SCHENECTADY – A city councilwoman has proposed hiring a police officer to enforce a zero-tolerance policy against unnecessary noise. The position should be included in the city’s proposed 2022 budget, Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas said.
She made the request in a news release in the wake of Mayor Gary McCarthy’s unveiling of a $97.4 million budget that would not raise city property taxes, even as he proposed a 10% increase in the city’s spending and the return of 45 jobs that were cut due to the coronavirus pandemic. If approved, the added positions would bring the city to 520 employees.
Among them, the Police Department would get back nine officer positions.
Zalewski-Wildzunas said she wants an additional police position dedicated to tracking down offenders of the city’s noise ordinance. Her particular points of contention are loud car stereos, motorcycles, stereos and car mufflers.
Zalewski-Wildzunas has waged what she’s called a longshot campaign for City Council on the Conservative Party line after she was defeated in her bid for re-election in the June Democratic primary.
The city has what could be considered an expansive noise ordinance on the books. It says “creation of any unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise is prohibited” and calls for a fine of up to $250, with allowance for a separate subsequent offense if the noise violation occurs within 30 minutes of the first violation.
A second violation occurring within 12 months after the first violation is punishable by a fine of $250 to $400.
A further violation within 12 months after the last violation can be punished by a fine of $400 to $500, and/or imprisonment for up to 30 days.
Noise is prohibited when it is of a “character, intensity and duration or of a type or volume that a reasonable person would not tolerate under the circumstances and that is detrimental to the life, health or welfare of any individual or would cause or create a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm,” the ordinance reads.
Zalewski-Wildzunas called for stricter penalties and suggested the enforcement officer position could pay for itself and an anti-noise marketing effort from revenue from the fines.
“I don’t care what neighborhood you’re in,” Zalewski-Wildzunas said in an interview. “We’re all feeling issues with noise. They come to Central Park, huge speakers in back of their vehicles blaring, and park. It’s the same in Mont Pleasant, Hamilton Hill, Bellevue, Northside. It’s no one area over another.”
Patricia Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, agreed.
“Yes, there is a serious problem with people not respecting the law, and having parties late into the night with loud music that can be heard three blocks away,” Smith said. “It’s a serious issue and it needs to have attention – tickets or something has to be done. Because it’s not right.”
A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for statistics about noise complaints.
The mayor said he saw Zalewski-Wildzunas’ statement but hadn’t talked to her about it and hadn’t had the opportunity to review it with city staff.
“We get a lot of noise complaints,” McCarthy acknowledged. “They seem to have been increasing during the COVID pandemic where I think more people are staying at home, and people are gathering in smaller groups, which is good. But they sometimes create an environment that is irritating to their neighbors or the neighborhood.”
McCarthy said he wasn’t convinced a dedicated officer would be the solution.
The city’s existing noise ordinance cites everything from vehicle horns and automobiles and motorcycles that create loud, unnecessary grating, grinding, rattling or other noise, modified muffler and exhaust systems, and the discharge of exhaust.
The rule’s other elements include construction, demolition, and excavation without a city permit, as well as “loud and excessive noise in connection with loading or unloading any vehicle or the opening and destruction of bales, boxes, crates and containers,” shouting and crying from peddlers, hawkers and vendors; drums, loudspeakers, and other sound-producing instruments without a special permit from the police chief.
Owners of animals, and people who “shout, yell, call, hoot, whistle or sing on public streets or in public places in such a manner and for such a period of time as to be unreasonable under the circumstances” are also punishable under the law.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at 518-419-9766 or [email protected]