Thursday, March 14, 2013

Do you live near a business with a noisy ventilation system?

I've been talking with a longtime resident about an ongoing problem in her building... where the resident and other tenants are at odds with the newish commercial tenant on the ground-floor ... and an outlandishly loud ventilation system.

There are a lot of details. But quickly. The landlord won't do anything, saying that it's not his responsibility. Meanwhile, the business owner has been unresponsive, in part because he's been having an ongoing fight with the landlord about a leak.

"It's been a nightmare and I finally have the energy to take it to the next level to fight it. I want to join with others in the community if possible," the resident said.

The DEP has already issued five noise violations against the business owner, and the case has apparently been working its way through the courts/enforcement control board since last August.

"We have no way of checking on where this matter stands — no records anywhere. A phone no one ever answers. We feel helpless."

The resident is interested in hearing how other people how dealt with similar situations, which seemingly are becoming more commonplace as more franchises take over spaces previously held by mom-and-pop shops (i.e., Papa John's on First Avenue) ... or carve out space in buildings (i.e., IHOP, where neighbors suffered from bacon-related problems).

"This influx of chains to our neighborhood has meant that they have expectations of being able to do whatever they want regarding ventilation and A/C — they aren't always used to dealing with mixed-use buildings," said the resident.

Anyone had advice to leave in the comments? You can also send a note to the EV Grieve email ...

[RANDOM photo via]

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agree. Same on our neighboring roof. Huge bummer.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the department of health is responsible for inspecting restaurants and bars, including ventilation systems. There are much more stringent requirements newly installed vent systems that include requirements to clear all adjacent roof lines. Some new operators simply stick a fan out the back and do not run the vent line (the expensive part) all the way up and above the roof line where it should pose less of a noise and odor issue for neighbors.
Worth looking into....

ShutUpHooker said...

We used to have a similar problem with a restaurant on the ground floor of my building, noisy like a jet engine, he got the message and made the correct repairs when cinder blocks smashed his units from 5 stories up... twice.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

Normal citizens with jobs, families, etc do not have the time or resources to work NYC's labyrinthine regulatory systems...this is exactly the kind of stuff elected reps are put in office to take care of. Whoever this is should take this to his or her city council person who should then begin pointing him or her in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

It's not just the chains doing this. Residents on 12th Street were tortured when a small cafe built an illegal ventilation stack. It only rose one story and the hood sat right outside people's windows and it spewed the smells from the kitchen into the windows of numerous apartments. A call to the DEP resulted in a visit from an inspector. They were fined and had to take it down and eventually moved to another spot down the street.

Noise Rattled said...

Anonymous #1--Would be great to partner with you in some way. I will be attending the next community board 3 meeting and hopefully signing up early enough to speak about the issue. Contact EV Grieve if you'd like to be directly in touch with me (I'm not ready to go fully public on the internet about this yet.)

Anonymous #2: It's the Department of Environmental Protection that regulates noise. But I think you're right that the DOH has made some stricter rules...and thus this hell we've been living with. Don't think there's communication between the two departments given our sitch...

ShutUpHooker--It would be nice if a cinderblock accidentally came storming across our roof...! Well, if it didn't cause damage to the roof and result in massive leaks into our top-floor apartments, which has happened before during construction up there... (Our offending unit is on the roof so gravity is against us here.)

Ken from Ken's Kitchen--Cannot tell you how RIGHT you are re the labyrinthine city requirements. I've been the good citizen for nearly 2 years trying to get it rectified by the books. Contacting our elected officials is definitely one of the things we've been considering. We will do it now.

The legal advisor in housing court said that because we have the DEP violations, we will be breaking new ground in this noise sitch when we file...it's not a case of he said, she said, the numbers are there. BUT RELIEF FROM THE NOISE IS NOT.

Anonymous said...

Yea, not just chains... I live above a mom/pop chinese place that has a crazy loud vent system, but I've come to believe that the noise is much better than smelling egg rolls all day.

Anonymous said...

I live in ABC now, but I had this problem when I was living in Downtown Brooklyn. They put a Chipotle in next to my building and during the summer the A/C system was deafening. When I approached the manager of the Chipotle he said there was nothing he could do. I then called the landlord, who promptly hung up on me.

I then took matters into my own hands.

I asked the bar next door to the Chipotle if I could go up onto their roof to check out the A/C system next door. They were more than happy to let me up because they were experiencing a similar problem. We went up there together, hopped over the short wall to the Chipotle roof and "took care" of the noise problem with a baseball bat and a pair of pliers. When they fixed it, I made another polite request to the landlord and manager. Again, my complaint fell on deaf ears. The bartender and I were forced to take care of the problem once again.

I guess the A/C system was rather expensive to fix, as the Chipotle went out of business 3 months after the second incident.

Let this be a lesson to chain owners who are invading our neighborhood with your corporate attitude and lack of respect for our community. If you continue to refuse to address the community's complaints, we will take matters into our own hands. Do not leave people who have little to lose with no other options.

Anonymous said...

