New York City is considering an expansion of its pilot program to address noise pollution by targeting excessively loud vehicles. The initiative, reported by the New York Times, involves installing noise cameras across the city to detect and fine drivers who have loud cars or engage in excessive honking.
The city began testing the program last year, according to Rohit Aggarwala, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. Currently, seven noise cameras are operational, with plans to install nine more by the end of the year. These cameras, costing around $35,000 each, activate when detecting sounds louder than 85 decibels – akin to the noise levels of a lawn mower or blender.
Drivers caught by these cameras face fines ranging from $800 to $2,500. The New York City Council is deliberating a bill proposed by Keith Powers (D), which seeks to place five noise cameras in each borough. Powers, advocating for the program on social media, emphasizes the need to combat the “constant aggravation” of city noise.
While the initiative aims to create a more peaceful urban environment, it has raised concerns about privacy and potential misuse. Jerome Greco of the Legal Aid Society voiced apprehensions about the technology’s potential for abuse and its impact on privacy. He also pointed out that surveillance measures often disproportionately affect neighborhoods with high populations of people of color.
As of last month, the program has led to 218 violations for modified mufflers and 147 for excessive honking. Over 90% of these cases were upheld in administrative hearings. The city keeps the locations of these cameras undisclosed to prevent drivers from evading or vandalizing them.
This approach to noise control in New York City reflects a broader effort to balance quality of life with concerns about privacy and potential biases in law enforcement practices.