A Quieter New York City Is Possible

Written By Kerby Marcelin | November 21, 2016 | Published in Urban Design, Real Estate Market Trends, NYC Lifestyle

Awakened by construction drills, folks flock to the subways bustled with performers accompanied by loud speakers. They reach Times Square’s swarming streets filled with honking cars and loud tourists. They bolt to the parkland for some quiet, but barking dogs don’t allow it. This is New York City, the noisiest city on the continent.

New York City, despite its ever-surging population, can become a quieter metropolis according to researchers from New York University and Ohio State University—who aim to capture the different noises of the city by installing microphones—with technology originally used to identify migrating birds. The New York Times described the recording device as “the Shazam of urban sounds.” The project, under the name, “Sounds of New York City” or “simply Sonyc”, is designed to help city officials discover the main causes of the city’s noise problems in order to tackle their reduction effectively.

For a year, the five-year program, mainly financed by a $4.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation, plans to set up sensors that collect 10-second audio snippets of noises caused by vehicles, air-conditioners, and snowplows. Each sound will be marked and classified using UrbanEars, a machine-listening engine. The devices will be improved to trap all types of sounds citywide.

The effort will be kicked off by mounting 100 devices on the second floor of public buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The first to benefit from the initiative will be the Greenwich Village buildings of NYU. Each device has a tiny computer processor and a Wi-Fi antenna attached to a microphone. The machine is well-equipped for the New York weather—with covers protecting it from not only the cold, but the heat.

The overall noise level in New York City is deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency. It can potentially affect hearing abilities, sleep, productivity, and property values. For years, many organizations have put forth ways to succeed in noise mitigation. Now, with the help of the “smart technology,” New Yorkers must be willing to combat noise pollution.


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