By Yitzak Miguelangel Molina-Romo
As the novel coronavirus continues to ravage communities across the nation, the country has been placed under self-quarantine. As the closure of schools, work, and social events force people to stay home all day, noise has become an issue ever more prevalent. The stay-at-home government orders have exacerbated the inequalities of living conditions across the United States. The impoverished have been subjected to containment in dilapidated, overcrowded housing projects, while working-class folks in the inner city are stuck in congested neighborhoods without the option of escaping to their weekend getaway lakehouse as many wealthy residents have done. In New York City noise complaints have spiked by 22% compared to the same time last year, from 28,599 in 2019 to 35,972 in 2020. Complaints of loud talking and music increased by about 30 percent throughout the city, while complaints regarding television noise rose 42 percent in 311 calls according to NYC Open Data. Along with residential noise complaints rising, so have grievances regarding helicopter noise, tripling in comparison to last year. These noise complaints are not only a nuisance to residents, but rather can be another barrier for students and remote workers who now have to navigate through the distraction of the noise with no way of escaping it while simultaneously getting their work done.
Along with detrimental effects on productivity, noise can significantly affect residents’ mental health. If we seek a more just and equal society we ought to address the disproportionate effects of noise pollution on communities of color and the impoverished. Addressing this issue of inequality must also address the underlying cause of the problem. Where the staggering statistics of the exponential increase in noise complaints are not a product of more noise during the pandemic, but rather a testament to the volume and perpetual creation of noise pollution by humans. The difference is that now we are just forced to live in it, with no escape in sight.