Thursday, March 29, 2007

Training Intended to Reduce Washington Aircraft Noise

Air traffic controllers will get additional training to direct flight paths in and out of Washington National Airport in an effort to reduce aircraft noise for Virginia neighboroods, reports the Washington Post. According to the story:
The study, conducted by association members with substantial aviation experience, found that noise from flights has increased an average of 3.6 decibels in eastern McLean and 2.4 decibels in Great Falls, raising noise levels in both locations to about 55 decibels. The FAA sets 65 decibels as the acceptable maximum for aircraft noise.

No decibel limits exist for amplified noncommerical speech anywhere the District of Columbia between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Levels frequently reach 105 decibels for more than four hours nearly every Satuday in one residential neighborhood.

Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh, residents, businesses, labor unions and the D.C. attorney general are crafting legislation to fix the disruptive and repetitive practice of loud noise.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Frederick County To Hold Public Hearing on Noise Regs

The Frederick Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on a draft ordinance that sets limits on noise levels in unincorporated parts of the county, reports Maryland County Newspapers Online.

Residents apparently have complained of noise and dust from all-terrain vehicles. According to the report:

County policy stipulates that a resident cannot exceed a noise level of 65 decibels during the day and 55 decibels at night. A commercial property cannot exceed a noise level of 67 decibels during the day and 62 at night. Enforcement would be complaint-driven. Violators of the ordinance can be fined $500 and⁄or given 10 days in jail.

By comparison, the District of Columbia City Council in 2004 exempted noncommerical speech from its noise ordinance. The result: Noncommerical speech blares at rock concert volume (85-105 decibels) for more than four hours most every Saturday at H and 8th Streets NE.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

District’s Noise Law is Shameful

(CLICK TO ENLARGE Copyright © 2007. David Klavitter) Amplifiers can be used to disturb and bully. Peter Person (left), a designer of BIC (Brothers in Christ) Fashions, attempts to debate with the amplified Yahanah of the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge at the southeast corner of H and 8th Streets NE on Saturday, March 24 about 7:30 p.m.

The exchange of theological words and opinions in the public space disintegrated into a one-sided decibel bashing when the extremely amplified Yahanah smothered Person’s words. An exasperated Person finally got fed up with the unfair treatment and walked away.

People who say D.C.’s noise law ensures free speech rights should be ashamed of what happened to Mr. Person’s freedom to speak in the open marketplace of ideas. The broken noise law allows unreasonable groups to disturb residential neighborhoods for hours and to bully opposing viewpoints in public space.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why Use An Amplifier?

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Because they can. Despite the lack of an audience at the southwest corner of H and 8th St NE, the amplified harassment…err…speech blares forth into the residential neighborhood. This photo was made Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006. A loophole created in the D.C. law in December 2004 allows unlimited decibels of noncommercial speech between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. anywhere in the city. This group’s four-hours of amplified noise nearly every weekend typically registers between 85dB and 102dB at 20 feet from the source. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

'Noise-Based Annoyance' is a Health Term; Who Knew?

Noise-induced hearing loss is a medical term used by audiologists to describe the permanent loss of hearing associated with exposure to noise based on the sound’s loudness and duration. But noise exposure also impacts one’s health in other ways, according to a 2004 World Health Organization study. Much of this is caused by “noise annoyance”:

There is stronger evidence of noise-based annoyance, defined as “a feeling of resentment, displeasure, discomfort, dissatisfaction or offence which occurs when noise interferes with someone’s thoughts, feelings or daily activities” (Passchier-Vermeer, 1993). Noise annoyance is always assessed at the level of populations, using questionnaires.

There is consistent evidence for annoyance in populations exposed for more than one year to sound levels of 37 decibels (dB(A)), and severe annoyance at about 42 dB(A). Studies have been carried out in Western Europe, Australia and the USA, but there are no comparable studies in developing countries. There is little doubt that annoyance from noise adversely affects human well-being.

The H and 8th St NE neighborhood is exposed to more than four hours of amplified noise nearly every Saturday. The volume was recorded between an extremely annoying 79 and 102 decibels--an unhealthy dose for the people living and working in the community.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bullhorns in Fenty’s Neighborhood

Citizens protesting Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s plan to take control of the city’s public school system gathered with bullhorns to protest outside the mayor’s home Tuesday in northwest Washington, according to NBC 4. Also find coverage on ABC 7.

“The group showed up with bullhorns and boisterous chants, disturbing the usually quiet street where the mayor lives,” reports the NBC 4 website. The raucous noise apparently breached some neighbors’ peace and quiet, according to the report.

Anyone know how long the protesters assembled? One hour? Four hours, like at H Street NE like most every Saturday?

The report said about 24 protestors assembled in the neighborhood. That should be plenty of vocal power to make a disturbance. So why in the world did they need the aid of electric noise devices? Would it be right if simply one protester with a stout amplifier could paralyze the residential area?

Other than media coverage, I don't think the neigborhood protest was an effective way to convert anyone to their cause. They just caught the mayor’s neighbors and his family in the crossfire for one evening.

D.C. law currently allows anyone to use an amplified device at ANY LEVEL anywhere in the city between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. The mayor pledged in early January to help fix the D.C. noise law.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Residents, Labor Reps Review Noise Fix

Led by Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh, representatives of the H and 8th St NE community and labor unions are reviewing legislative language drafted by Acting Attorney General Linda Singer’s office to fix the District of Columbia’s broken noise ordinance.

