City Noise Ordinance Gets Teeth

Booming car stereos at the edge of downtown’s clubbing district drowned out a press conference and proved its point: The city can get loud. Cops rolled out new tools to help keep the peace.

The tools: 10 new decibel meters, one per police district, costing $1,500 a piece, to be ready at the hands of community problem-solvers when temperatures soar and noise complaints roll in.

The rules: According to a new noise ordinance passed last summer, noise must not exceed 55 decibels, roughly the sound of a clothes dryer or microwave, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. on Sundays. Nighttime noise, from 10 p.m. until 7am, must be kept below 45 decibels.

IMG_8277.JPGClick on the play arrow at the top of this story to watch cops and the mayor demonstrate an appropriate boombox level using the new meters at the event Thursday afternoon.

While the ordinance has been on the books since last summer, the concerted effort to publicize and enforce the law hasn’t come until now.

The downtown corner cops chose for the demo was incidentally just the area from which noise complaints poured last summer. Sgt. Marty Tchakirides knows the territory well—as district manager, he’s personally negotiated volume disputes between clubs and their neighbors, trying to make downtown livable for the influx of residents attracted by its newfound vibrancy.

Tchakirides expects to have the same friction emerge this year as temperatures heat up. He’s already planning to sit down with club owners soon. Beforehand, with no legal noise ordinance specifying decibel levels, he’d play the negotiations by ear. This year, when the motorcycles start skidding down the street outside the Salty Dog Saloon, or club music booms from open cars or clubs, he’ll be able to whip out a decibel meter. “It’s another tool that I can use to bring them into compliance,” he said.

IMG_8270.JPGViolating the noise ordinance comes with a $100 fine. But, in the words of Mayor DeStefano (pictured at left), “the goal isn’t to give out tickets, the goal is to change behavior.” Cops will be hitting the streets within the week encouraging “a culture of compliance.”

Robb Bartolomeo, the owner of Gotham Citi Cafe, came outside to the press conference to say he, like the mayor, just wanted everyone to get along. He sees the bars and residents as symbiotic parts of a thriving downtown.

“Residents have moved to New Haven ‘cause it’s a vibrant place to live,” said Bartolomeo. “We create not only entertainment, but a sense of security… people bring people—it’s a matter of both different groups working together.”

The law, years in the making, started when East Rock’s Alex Marathas and Cynthia Horan wanted to do something to quiet trash and street noise. Former East Rock Alderwoman Elizabeth Addonizio and Fair Haven Alderwoman Maria Reyes-Rivera helped fit a variety of complaints—motor bikes, construction noise, trash cans bashing—into two separate ordinances, one restricting trash hauling hours and another for general noise level. Horan Thursday said she was happy to see an effort made to enforce the law. “Let’s hope that people respect others,” said Reyes-Rivera.

Some exceptions apply to the ordinance such as, according to the mayor’s office: “aircraft flight operations, sirens from emergency vehicles, lawful recreational activities for which the city has granted a permit, city permitted parades and outdoor concerts. The ordinance also limits construction, demolition work, blasting and the use of domestic power equipment to the hours of 7a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Sundays.”

Suspected violations should be reported to the non-emergency phone number of the New Haven Police Department at 946-6316.

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posted by: cedarhillresident on May 11, 2007  8:24am

This makes me very happy. Thank you!!

I have three houses surrounding my property that love there music. The old neighbor use to take turns blasting there music in the yard, Me inclued. So we would each get an hour or two of time on the weekends. but the new ones no nothing about compromise. I have stopped playing mine all together, Ipod time. But the others well I call it the battle of the radios.  What really gets my goat is they have the speakers out the window but they are not even out side???? So i have a combo of rap and latin music playing at the same time and it is just noise now!

I hope the news story alone will get it under control.

posted by: Edward_H on May 11, 2007  8:52am

Reading the above article give me the impression City Hall and the NHPD are going to concentrate this effort on the downtown area. I hope they target the cars blasting through our neighborhoods blasting music as well.

I understand what you are going through. You and your neighbors will probably have to make a few calls to the Police Department. Are these people actually homeowners or tenants? Speaking as a landlord I take any complaints concerning my tenants by the property owners adjacent to mine very seriously. Maybe a call to their landlord will help if they are not actual property ownser?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 11, 2007  9:25am

So This Means That The Churches Who On Sunday That Make All This Noise Come Under This Law? Rember You Had a Church That Was Run By A Pastor Who Was A Puppet For King John, And When The Police Was Called AboutThe Noise Nothing Was Done.
The Officer Was Give Hell And Suspend And Later Sued The City And Won!! Also How About The Loud
Mouth Snake Oil Selling Politician That Use The Sound Trucks To Spread Lies To The People During
Election Year, Do They Come Under This Law!!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 11, 2007  9:32am

I Forgot The Shows On The New Haven Green Would Have To Come Under This Law If You Are Enforceing
This Law As Stated From 7:00A.M. To 10:00P.M.
Monday To Saturday!!

