Noise complaint patterns in New York City: Socioeconomic disparities and COVID-19 exacerbations

By Bruce Ramphal, Jordan D. Dworkin, David Pagliaccio & Amy E. Margolis in Public health

October 22, 2021


Excessive environmental noise exposure and noise annoyance have been linked to adverse physical and mental health outcomes. Although socioeconomic disparities in acoustically measured and geospatially estimated noise have been established, less is known about disparities in noise complaints, one of the most common sources of distress reported to local municipalities. Furthermore, although some studies have posited urban quieting during the COVID-19 pandemic, little empirical work has probed this and probed noise complaints during the pandemic. Using over 4 million noise complaints from the New York City (NYC) 311 database, we quantified census tract-level socioeconomic disparities in noise complaints since 2010 and examined how such disparities changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data from January 2010 through February 2020, we fit linear mixed-effects models, estimating monthly tract-level noise complaints by the proportion of residents who were low-income, time in months since January 2010, categorical month, their interactions, and potential confounds, such as total population and population density. To estimate COVID-19 pandemic effects, we included additional data from March 2020 through February 2021 and additional interactions between proportion low-income, month of year, and an indicator variable for COVID-19 pandemic onset in March 2020. Census tracts with a higher proportion of low-income residents reported more monthly noise complaints and this increased over time (time × month × proportion low-income interaction p-values < .0001 for all months), particularly in warmer months. Socioeconomic disparities in noise complaints were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic (month × proportion low-income × pandemic era interaction p-values < .0001 for March through November), also in a seasonal manner. Since 2010, noise complaints have increased the most in the most economically distressed communities, particularly in warmer seasons. This disparity was particularly exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, contrary to some theories of urban quieting. Community-based interventions to ameliorate noise and noise annoyance, both public health hazards, are needed in underserved communities.

Posted on:
October 22, 2021
2 minute read, 310 words
Public health
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