Residents Revisit Noise Ordinance

Students and residents speak at a noise ordinance meeting in 2010.
Students and residents speak at a noise ordinance meeting in 2010.

A split number of residents, students and landlords for and against the changes to the Village’s Noise Ordinance law attended the Village of New Paltz meeting on Wednesday, March 9.

While some members of the community said they find there is a need for a noise ordinance in a college town, others said they believe that there is no room for the law and that it is “massively oppressive.”

Initially, students at the university said the noise ordinance law was infringing upon their rights as college students as the current noise ordinance can hold students responsible for yelling out and shouting, among other noises, between the hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

However, one of the major concerns brought up at the recent meeting was the effect of the ordinance on landlords. The current ordinance can have landlords pay a fine if their residents are too noisy during the late hours of the night. A number of landlords voiced their concern and disapproval of this.

“I’m a landlord in New Paltz, I’ve had a lot of tenants,” said Lenny Loza, one of the landlords who spoke at the meeting. “I don’t want to have to close my windows, I don’t like to be woken up at three or four in the morning when students are walking down the street in a drunkenly or disorderly fashion. It’s a problem…I don’t think it’s fair to punish landlords over something they aren’t responsible for.”

Those who attended the meeting were given a designated three minutes to speak at the beginning of the meeting so that they could share their opinions and concerns over the law and the revisions that could be made.

The landlords of New Paltz and other residents at the meeting discussed the possibility of new policies regarding open windows.

Several people said there would an issue in regards to keeping windows open during the warm weather and not being “judged” if they were to have said windows open. People who oppose the noise ordinance said they would support the new law if a chance such as that was made.

Police called the law “unenforceable,” which has caused residents to revisit the ordinance. Attendees gave hypothetical scenarios of what happens during high-noise level situations, including cases where students spend two loud minutes walking past someone’s house in a drunken manner. They said while they wake everyone in the house up, they are only in the immediate area for a couple of minutes and are quickly gone. In this case, there is not enough time for police officers to reprimand these students and more than enough time to anger sleeping residents.

While  some said this is a “very real, very serious” issue voiced by those in attendance at the meeting, there was still a large faction of people who remained firmly against the law.

“I don’t see any room for this legislation,” said Groovy Blueberry Co-Owner Jonathan Cohen. “I’ll make it very clear; I think it is anti-student and anti-landlord because it places the burden on the landlord who did not cause this problem.”

Many students also voiced their opinions at the meeting. Students who spoke were mainly against the harsher points of the law and said that they felt they were the main target of the law. Some also said that they should not just be considered students, but members of the community as well.

“I’m a student at the college, but I’m also a member of this community for the next two years until I graduate,” said second-year English major Andrew Wilchak. “This town has been a college town since the 1800s, it’s to be expected that there is to be a culture of college students who are bound to act a certain way… If you want to change the culture of students in this town and the way members of the community interact with one another, putting one group at fault is the absolute wrong way to do it.”

Others at the meeting made it clear that this is a law that is not attempting to target students, but rather the people who find it fit to make noise at late hours.

“Every law targets people; I don’t think this law targets students or renters. It targets people who make unreasonable noise at unreasonable time of day,”  said Carol Johnson, a 54-year resident of New Paltz. “I’m here to speak for the little children, for the three year olds who get [woken] up at night and hear disgusting language coming out of the people walking home at night, not considering the neighbors whom they are waking up. I’ve lived in the same house for 54 years. I grew up here and I see the changes of the level of noise here in New Paltz…When is it going to stop when people are able to get a decent night’s sleep?”

Ellen Rocco, one of the village members who has worked on the ad hoc committee that initially came up with the noise ordinance stressed that, “We have worked very hard on this ad hoc, but with official standing committee, to draft a noise ordinance that would be fair to everybody. It has been approved by the village attorney. It was determined that the current noise ordinance was unenforceable. All we’re asking is for some basic civility so we can all, students, residents, renters, owners and whoever can live comfortably in New Paltz. If there need to be changes made, we’ll work them out.”