posted by: Trying to sleep on May 11, 2007  9:38am

This is great! Thanks Mayor. Gothem and The Salty dog are ridiculously loud. Gothem puts speakers on the outside the building, you can hear them blocks away. Its ridicules that the owner of Gothem would say anything about community or security his bar is the worst neighbor in the area hosting under age nights that get so out of control church street has to be lined with cop when it lets out just to avoid property damage and fights, Blasting music way louder then it needs to be and hosting the only after hours bar so that people who are all coced up have some place to go till 5AM. If this is actually enforced it is going to make life so much better for downtown residents. I’m putting that phone number in my cell right now.

posted by: charlie on May 11, 2007  9:51am

This is ridiculous. If you live downtown, you have to expect some noise. I hope that the regulations aren’t seriously enforced except in the case of major annoyances. (speakers outside a club that can be heard two blocks away would clearly count as that, but in my experience, Gotham is actually very quiet - it has soundproofed windows, even).

posted by: George G on May 11, 2007  10:27am

how about Harley Davidson motorcycles? Those are the loudest things on the street but has anyone seen a cop give a ticket out to a Harley rider?

posted by: Bruce on May 11, 2007  10:38am

The decibel levels mentioned above are totally meaningless without specifying what distance they are to be measured at.  A clothesdryer can drown out a jet engine if you stand close enough. I hope proximity is specified in the ordinance and the officers are properly trained.

posted by: Edward_H on May 11, 2007  11:29am

I Forgot The Shows On The New Haven Green Would Have To Come Under This Law If You Are Enforceing
This Law As Stated From 7:00A.M. To 10:00P.M.
Monday To Saturday!!

Some exceptions apply to the ordinance such as, according to the mayor’s office: ...“city permitted parades and outdoor concerts.

Pretty clear to me what this law means concerning concernts on the green.

So This Means That The Churches Who On Sunday That Make All This Noise Come Under This Law?

The city will not tow the car of a tax scofflaw if said person is parked and attending a church service. What makes anyone think they police will ticket a church event? Even if the neighbors complain the Police have the discretion to decide if a ticket should be given or not.

posted by: Sunday on May 11, 2007  11:47am

Remember this is a city people.That’s why people moved here instead of the “burbs”. You expect to here a certain amount of noise especially in the summer time. It would be nice if the people in the community work that dilligent to stop the “violence” along with the noise.

posted by: cedarhillresident on May 11, 2007  12:07pm

I think the police are going to have to us some common sense with this one. It does state that if the people making the laws have the proper permission and licence to do so (ex: public events) this would not apply.

Motercycles make noise for mostly one reason…because most car drivers are not motercycle friendly and many car cut off and run motercycles off the road because they do not see them. The noise is mostly a saft thing.

posted by: Josh Erlanger on May 11, 2007  1:53pm

Charlie I really think you should come downtown at 2:30 and see what its like before saying its this law is ridiculous. Go stand by the shubert parking garadge or out side the salty dog and then tell us what you think. Also I can assure you that gothem is never quiet unless your talking about 8:00 on a weekday. Check it out around 1am next thurdays.

posted by: Bruce on May 11, 2007  2:31pm

CedarHill—I’ve heard this excuse from motorcyclists before and it does not make any sense to me.  Aside from the fact that most of the motorcyclists who say this do not wear helmets, consider the fact that you normally don’t hear a loud motorcycle until it has already passed you—in which case it is in front of you and out of harms way.  Loud pipes don’t save lives, they ruin eardrims.

posted by: josh erlanger on May 11, 2007  2:59pm

Bruce your totaly correct I ride and i can tell you the noise is safe thing is BS. All the noice is behind you all the danger is in front of you.
Its just cool to be loud and obnoxious.

posted by: Wjay on May 11, 2007  3:15pm

Below is the referenced ordinance standards:

Great, now lets see the teeth.. this has been gong on for years now…

Sec. 18-79. Motor vehicle noise.
(a)  All motor vehicles operated within the limits of the City of New Haven shall be subject to the noise standards and decibel levels set forth in the regulations authorized in federal, state and local laws and regulations, including but not limited to Conn. regulation sections 14-80a-1a through 14-80a-10a as amended from time to time.
(b)  No motor or recreational vehicles shall emit noise from a loud amplification device or similar equipment which exceeds noise level standards for residential zoned areas.
(Ord. No. 1422, 7-6-06)

Sec. 18-80. Refuse collection noise.
All refuse collectors shall comply with the noise level standards as established in this article while engaging in refuse collection at each location. For purposes of this article, the term “refuse collectors” shall be synonymous with private haulers, and all other persons that commercially engage in the collection and transportation of refuse and other debris.
(Ord. No. 1422, 7-6-06)

