(Photo: downtowngal via Wiki Commons)

Car horns, jackhammers, and bar-hoppers carousing in the night. Many of the city’s familiar sounds have quieted as New Yorkers stay home amidst the coronavirus outbreak, and so have our complaints about them. 

City data shows that since Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential workers to stay at home starting March 23, the number of non-residential noise complaints citywide has dropped by nearly a third: there have been 4,366 complaints in the past two weeks, compared to 6,815 in the two weeks prior. The numbers are similar when you compare the past two weeks to the same period last year: 4,366 vs. 6,416, or about 2,050 less complaints.

Of the five boroughs, the most drastic changes happened in Manhattan, with 1,007 less complaints compared to the same time period last year, and Queens, with 642 less. The types of complaints regarding noise that occurred outside of apartment buildings include loud talking, loud music or partying, banging and pounding, car or truck horns, engine idling, and construction noise. 

Among them, the data shows a sharp decrease in complaints about construction noise. On March 27, Governor Cuomo halted all non-essential construction in New York in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Most residential and commercial construction projects were suspended, with the exception of emergency construction, affordable housing, and hospital, infrastructure and transportation projects. Since the order took effect, there were 433 construction-related noise complaints compared to 659 in the previous week. 

On social media, New Yorkers have taken note of their strangely silent city. A Reddit user posted a video taken while he drove down the middle of Broadway and said that he was “astonished by the sounds and the stillness.” In the video, bird chirps echo in the empty streets.

With the stay-at-home order, many New Yorkers have brought the noise back to their apartments and to their neighbors. Daisy Tainton, who lives south of Forest Park in Queens, said that ever since she started staying at home, she has learned all too much about her neighbors. One family likes to have long, loud conversations in their backyard, sometimes talking about not being able to visit a family member who has contracted COVID-19. Lately, they’ve started coughing. The back porch is covered with juice containers, wipes, and Clorox bottles. 

Another neighbor seems to take comfort in playing an Ed Sheeran song repeatedly. “If I ever hear it again after quarantine, I’ll just burst in tears and curl up on the floor,” Tainton said.

City data shows that the number of residential noise complaints has held steady, with 7,100 in the two weeks after the stay-at-home order was put into effect, compared to 7,450 in the two weeks prior. Tainton said that she didn’t plan to confront her neighbors or file a complaint. Instead, she goes for a run or a walk in the park to clear her mind. 

“It’s not something worth bothering [the police] over,” she said. “I hear that people are filing complaints. But I’m listening to all the sirens going off too. And I think, well, what’s worse? People are dying. I can listen to an Ed Sheeran song a few times.”