the quiet. I was wrong. The noise from the leaf blowers and lawn mowers is constant and so loud. No sooner has a landscaping crew finished eviscerating the grass at one house, than another arrives to mow the next. Does this go on all the time? How do people tolerate it? Are there no regulations about this kind of noise?

A: You have just discovered a reality about suburban life: It’s not so quiet. Landscaping equipment, particularly the commercial-sized machines used by professionals, is loud. Leaf blowing and lawn mowing season lasts from the early spring through late fall, taking a break in winter, when the snow blowers come out. Suburbanites have been arguing about the issue for years, with some homeowners frustrated by the roar, which they say diminishes their quality of life and pollutes the environment, and others accepting the din as a necessary and intermittent price for a tidy aesthetic.

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 (and perhaps experiencing the pervasiveness of the disruption for the first time.) A number of towns in Westchester County, N.Y., 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.

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