Home Guru

Finding Ways to Live With Noise So it Doesn’t Consume Your Life

Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

We are part of The Trust Project

By Bill Primavera

Perhaps I’ve always been too sensitive to noise from neighbors. Sometimes the irritation has been minor, like a door slamming shut from an apartment across a hallway, when I have lived in apartments, and sometimes it’s been major, such as when I lived across from a guide dog compound where dogs barked continuously.

Sometimes the attempts to address noise issues have been met with cooperation, and other times, the results have led to threats to my well-being.

When I first moved to New York City, it was into a building that was built just under the line of having to comply to stricter noise remediation, and the clatter of a child running wild above my head and her single mother in high heels dressed for work were hard to tolerate. Whereas the building required carpets on a certain percentage of the floor, the woman above me had none.

I found the offender’s telephone number and would call her each time the racket exceeded acceptability, until the woman’s tough boyfriend – I think he worked as a bouncer somewhere – banged on my door, threatening to beat me up if I didn’t stop complaining to both his girlfriend and the building management.

My only alternative was to sublet and move. I still feel guilty when I remember that I lied to the people who sublet from me when they asked if I had noisy neighbors.

“Only when the woman above me leaves for work in her high heels,” I said.

In that same building, I remember that one neighbor built a false wall between him and his neighbor, which left a six-inch air space between the walls, deadening any transfer of sound.

When my wife and I first married, we lived in an apartment in a new building that wasn’t so well sound-proofed. As part of our occasional entertainment, I’m embarrassed to admit, we would listen to the activities of our neighbors – two male tenants who were always bickering with each other – by placing a glass against the wall and leaning our ear against it. We must have had a lot of free time on our hands.

And when I led a coalition to force the dog compound to soundproof its kennels, some neighbors (who lived further away from the noise) chided me for complaining about a service for blind people. How can you be so insensitive, they asked?

Part of the problem was that the president of the school at the time was just so nasty in his defiance of neighborhood action that meetings between community leaders and him almost ended in fisticuffs.

When I lived in a single-family house, I had a neighbor who would tie his dog to a chain and leave him outside all day, barking his head off. When I complained, the neighbor said, “You just hate dogs, that’s all.”

“No,” I responded, “I just hate barking.”

At the time, I remember that a town ordinance provided that neighbors could complain after 15 minutes of continuous barking.

Remember the time when Sen. Rand Paul was attacked by a neighbor as he was getting off his noisy power mower? His assailant said it was because he didn’t like the way Rand was landscaping his home, but I would bet that the real reason was all the racket that a power mower makes. Then again, maybe it was just because Rand Paul is who he is.

Today I live in Trump Park, which seems to have been built solidly enough to protect one neighbor from another where noise is concerned. Still, when I bought my unit there, just to be on the safe side, I considered only the top floor where there would be no one walking around above me.

There are other types of noise over which we have no control. For instance, my building is located near the Taconic State Parkway, and sometimes in the middle of the night, I will hear the mild drone of traffic, but only slightly and only when I don’t have something else to occupy my mind.

Other kinds of noise are part of living and we can do little about them, such as leaf blowers and power drills. Those are the times when we can practice our coping skills, invest in ear plugs or play the Messiah loud enough to drown it out.

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.