Comments on the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Proposal to Amend Existing Construction Noise Rules Relating to the Submission of Noise Mitigation Plans and Interior Noise Construction and the Proposal to Amend Rules Regarding the Issuance and Appeal of a Stop Work Order

As the City’s leading real estate trade association, the Real Estate Board of New York (“REBNY”) submits these comments on behalf of its membership which is comprised of commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers and brokers.

Per Local Law 53 of 2018, which sets enforceable noise limits for after-hours work performed, the proposed rules amend sections 24-219, 24-220 and 24-223 by providing for mitigation techniques to control for interior renovation noise and by requiring the filing of noise mitigation plans for interior renovation work. These rules would not change procedures for activities listed as minimal noise per the Rules of New York[1], which would not require noise mitigation or filing. The rules also provide for the issuance of a stop work order upon a violation of the NYC noise code and establish procedures to appeal the order.

Noise Attenuation

The proposed rules add substantial new requirements for residential building owners. Incorporating the proposed noise attenuation strategies for interior renovation work will be costly and may not be possible to include during all types of renovation work. Noise generated from installing new flooring, or work performed within walls, such as plumbing, or directly onto a wall, such as trim work cannot be mitigated very successfully if the construction of the building allows for noise to travel. Buildings with metal walls and without additional soundproofing barriers, for example, can be more susceptible to this.[2] Incorporating the recommended noise attenuation measures will extend project timelines adding additional costs because projects may not be able to employ multiple trades simultaneously in addition to the cost of sound dampening equipment.

REBNY recommends DEP consider projects with cost and time constraints for approval of alternative noise mitigation plans to ensure the completion of particularly cost-burdened renovation projects.

Furthermore, given the high volume of interior renovation work throughout the City, DEP should ensure adequate staffing to approve submitted plans and perform timely inspections. Lastly, REBNY recommends DEP adjust its list of suggested noise mitigation measures to provide the projected noise output of the machinery suggested to assist owners with compliance.

Responsible Party & Noise Mitigation Plan Filing

REBNY recommends DEP provide greater clarity with respect to defining the “responsible party” expected to comply with these requirements for interior renovation work. Compliance with noise requirements for renovation work undertaken by the individual unit owners or shareholders should be a clearly assigned obligation for these unit owners. Additionally, DEP should add “unit owners” as the responsible party to any noise mitigation plan template provided by the agency.

To minimize the administrative burden of this policy on building owners and to ensure the process for filing both a noise mitigation plan and an alternative noise mitigation plan is streamlined, REBNY recommends DEP create a generic noise mitigation plan to assist with filing for interior renovation work. Submitted mitigation plans should also be accessible to allow for review by the building's engineer or architect prior to contractor approval and other building permit filings with DEP.

Enforcement

Local Law 53 sets enforceable decibel limits where upon a noise code violation DEP may issue a stop work order. Noise levels are notably difficult to measure and may be influenced by outside noise or time of day[3]. Paired with simultaneously occurring construction noise or street work, noise arising from interior renovation work can be inaccurately measured. REBNY urges DEP to allow for a warning system for a first offense to allow owners to incorporate additional mitigation measures. Additionally, owners should be given a reasonable timeframe to cure offenses before being subject to any fines. If a stop work order is issued (verbally or in written form) REBNY recommends DEP provide notification to owners.

REBNY thanks you for the opportunity to provide comments and looks forward to continuing to work with DEP on the implementation of these rules.

 

[1] Title 15 of the Rules of the City of New York, section 30

[2] Martin, Antoinette. “Concrete Condos Promise Quiet.” The New York Times. February 12, 2006. Accessed July 23, 2018.

< https://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/12/realestate/concrete-condos-promise-quiet.html >

[3] “A Guide to New York City’s Noise Code: Understanding the Most Common Sources of Noise in the City.” NYC Department of Health. Accessed July 23, 2018. Web. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/noise_code_guide.pdf