The action follows a Jan. 30 meeting of the groups to address mutual concerns in an effort to close the gaping loophole in the city noise statute. Added to the D.C. statute in 2004, the current language exempts from city noise regulations noncommercial amplified speech anywhere in the city between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said he supports the noise fix.

This provision, of course, is a great benefit to those wishing to freely express themselves—including Washington’s labor community. However, H Street NE residents and businesses are held captive nearly every Saturday by one unreasonable group’s amplifier, which blasts noncommercial speech for more than four hours at the volume of a rock concert.

Labor leaders have affirmed their cooperation with the H Street NE community and the city to resolve the problem.

The northeast residents and businesses are unwavering in their support for free speech, assembly and religion. However, they also believe “every person is entitled to ambient noise levels that are not detrimental to life to life, health, and enjoyment of his or her property.”

While every urban dweller must expect a certain amount of noise, the issue of health and safety is of extreme concern.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “a 24-hour exposure level of 70 decibels as the level of environmental noise which will prevent any measurable hearing loss over a lifetime.”

“Likewise, levels of 55 decibels outdoors and 45 decibels indoors are identified as preventing activity interference and annoyance. These levels of noise are considered those which will permit spoken conversation and other activities such as sleeping, working and recreation, which are part of the daily human condition.”

Let’s urge the city council to craft a solution that does not disturb D.C. residents’ hearing or speech.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Amplifier Trumps Jet Noise in Neighborhoods

Neighborhood groups in McLean, Va. and the Great Falls area say the noise of jet aircraft flights in and out of Washington Reagan National Airport has increased steadily since the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. But those jet noise levels are quieter than what one northeast D.C. neighborhood experiences every weekend. I am not making this up.

The Washington Post reports the total noise level in the two neighborhoods is about 55 decibels. “[T]he EPA says that anything above [55 dB] is unhealthy and interferes with daily activity. The Federal Aviation Administration sets 65 decibels as the acceptable maximum for aircraft noise.”

The groups have urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to investigate whether pilots still employ a “full power, straight-line departure and climb--imposed by the government as a temporary security measure after 9/11 to get flights underway more quickly. That requirement was lifted in April 2002,” according to the Post.

By comparison, one group’s four-hours of amplified noise every weekend in the residential area around H and 8th Streets NE typically falls between 85dB and 102dB at 12 feet from the source.

Something definitely is out of whack.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Thunder and Pain

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Vehicles driving Saturday over loose-fitting steel plates covering PEPCO’s H Street NE construction project create a thunder-like sound. Bigger vehicles—such as buses or dump trucks—make louder sounds, which have awakened some area residents during the night. To help minimize the temporary disturbance, PEPCO began welding the plates together. (Copyright © 2007. David Klavitter)
(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Meanwhile, one group’s seemingly permanent amplified noise rained down on residents and businesses, non-stop, for more than four hours Saturday. A temporary disturbance for the community? Not. This photo was made more than a year ago, on Feb. 25, 2006. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Noisemakers Do Not Walk the Talk

A busy work schedule finally eased, and I can catch up--though Inked at Frozen Tropics caught this Feb. 27 Washington Times story before I did.

Reporter Gary Emerling interviews a representative of the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK), one of the groups who uses an amplifier to blast the H and 8th St NE community with noncommercial amplified speech every weekend.

The representative, Yahanah, is a fellow with whom I’ve had civil conversations in the past. His comments in the Times story may sound reasonable, but his words are a stark contrast to the group’s actions, which I’ve documented in this “Quest for Quiet” blog for more than a year.

In other words, he’s not walking the talk. If he and his group are as reasonable as Yahanah claims in the Washington Times story, then why does this issue continue to fester?

First, the H and 8th St NE residents and businesses support free speech, assembly and religion. Despite Yahanah’s comments, the community wants no person or group barred from any corner—as long as they follow the law. We NEVER have wavered from this position. Divergent views and opinions are a cherished part of a democracy.

Of course I may not agree with everything that the various groups say on the corner—or columnists print in the newspaper or talk show hosts blab on the radio and television—but I should not be forced to listen to it. Or forced to read it. Or forced to watch it.

As far back as the fall of 2004, residents and an ANC commissioner personally asked the ISUPK to reduce the volume. Rudely rebuffed, neighbors had no alternative but to request help from D.C. noise inspectors. They cited the ISUPK for noise violations on three separate occasions for fines totaling $3,000.

The H and 8th St NE community has reached out. We’ve tried a mediation meeting. These efforts have been ignored by the ISUPK. How many times must we try, Yahanah?

Alas, the citations were apparently thrown out after the D.C. Office of Attorney General determined city statutes had a loophole, which allows no decibel limits on noncommercial amplified speech.

Other groups (Rev. Dallas Williams, Evangelist Woodward, the Nation of Islam) do assemble and sometimes use huge amplifiers at H and 8th Streets NE. They cooperate when residents ask that the noise volume be reduced.

However, I’ve never heard amplified gospel music, as Yahanah claims. The D.C. noise loophole protects amplified noncommercial speech on public corners—not recorded music. I’m quite confident such peace disturbing antics also would elicit complaints from neighbors and businesses. And I love gospel music.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Horse at H and 8th Streets NE

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Amplified noise blares in the background while a Metropolitan Police Department mounted officer and his horse make their way south in the the 700 block of 8th St NE at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2007. (Copyright © 2007. David Klavitter)