Urban Fold

Are America's Cities Too Loud?

Recent articles on uncomfortably loud environments in New York and Los Angeles raise an interesting question - is noise pollution a necessary part of city living or is it a health hazard that should be addressed?

The rise in attention to the impact of noise pollution on those living and working in America's biggest cities was kicked off by an article that appeared on July 19 in The New York Times detailing what reporters found when they measured noise levels at 37 restaurants, bars, stores and gyms across the city. According to reporter Cara Buckley, "loud noise has become a fact of life in the very places where people have traditionally sought respite from urban stress" and from the sampling of establishments that The Times visited, reporters "found [noise] levels that experts said bordered on dangerous at one-third of them."

A couple of days after the article was published, Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The Times, addressed the noise issue on his twitter feed: "Still shocked since returning to NY by noise pollution--subways, sirens, restaurants. Not a sign of big city grit, but an urban blight." The next day he tweeted a follow-up, "Why is NY so glorious on summer weekends? Partly the quiet. Noise pollution is the next ecological challenge for the city."

More recently Nate Berg has published two pieces in The Atlantic Cities focused on the impact of noise on transit commuters and outdoor concertgoers in Los Angeles. 

Do these articles represent a newfound sensitivity to the sounds of the city as more people embrace urban living, or a profound shift in the decibel levels city dwellers are inundated with on a daily basis? Will urban Americans raise their voices in protest of an emerging public health hazard, or will the concerns identified by the authors above be lost amongst the din of the urban news cycle?

Full Story: For L.A. Residents Fed Up With Helicopter Noise, a Final Straw

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