In an episode of Sex and the City, Charlotte is receiving acupuncture therapy in an attempt to conceive. While laying in the office with the instructions to relax, all she can do is hear every sound from the street, including traffic and a protest. She freaks out about this and yells to the acupuncturist that it’s too loud for her. His response? If you live in New York City, there is going to be noise. You need to cope with that.
Hartford does not have the volume of New York City, but there is steady noise. I’ve learned to drown out most of the horns, people noise, and sirens. I’m aware of these sounds, which is not the same as being alarmed or bothered by them.
There is a point, though, when noise becomes a nuisance. I’m thinking about the noise that emanated from one neighbor’s apartment in my former neighborhood. I know I’ve written about this before, so bear with me if this is a repeat for you. The first time it happened, I was annoyed, but sucked it up. I can’t begrudge someone of having a loud, raucous party for something as monumental as a major birthday. I assumed that’s what the reason was behind the balloons and steady stream of people that ran through the apartment until close to 4 am. I soon witnessed that this was not a one-time celebration, but the beginning of almost weekly parties, which sometimes would not even begin until 11pm.
I don’t like calling the police, but in my mind, someone who does not have the courtesy to routinely respect his neighbors is not someone I feel comfortable having a chat with about changing his habits. Given that this neighbor was also involved in drug activity, it simply did not seem safe to deal with this myself. So, I called the police, on many occasions. Not at 10:05 or even 11, but when the noise was continuing after midnight– sometimes even during the week. The level of noise was such that with my windows shut and with several yards between the buildings, I could discern, clearly, the lyrics of songs. It’s taken me a year to be able to stomach Reggaeton again.
The police sometimes never responded to the calls. When they did, it seemed too little, too late. Sometimes they broke up a party at 3:30am. Other times, the stereo would go back on, even louder, once they rolled out of the neighborhood. It was such a shame because none of the other neighbors were disrespectful like this, and yet this one apartment unit was able to cause so much disruption.
Noise ordinance? Bring it!
There is an enormous difference between the occasional picnic that goes strong until 10:30, and someone who turns his apartment into an illegal nightclub. A motorcycle driving by is not the same as jackasses literally doing laps around the block at 2am.
The recent strengthened noise ordinance is due, in part, to the many complaints waged by residents living near the clubs on Main Street. While I have not suffered the nuisance of nightclubs booming into the wee hours, I can sympathize.
But I have questions. Does this mean that if I call on the church next door, I can get them fined for their outdoor gospel concerts or when they decide that it’s reasonable to start up the lawnmower at 7 on a Saturday morning? What about when the drunks are out blowing their horns in the parking lot down the street on the corner of Sisson and Capitol Ave? The super informative flyer only mentions the basics, and that a fine and jail time is possible. How does one earn jail time for being noisy? I want to know. I’m not good with setting my own boundaries, so I would like it clearly spelled out what exactly I would have to do to go to jail. More seriously, are the penalties different for chronic offenders or businesses (like nightclubs in residential areas) than for the random person who gets in trouble for blaring Bratmobile with the windows open after a bad breakup? Will police even bother to enforce this?
I ask these questions not because I have an issue with the idea of peace and quiet. I feel fortunate that where I live now, people are actually respectful about 95% of the time, and when they aren’t, it’s fairly mild. I’m just wondering if this ordinance has any teeth, or if it’s something to make the city look concerned and proactive on the outside, while, you know, signifying nothing.