Musicians and neighbors alike rallied against the music they say has gotten too loud in Washington Square Park. Community Board 2 has been thinking up noise control methods after hearing complaints that sound has gotten excessive. "There's always been music in the park but now the intensity, the degree, and the length of the music makes it very, very difficult to live here," said a resident of 40 years. "People are trying to sell their apartments to get away from the noise." At a packed CB2 meeting this week, residents said noise has become more problematic for a few reasons.
Some think that the reconfiguration of the arch during the park's renovation might have exacerbated noise quality in and around the park. One woman who lives beside the park said the music from under the arch, a choice space for acoustics, is now even louder at higher elevation than on the ground. "We hear that as if it's in our room with us," she said. An assortment of performers familiar with the park agree. "There are musicians that are too loud," said Thomas Kopie of the folk duo Coyote & Crow. Another musician said it's gotten disorderly, with performers disrespecting each other. "There was one drummer right next to us."
The board needs to decide how to best approach the issue regarding not only sound decibels, but time periods when music should be allowed, noise-free zones, and enforcement of the rules. Last year, the board passed a resolution aimed at more enforcement of park rules regarding noise, as well as skateboarders and cyclists, but as the temperature has warmed this year, the noise is back and so are complaints.
As it stands, instrumental music is supposed to cease at 10 p.m. and amplification requires a permit. However, some instruments, like horns, are loud even when unplugged, and some people say music after dark is part of the spirit of the park. "After 10 o'clock sometimes are the best jams ever that I've ever experienced," said one woman, greeted to applause. It was also suggested that quiet zones wouldn't work because noise will penetrate through. Many agreed that measuring the decibels of performances as part of ramped up enforcement efforts would help keep things under a sound limit. William Castro, Parks Commissioner for Manhattan, who said he remembers the days of boom-boxes going by on shoulders, said he'll talk to officers to make sure enforcement is better.
Despite remarkable harmony between musicians and neighbors in the crowd, two performers who were present, Tic and Tac, were called out for having "created a venue for themselves" in the park. Kareem Barnes (Tac) of the dance and comedy troupe, said the non-folk or jazz performance has been unfairly targeted. "We shouldn't kill culture over opinion," he said.