NYC noise complaints doubled in five years, report says

Chinatown and the Lower East Side were the neighborhoods with the highest amount of noise complaints between 2010 and 2015.
Chinatown and the Lower East Side were the neighborhoods with the highest amount of noise complaints between 2010 and 2015. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Noise complaints against the city’s bars and restaurants increased sharply in recent years and little was done to crack down on the worst offenders, according to a report released Friday.

An audit by the state comptroller’s office found the number of 311 noise complaints related to bars, clubs and other nightlife establishments soared from 38,000 in 2010, to more than 93,000 in 2015. Noise complaints overall increased to more than 179,000 from about 86,000 between 2010 and 2015, the report says.

The neighborhoods with the highest number of nightlife noise complaints in the five years reviewed in the report were the Lower East Side and Chinatown, but the locations with the greatest number of complaints individually were scattered around the five boroughs.

Kahlua’s Cafe, at 2117 Third Ave. in East Harlem, had 1,350 complaints filed, the most of any location in the city. In 2015 alone, there were 661 complaints.

Sparks Steak House, at 210 E. 46th St. in Midtown East, had the second highest number of complaints in 2015 with 319. In third was LUNA Asian Bistro & Lounge in Astoria with 290 complaints. Maranello Restaurant and Lounge in Inwood, which has since closed, had 241, and Littlefield in Gowanus had 231 complaints.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called on the State Liquor Authority to take action against repeat violators.

“Establishments with hundreds of complaints lodged against them faced little or no repercussions. For the sake of city residents, more action must be taken to address noisy clubs and bars,” he said.

About 141 cases were filed against the clubs to the SLA during that time; but the agency only opened, investigated or prosecuted 32 cases with a noise component, according to the report. The agency has the ability to revoke, cancel or suspend the liquor license of a restaurant or bar when noise adversely affects the community, according to the comptroller.

DiNapoli said the state doesn’t access 311 data readily and can’t adequately assess the complaints.

He recommended the SLA design and formalize a process to go over the data themselves.

Although the SLA didn’t respond to amNewYork, a spokesman for the agency told reporters Friday that it can’t suspend or revoke an establishment’s license based on noise complaints alone.

Kahlua’s Cafe, Sparks Steak House and LUNA Asian Bistro & Lounge did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Littlefield 

Littlefield said many of the noise complaints have come from “one disgruntled neighbor.”

“Since we opened in 2009, we ​soundproofed the venue, had the DEP take ​countless sound meter readings, and ​even​ set curfews for our shows​,” the venue said in a statement.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the report looked at data for 30 establishments in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. The 30 locations were throughout the five boroughs, not only in the two neighborhoods.

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