You go Anon 10:42!

bowery boy said...

"Normal citizens with jobs, families, etc do not have the time or resources to work NYC's labyrinthine regulatory systems..."
--- tell me about it. After my day-job and my theater company, it's become a 3rd job just attending CB meetings and city council hearings to stand up as a voter for my neighborhood. Who's got the strength? I thought that's what Community Boards were for, but they're becoming as anti-resident as republicans. We need the press to cover the issue of covering all the issues. ugh!

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

bowery boy

A good city council person is a real asset. I've volunteered for election/re-election campaigns and some general stuff for mine. It pays when you really need help.

Anonymous said...

Too bad my local Chipolte is compliant with laws!
Good job Anon 10:42

Noise Rattled said...

Gosh, it sounds like direct property destruction is the only way to get results...I hope that's not the case. We need a ninja noise reduction crew, if so...

FYI: We've had two stories in the EastVillage Local NYT blog...which at first caused our landlord to make promises and then nothing happened but a lot of hot air...from his mouth and the ventilator.

We've considered picketing so that people would think twice about entering the deli (a local chain in that it has 4 locations) and to see if we got press coverage.

We are filing some suits in Housing Court and as mentioned I'll be the next CB3 meeting. And we need to reach out to the council members...this is obviously a big problem that's getting even bigger. Needs to be addressed citywide.

But first I gotta get some relief here at home.

Anonymous said...


Guy across from me was having illegal corporate parties on his roofdeck. He'd rent out the space and hire a DJ.

Noise complaints did nothing. A dozen eggs launched onto his space a couple of times after parties solved the problem.

Try picketing and send out a press release to news media (if it's an interesting story). If someone picks it up, problem will be solved

Jill said...

I've dealt with this twice. Both times dep issued violations and fines. A lot of complaints, phone calls, emails and uncomfortable conversations finally solved the problem. Both businesses were very upset by the fines, so I wonder why yours isnt? I have found dep to be one of the easiest agencies to work with, they show up, follow up,issue the fines. They usually called to confirm the appointment at which time I got a phone number. I found that by calling them back over and over they paid attention and were pretty helpful. persistence is he name of the game.

If your store has a liquor license it opens up other doors of opportunity for you since they are more closely regulated. If this is the case, contact me via grieve and I can go into more specifics.

glamma said...

10:42 for president!

power to the people baby

Noise Rattled said...

Jill--I have had the same experience with the DEP. Have been a (polite) squeaky wheel for nearly 2 years and the inspectors at the DEP have followed through. Now the cease and desist against the deli has gone into a neverland of nothing happening since last August--its at the ECB, the Enforcement Control Board, and there's nothing the DEP can do until the ECB contacts them...7 months and counting. I have called the ECB number and it just rings.

Re the deli and the fines: I don't know *why* they don't just fix it properly so they don't continue to get fined. Defies logic, that's for sure. The Dunkin Donuts in our building got 2 DEP noise fines and then removed the offending A/C. (This just happened last fall, so not sure what will happen with DD when the summer comes along and they need another A/C installed...cross that bridge when necessary...)

We visited the legal resource center downtown and have now filed an HPD suit against our landlord (for this and some other issues) and are starting the process to get a rent reduction. The landlord is the only one who can bring suit against a tenant (can't do tenant v. tenant, not easily anyway), so the hope is this will compel him to take action for real against the deli.

We are still going the community board route and the city council route too. (We've already done the press route, so that's a backburner for now.)

It is insane how much energy and time this all takes. I really appreciate everyone's input/info! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'll contact evgrieve via email to hop on board,
but wanted to add my story here first....

Just in the past three years, I've been surrounded by vents on all sides of my apt, from four new restaurants downstairs.

Of the four, two were clearly WAY above code.

I was able to speak with the owner of one restaurant, and he was very cool. He fixed the problem within a couple of months.

Second one is not so easy. DEP has issued 2 fines thus far, and the broken vent continues to rattle 15 feet outside my window. I don't know what they're waiting for? Another fine?! Well, it's coming.

There are two more vents, each located above a bedroom window. These have a low hum going for most of the day. It is bothersome, especially since I have experienced the quiet life here. No more birds chirping outside the window, miss that!

Individually, these are not above code. Together, they are. Now this is an issue I'd like to see brought up. According to the DEP, the law does not allow them to issue a fine for a "community" noise violation. But why should we care if the noise emanates from one or the sum of numerous sources? It is happening consistently, and is part of the daily business routine which significantly reduces the quality of life here.

I've looked into reasonable solutions for the reality of living above restaurants. For starters, a good acoustical engineer can balance the vent systems with the proper materials to reduce the vibration upon the building (the effect of which is often experienced as the low hum). Obviously any mechanical issues just need to be fixed the old fashion way. The vents could also be surrounded by a sound absorbing structure. There've been significant developments in the world of material science and sound absorption. These become more expensive solutions, but they're entirely sensible considering the ill effects of such noise on sleep, cognition, happiness, and all that good stuff!