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New York adjusts volume control

5 July 07 11:35 GMT

The City That Never Sleeps is giving those yearning for a bit of peace a helping hand - New Yorkers are adjusting to a new noise code.

Barking dogs, dustcarts, lawn mowers, pneumatic drills and noisy iPods are all targets of the crackdown.

Even Mr Softee the ice cream van can only play his jingles while moving.

Noise is the biggest cause of calls to the city's 311 Quality of Life hotline and under the new law, officers will be despatched to investigate complaints.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed for the new laws to be approved in 2005. It is the first change in noise regulations in more than 30 years.

"People have a right to sleep and it's finding that balance - we will do that," the mayor said.

Experts say excessive noise can cause citizens a whole range of problems from hearing loss to sleep disorders or wider psychological problems.

In New York, it has had residents ringing the 311 hotline off the hook. Every year, the Quality of Life line receives about 275,000 noise complaints.

Some of the new regulations include:

  • Dustcarts have to keep 15m (50ft) away from residential buildings overnight
  • Restrictions on the hours of use of lawn mowers
  • Ice cream trucks cannot play jingles while stationary
  • Loud music will incur fines ranging from $50 (£25) for a portable stereo up to $24,000 for restaurants ignoring a first warning. Night clubs must reduce decibel levels
  • Cars can be towed away if their alarm goes off for more than three minutes at night
  • Fines for dog owners whose pets bark for more than 10 minutes continuously during the day or five at night
  • The last measure has brought howls of protests from dog owners who said people and cars were by far the bigger offenders.

    Dog owner Marlene Hussey, who lives on the Upper West Side, told the Newsday newspaper: "Humans make a lot more noise than doggies do. How are you going to tell a dog you only have five minutes?"

    But Ailen Bronzaft, who helped develop the code, defended the regulations, which came in on Sunday.

    She told Agence France-Presse news agency: "New Yorkers are very tolerant and reasonable people: they take the subways, they take the streets, they go out, to the stadium, to parades. But when they close their doors at home, that is when they expect to be quiet."

    Department of Environmental Protection officers will enforce the laws, although they will not be patrolling the streets.

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