Sec. 18-81. Inspections.
For the purpose of determining compliance with the provisions of this article, the following provisions shall apply:
(1)  The city’s health director or his/her designee is hereby authorized to make inspections of stationary or fixed noise sources, and to take measurements and make tests whenever necessary to determine the quantity and character of noise.
(2)  The city’s chief of police or his/her designee is hereby authorized to make inspections of mobile noise sources including refuse collection, demolition, construction and vehicular activities, and to take measurements and make tests whenever necessary to determine the quantity and character of noise.
(3)  In the event that any person refuses or restricts local authorized officials from entry and free access to any part of a premises, or refuses to allow such officials to inspect, test or measure noise generated from any activity, device, facility or process, said officials may seek an administrative warrant from an appropriate court to obtain such access for the aforesaid purposes.
(4)  It shall be unlawful for any person to refuse to allow or permit local authorized officials free access to any premises when they are acting in compliance with a warrant for inspection that is issued by the appropriate court.

posted by: cedarhillresident on May 11, 2007  3:50pm

Wjay This the new one or the city’s basic one??

“determine the quantity and character of noise.”

I looks like it is up to the judgment of the person inspecting the given situation of noise?? Right?? So one person may call it noise and another may not??

posted by: cedarhillresident on May 11, 2007  3:53pm

oh and
my lawn mower is louder that a washing machine and my weed wacker…
I hope they do not abuse this noise thing.

I guys we can argue the motercycle thing from here to forever… I still feel it is needed not to the loudness that some have but I think it dose save lives

posted by: Esbe on May 11, 2007  3:54pm

Remember that the issue isn’t just folks who currently live and party downtown.  There is a question of whether folks will continue to move downtown, or whether the area will go into a Salty-Dog (and so on) driven decline.  This is a balancing act, between lively activity and livability, that I think the city actually understands.  We will see how it goes.

posted by: NoBoomers on May 11, 2007  5:52pm

I applaud your cities efforts to combat noise, but an ordinance specifying “audible at xx feet” would probably been more effective and cheaper/easier to enforce. Lous car stereos and loud mufflers are ruining communities all over the country.
See or for more information on anti-noise activist groups

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 11, 2007  6:53pm

You State That The Police Have Discretion To Decide If A Ticket Should Be Given Or Not Even If The Neighbors Complain. I Would Call This A Double
Standard Due To The Fact The Law States That If The Noise Is Above The Decibel Than They are To Be Fine, Also As A Taxpayer I Have The Right To Have The Police Enforce This Law, Even If It Is A Church And We Know That The Word Discretion Will Not Apply To All, As I Have Stated Ask That Cop That Won The Lawsuit For Trying To Ticket That Pastor Who Church Was Making All That Noise. Bottom Line If I Have To Get A Fine So Should Every One Else. Every Those Deadbeats That Own Tax
On There Cars That Do Use That Loop Hole That Aslong asw My Car Is At Church Service It Will Not Be Tow For Back Tax.

posted by: K on May 12, 2007  3:36am


YES, dear god, someone needs to do something about those motorcycles!  You are totally right that they are much, much louder than most clubs around here. 

I live downtown, and yes, I do expect and have gotten used to quite a bit of noise, but the worst is sudden spurts of noise like a needlessly loud motorcycle.  I’ve learned to sleep through sustained loud noises, but those bikes at 2am are ridiculous!

Regardless, I do hope they enforce this to some degree.  Last Saturday night, my neighbor on the floor below me had a party where the music was so loud that my floor, my furniture, and my windows was visibly shaking!

posted by: Nancy Drew on May 12, 2007  11:27pm

Hey SGT. Tchakirides- The Livable City Initiative is taking credit for monitoring the night club noise levels.  They sent out Neighborhood Specialists to do the monitoring.  This was reported to the Board of Aldermen.

Imagine getting a job assignment like that- overtime to monitor night club noise levels. 

Your tax dollars at work.

posted by: ugh on May 13, 2007  2:04pm

I’m all for limiting noise levels, but this is a bit ridiculous.  45 dB is really nothing.  Anyone driving a car at night is in violation.  55dB is also not very loud.  Anyone mowing their lawn, using a hedge trimmer, with a barking dog or playing children will be in violation of this law.

posted by: Yul A. Watley on May 13, 2007  9:17pm

You know who this is going to target, our young poeple with after market car stereos.

posted by: JE on May 14, 2007  9:59am

this article seems to have left out how far away you need to be. 45 db from 2 feet away is not a big deal. 45db from 5 blocks away is a problem.

To Watley, It would be great if they would target the kids with the aftermarket sterios and aftermarket mufflers. Im pretty sure they have no plans to do that but hopefully its next.

posted by: cedarhillresident on May 15, 2007  8:26am

Just a little newz that it is already working..

for the first weekend I did not have the battles of the music in my yard!! Sat or Sun. I was out side in peace!

posted by: cedarhillresident on May 20, 2007  11:18am

Well that lasted one whole weekend!! battle of the radio’s begins!! Dang it! I thought I was going to have a peaceful summer!