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Gary Younge
Mayor tells New Yorkers to keep the noise down

But the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, has vowed to make sure that those who do want to get their head down are not prevented by barking dogs, blaring traffic and pounding music.

He has proposed a series of measures ranging from the practical to the preposterous, covering everything from how long a dog may be left yapping to the jingles permitted on ice cream vans.

"Complaints about noise are not frivolous," he said. "Noise disturbs our sleep, prevents people from enjoying their time off from work and too often leads to altercations when the police are called in. It can also produce serious hearing impairment, especially for those who work in noisy jobs."

So his 45-page proposal includes a five-minute limit on dogs barking at night, extended to 10 minutes during the day, and phasing out ice cream jingles in favour of a bell by 2006.

Roaring air conditioning units will be tamed by stricter standards and ghetto blasters may become an endangered species. Building work would most likely be curbed at night and weekends. The penalties for violations range from $45 (£24.50) for minor infractions to $25,000.

The police will be able to issue noise tickets and drivers with wayward car alarms are among those liable, along with barkeepers and restaurateurs who let their din spread 15ft (4.6 metres) through an open door.

Some leniency will be accorded to certain transgressors, including nightclubs which will be allowed to fix their noise problems after a first violation, rather than pay a fine.

Vibrations are also being considered for inclusion in the same law, a relief to thousands of city dwellers tormented by the buzz of a nightclub bass gently rearranging the furniture.

"It is not necessary for such person to determine the title, specific words or artist of such music," reads the proposed law.

Noise is the number one complaint in New York, far ahead of problems with landlords. The city's information and help line deals with about 1,000 calls a day on the subject. The city hall defines an offensive sound as one that takes place between 10pm and 7am and is seven decibels above the general sound level of the given area.

Between 7am and 10pm, the threshold rises to 10 decibels.

The proposed regulations require noise management plans on building sites and sound barriers and noise jackets for jackhammers and other loud tools.

And they will let police officers issue noise tickets without recourse to sound meters, relying on a "plainly audible" standard.

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