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Data Dive: Lower East Side Ranks Low in 311 Noise Complaints

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noisy neighborhoods
Map: I Quant NY/New Yorker.

Ben Wellington of the data-crunching site I Quant NY has an interesting piece in the New Yorker looking at the city’s noisiest neighborhoods. He studied the data from 140,000 311 calls logged between the winter of 2013 through the fall of 2014.

If you’re guessing the Lower East Side is near the top of the list, you’d be wrong.  Based on at least one measure, complaints per thousand residents, the neighborhood isn’t even in the top ten. We’re #37!

Midtown/Midtown South is #1. Soho/Tribeca/Little Italy come in at #3. The East Village is #6.

Across the city, more complaints come in for loud parties than for any other reason (37%). But 37 other neighborhoods rank above the LES when it comes to 311 complaints in the “loud music/party” category.

Past news stories concerning noise have reported very different conclusions. A 2013 survey based on total 311 complaints, for example, called the LES the second noisiest neighborhood. It should be noted that commercial noise complaints (regarding bars and restaurants) were not specifically referenced in the analysis done for the New Yorker. In this neighborhood, that’s the source of the largest number of calls to 311. An analysis done by Community Board 3 last summer showed that the neighborhood (East Village/LES/Chinatown) recorded the most commercial noise complaints of any community district for the fiscal year 2014. There were 2,745 complaints of this type, up 26% from the previous fiscal year.

As Wellington explained, City Council member Margaret Chin has proposed legislation that would require the city to conduct its own noise readings, rather than simply relying on 311 data:

The bill notes that “noise pollution is widely prevalent in urban areas” and that “transportation systems are the main source”—though it adds that bulldozers, air compressors, loaders, dump trucks, jackhammers, pavement breakers, loudspeakers, plumbing, boilers, air-conditioners, fans, and vacuum cleaners also bear considerable blame. As a data scientist, I will be delighted to have data, one day, on decibel levels across the city.


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